The expression is everywhere in Christian circles.
We hear it said in churches. We say it at the dinner table. We offer one when someone sneezes. Even non-believers claim it.
"We're blessed." "God bless." "Be blessed." "Bless the food." "Bless your heart." "It was a blessing in disguise."
The words "blessed" or "blessing" have become commonplace in our "Christian-ese" lingo. You hear the phrases everywhere. And if I'm honest, the meaning has lost its value over time.
For many of us, we prefer to use the phrase to describe things for which we're thankful, that we hold close. Those gifts in life we're certain must have been given by God, many of which feel undeserving. That job. That house. That relationship. Or the unexpected raise or bonus that seems to cover the bills that have piled up. Those who are "blessed" seem to live without worry or need.
But I've always wondered - if someone considers a new job a "blessing" from God, does it mean someone else who's been seeking employment for more than a year isn't "blessed?"
So I have to ask the question: Are we really able to tell that which God chooses to "bless" us with?
The ancient Greek word for "blessed" is makarios, which was originally used to describe those who lived in another world far from the problems and worries of others. Those who were "blessed" seemed to be free from earthly cares and struggles.
Makarios begins to take on a new meaning in the Old Testament where the "blessed" were those rewarded for righteous living. If you were "blessed," your rewards included material things: Beauty, wealth, good crops or a healthy, prosperous family (sounding familiar?). Translation: A more righteous way of living brought a better, more abundant life.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), however, Jesus begins to teach the gathering crowds what it really means to be "blessed."
It's here where he uses makarios in a whole new light as He launches into a rant that might confuse us as much today as it may have back then.
He describes the "blessed" as those who are poor.
Those who mourn.
Those who are humble and show mercy.
And - my personal favorite - those who are persecuted.
Can you imagine the reaction that Jesus probably received? If He had given the same sermon today, Twitter and Facebook feeds would be blowing up. News stations would be all over it. Jesus would have been an instant YouTube hit.
Jesus completely flips the idea of makarios on its head - that those who are blessed are wealthy, free of worry, and live life without problems.
It's His version of makarios that makes us re-think what it truly means to be "blessed." It causes us to question whether we're or not we're as blessed as we thought we were.
Is it possible that being "blessed" or having "blessings" have little or nothing to do with our possessions or how little we have to worry about?
Perhaps our real blessings are the things that drive us to be dependent on God, rather than the "blessings" that often leave us hungry for more out of Iife.
In the meantime - be poor. Be humble. Be persecuted. Maybe then, you'll truly be blessed.
• Colin Noonan is director of youth ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.