Pick any religion and one will discover straight away a devout person pursuing blessedness. It is common to all religions that men desire a sign, a token, the thing that illustrates that their god is favorable toward them. There is no religious person who does not desire to fare well and avoid faring badly in relation to their god. But, all men have wandered away from the knowledge of true blessedness. They have, almost to a man, equated blessedness with virtue or good works.
When Christians, for example, pursue a blessing from God they too often fall into the same pattern of behavior as other religious devotees. They make themselves just as miserable as any Muslim, Hindu, or Zoroastrian. How? Christians go along with other religious types when they imagine that blessings can be secured from God by way of works. They follow the desire of their heart (which their mind then justifies to them and others), and in this way they believe God will be pleased by their many strenuous efforts at impressing their Lord.
However, the Bible gives a definition of blessedness that stands in contradistinction to all other religious teachings on the subject. The language of Scripture that pertains to blessedness, such as Psalm 12:1: “Blessed is the man who does not go astray,” speaks of a man who is not enticed to seek a blessing based on his own works, and more important, not to seek a blessing based on anything that is not of raw naked faith in God’s words and works for Him.
Christ is our Blessedness
Blessedness is not something one can see, as if a blessing could be hung around a person’s neck like a new scarf. In the other religions, the holiest, most blessed people are those who overcome the desire for riches, pleasure, and fame. You would not find many amongst the pious who would consider them ungodly based on their outward behavior. However, as the Preacher states, “Then I saw the wicked buried; they used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things” (Ecclesiastes 8:10). The Psalmist also reveals the truth about such “blessed” people when he writes, “I have seen a wicked man overbearing and towering like a cedar of Lebanon” (Psalm 37:35).
But, who thinks to look for false belief, false piety, and a false understanding of blessedness in the house of the Lord?
Blessedness comes to us camouflaged as simple earthly words, water, bread and wine.
Jesus Himself teaches us in Matthew’s Gospel (7:20) that “by their fruits you will know them.” They may be dressed up as sheep, parading their blessings in front of us like a Macy’s Parade float on Thanksgiving Day, but when confronted with our true blessedness—Christ crucified for the sin of the world—they react with anger, braggadocio, pride, curses, excuses, and other accusations and insults. These people are, as Dr. Luther refers to them, “ceremonial work saints.”
True blessedness cannot be discovered by pursuing God’s favor. Blessedness comes to us camouflaged as simple earthly words, water, bread and wine. God pours His blessing into our ear holes and down our mouth holes. The blessing of the Father is His only begotten Son, our sacrificial Lamb, Who stands in the breach against sin, death, and hell for us. And this can only be received and enjoyed through faith. Only the Word of God—only Christ Jesus delivered as gift to us—is our blessing and blessedness. That is, we are weak and He is our strength. We are sinful and He is our righteousness. We are ungodly and He is our faithfulness. We are dead and He is our Life. We are cursed on account of sin and He is our blessedness.
So it is, there is no other blessedness available to us than through Christ Jesus delivered to us by His Spirit through words, water, bread and wine. It is a blessedness that is received in faith, not earned or gained through a change in behavior, no matter how pious and good it may appear. Even when the Psalmist writes that, “blessed is the one who delights in the Law of the Lord,” the Hebrew word translated simply as “law” is “Torah” which means “teaching” or “Word of God.” The “Law” the Psalmist refers to is God’s Word, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus the Christ. That is why St. Paul devotes eleven chapters of his Romans letter and five chapters of his Galatians letter to faith in Christ as the foundation of the Christian faith, and the only source of true blessedness. Only then does he outline in the remaining chapters of those letters how to build a life on the foundation of faith alone in Christ alone.
Only faith in Christ Jesus, only in relation to receiving the Gospel, can a Christian truly call himself blessed.