February 8, 2022


It is everywhere on social media:

Got a new car! #blessed

Spending a week in Rome! #blessed

Promotion! #blessed

The use of this hashtag has always troubled me. In my experience, the vast majority of people using #blessed are doing so to celebrate some material gain. The not-so-subtle implication is that before getting the new car, spending a week in Rome, or being promoted, they were not blessed. Perhaps worse, until and unless you acquire things or experiences (that frequently seem to involve large sums of money) you are not blessed.

According to Merriam-Webster, blessed is defined as “having a sacred nature; connected to God.” The second definition is “very welcome, pleasant, or appreciated.”

While I could easily make a case for the second definition for all of the #blessed posts, I find it disturbing that so many of those posts connect their material gains to God.

Why should this matter to church leaders? Because language matters. Language in community shapes how we interact and the lens through which we view things; it shapes the culture of an organization.

It also matters because it runs counter to how Jesus defined the word blessed:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

As we enter this new year, I hope that we’ll take the time to reflect on the language that we use as leaders.

Our access to power at church, at home, and at work comes when we align our beliefs with our language and our actions. And for those of us in leadership positions in the Christian community, we have a particular obligation to true-up what we’re saying and what we’re doing with scripture and tradition, using our reason to define a path forward.

The fact is, as Christians, we are all blessed: with the love of God the Father, with the salvation brought to us through the sacrifice of Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

By all means, if you get the promotion, give thanks to the Lord. But if you don’t, give thanks to the Lord as well. Ask for wisdom, discernment, and strength, not more stuff. And don’t for a minute think that because you didn’t get something you wanted, you’re not blessed. Nothing could be further from the truth.