From Linda Seger’s book, Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success
Chapter 3: Willing to Be Blessed – The Theology of Blessing
Blessing is a word of considerable power. The first chapter of Genesis tells the story of Creation. Again and again we are told, “…and God saw that it was good.” It is possible to argue that this is the unfallen condition of the world: that of living in a natural state of blessing. Blessing is to be given, and received: one does not bless without investing something of oneself into the receiver of one’s blessings. Can one truly receive blessing if one is ignorant of the gracious giver? If it is true that all creation flows from a single, loving source, then surely all of creation is blessed, and is itself a blessing.
The power of blessings is “not the power of control or the power of being over or being under, but the power of fertility.” Blessing makes things bigger. It expands. It is a sign of blossoming, of great grace, of extravagance. It is an image of overflowing, of great pleasure, of great gifts-a banquet of abundance.” Many Bible verses about blessing use words like “flourishing,” or say that all our undertakings and labors are blessed, or speak about receiving peace and prosperity. There is a sense of overflowing and abundance.
Blessings are reciprocal. We bless others, we bless God, and, as the psalmist says, “May these reflections of mine give him [God] pleasure as much as Yahweh gives me!” We ask for blessings for us and for the next generation, and if we experience the blessings, we lose our sense of being deprived and our ever-widening empty spiral of acquisition. We don’t have to get and get some more, because we are blessed, first and foremost, and it is the most basic of God’s gifts to us. It predates sin and it is what our relationship with God was meant to be.
The Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says he sees blessing as “the capacity to transmit energy and power for life from one to another.” When God blessed creation, it became fruitful in Genesis 1. Human persons can give blessings as in Genesis 27. Brueggemann sees blessings as circular, “but not just ‘back again,’ but out beyond to others.” He says, “I think blessings move in concentric circles rather than a closed circle.”
The German theologian Claus Westermann says most blessings mentioned in the Bible involve salvation and deliverance, and are not just horizontal but also vertical.
If we believe blessings are just about getting good things, we have missed the boat. It is not enough to just get good things so we can become better consumers and be more respected and live a more comfortable life. Of course, we see plenty of evidence of people who seem to be blessed – with the things of the world – but since it is God who gives blessings that sustain us, if we’re closed to God, and not in a relationship with God, we’re missing the vertical part of the blessing – the part that goes far beyond having nice things. The vertical dimension includes the things of the Spirit that enter into the good things – a greater awareness of God’s love for us, of peace, fulfillment, empowerment to do good for others, and the multiplication of our gifts.
Blessing must be reciprocal.
Blessing is not just about entering into a more comfortable life on earth, but about entering into the Kingdom. Since the Kingdom is broad and wide and eternal, there are no boundaries to blessings. They are meant to keep rippling out, causing things to mature and grow and prosper and make everything bigger than it would be without the work of God.
If there isn’t an inner transformation within us as a result of the good that has come our way, we have only received the horizontal part of the blessing and missed the connection with the Holy Spirit. So, as we bless others, it also means “to invoke divine favor upon them.”
We may find it easy to think of blessing for ourselves as personal fulfillment. We may love the idea that the contributions we make bless others through building their self-esteem through our encouragement, helping them get a job by dropping their name or endorsing them, and thereby prospering them. But we are also asked to bless God. Blessing God may be a new thought. How do we bless God when God seems to have all the blessings He needs? How do we bless the Inner Spirit and the transcendent Spirit that binds our world together?