What does it mean to be blessed [happy or fortunate]?


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Quite possibly, the most frequently used word in the Christian’s vocabulary is blessed. “Have a blessed day,” “blessed to be a blessing,” and “God bless you” are just a few of the ways we put it to use. It is even common among unbelievers to describe themselves as “blessed.” Some people think of blessed as a spiritual term for “good fortune,” like when we receive something good, the desired outcome, or an exceptional comfort. But what does it really mean to be blessed? While material blessings are certainly included in God’s favor, the Bible ascribes a much fuller meaning to the word blessed.

What does the word blessed mean?

μακάριος makariŏs, mak-ar´-ee-os; a prol. form of the poet.  μάκαρ makar (mean. the same); supremely blest; by extens. fortunate, well off:— blessed, happy (× -ier).[1]

μακάριος, α, ον: pertaining to being happy, with the implication of enjoying favorable circumstances—‘happy.’

  • μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται ‘happy [or fortunate] are those who show mercy, for God will be merciful to them’ Mt 5:7.
  • This passive construction in Greek (ἐλεηθήσονται) is generally regarded as a so-called ‘passive of avoidance,’ that is to say, the use of a passive form in order to avoid a direct reference to God.[2]

There are several Greek words for “bless”. Another is εὐλογέωb; εὐλογίαc, ας f; κατευλογέω: to ask God to bestow divine favor on, with the implication that the verbal act itself constitutes a significant benefit—‘to bless, blessing.’

  • εὐλογέωb: εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς διώκοντας ὑμᾶς ‘bless those who persecute you’ Ro 12:14.
  • εὐλογίαc: ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ στόματος ἐξέρχεται εὐλογία καὶ κατάρα ‘from the same mouth come blessing and cursing’ Jas 3:10.
  • κατευλογέω: κατευλόγει τιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐπ’ αυ’τά ‘he placed his hands on them and blessed them’ Mk 10:16.
  • In a number of languages the closest equivalent of ‘to bless’ is ‘to pray God on behalf of’ or ‘to ask God to do something good for.’[3]

Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology

To be “blessed” is to be happy in a very full and rich sense. Often Scripture talks about the blessedness of those people who walk in God’s ways. Yet in 1 Timothy Paul calls God “the blessed and only Sovereign” (1 Tim. 6:15) and speaks of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11). In both instances the word is not eulogētos (which is often translated “blessed”) but makarios (which means “happy”).

  • Thus, God’s blessedness may be defined as follows: God’s blessedness means that God delights fully in himself and in all that reflects his character.
  • In this definition the idea of God’s happiness or blessedness is connected directly to his own person as the focus of all that is worthy of joy or delight.
  • This definition indicates that God is perfectly happy, that he has fullness of joy in himself.

The definition reflects the fact that God takes pleasure in everything in creation that mirrors his excellence. When he finished his work of creation, he looked at everything that he had made and saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). This indicates God’s delight in and approval of his creation. Then in Isaiah we read a promise of God’s future rejoicing over his people: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5; cf. Prov. 8:30–31; Zeph. 3:17).[4]

Holman Treasury of Key Words

The “pursuit of happiness” is so central to human drives that it has even been written into a nation’s constitution as one of the goals of its citizens. It is one of the things discussed in any good beginning philosophy course in college. It is also something that is mentioned often in the book of Psalms and elsewhere in both the Old and New Testament. ʾ

  • Esher, the word translated “happy” (kjv, nlt), can also be translated as “blessed.”
  • These two felicitous states of human beings are intimately laced together.
  • They are at times impossible to differentiate in some biblical passages; by definition, the Lord blesses the happy person and the person blessed by the Lord is happy.
  • The word ʾesher is used only in the plural form in the Old Testament. The noun comes from an original root, ʾshr, meaning “to go straight or advance.”

So, the blessedness and happiness of the person of God is one who advances in understanding and in the ways of God, turning neither to the right or the left. In some cases, ʾesher also means to “be led on” (Isa. 9:15). The happiness or blessedness of the people of God is tied to God leading them forward.

  • Happy is the person who does not live according to the counsel of the ungodly (Ps. 1:1), for God approves of his ways and makes him happy.
  • The book of Psalms notes many reasons why the “blessed” man is indeed blessed and happy.
  • Happiness belongs to those who: take refuge in the Lord (Ps. 2:12), have their sins forgiven (Ps. 32:1), live in a nation whose God is the Lord (Ps. 33:12), have righteous parents (Ps. 37:25–26), have regard for the poor (Ps. 41:1), have a wise king as their ruler (Ps. 84:4), trust in the Lord (Ps. 84:12), and fear the Lord (Ps. 112:1). This is only a partial list of who is happy and why, but in every case it is the Lord who is the ultimate cause and source of happiness.

Jesus’ words in the beatitudes echo and reflect these Old Testament concepts. He says: happy or “blessed” are the peacemakers, the pure in heart, the merciful, and those persecuted for His name (Matt. 5:3–16; makarios in Greek). Jesus’ words remind us that the truly blessed in this world are those who believe in Him (John 20:29). Blessings and real happiness are not and cannot be found in the things of this world, for they are merely gifts from God and come from His hand.[5]

International Standard Bible Dictionary

BLESSED, blesʹed (בָּרוּךְ, bārūkh): Where God is referred to, this word has the sense of “praise,” as in 1 S 25:32, “Blessed be Jeh, the God of Israel.” But where man is in mind it is used in the sense of “happy” or “favored,” and most frequently so in the Psalms and the Gospels, as for example, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked” (Ps 1:1); “Blessed art thou among women” (Lk 1:42); “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3).[6]

Christian Quotes

  • The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24–26 NIV
  • [Jesus and little children] Then he embraced them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing. Mark 10:16 NJB
  • Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, respond with blessing, for a blessing is what God intends you to receive. 1 Peter 3:9 REB
  • God is more anxious to bestow His blessings on us than we are to receive them. St Augustine of Hippo
  • Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New. Francis Bacon
  • The greatest blessing we ever get from God is to know that we are destitute spiritually. Oswald Chambers
  • Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. Charles Dickens
  • To bless God for mercies is the way to increase them; to bless Him for miseries is the way to remove them. William Dyer
  • Blessed is the influence of one true, loving soul on another. George Eliot
  • Blessed is he who does good to others and desires not that others should do good to him. Brother Giles (of Assisi)
  • Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayers and worn with thanks. Thomas Goodwin
  • The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Blessed are those who saw Christ in the flesh. But still more blessed are we who see his image portrayed in the Gospels, and hear his voice speaking from them. Tikhon of Zadonsk
  • The more we count the blessings we have, the less we crave the luxuries we haven’t. William Arthur Ward
  • Among my list of blessings infinite stands this the foremost—that my heart has bled. Edward Young[7]

[1] Strong, J. (1996). The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 301). New York: United Bible Societies.

[3] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 441.

[4] Grudem, W. (2020). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Second Edition, pp. 260–261). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

[5] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 79). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Orr, J., Nuelsen, J. L., Mullins, E. Y., & Evans, M. O. (Eds.). (1915). Blessed. In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 487). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

[7] Manser, M. (Ed.). (2016). Christian Quotations. Martin Manser.