Cornerstone

“I always have to ask if my words and photos on social media are telling not only the true story of who I am but the truer, better, most glorious story of who God is.”

The holiday season is upon us, a time of year when we tend to reflect on the good and hard things in our lives. People everywhere will share staged and spontaneous photos via snail mail and social media, many tagged with a popular photo caption or hashtag, Blessed.

The use of social media in general, and particularly around this time of year, can be both good and deceptive. It can be a fun and convenient way to share updates about life with friends and family. It can be a relaxing form of entertainment after a long day. It can be used in redemptive ways to share the Gospel, the Good News of God. It’s also a tricky snare for the ego. All of these things are certainly true for me as a 21st century Christian who uses social media for multiple purposes—sharing life updates, deeper reflections, silly stories, and at times professional networking. In the back of my mind, I always have to ask if my words and photos on social media are telling not only the true story of who I am but the truer, better, most glorious story of who God is.

Including spiritual terms like #blessed in my social media vernacular can be a potentially good approach. It can of course be a way to attribute thanks to our Heavenly Father. But sometimes, it can preach a different gospel—a different kind of earthly good news—that is not Biblically grounded with regards to how and why God chooses to bless His people. It can lead to a subtle and dangerous distortion of who God is and who we are in relation to Him and one another that ultimately robs Him of real glory and robs us of true joy.  

How an undiscerning use of #blessed can distort who God is

A quick search on Instagram for recent public posts that were tagged #blessed produced this conglomeration of photos:

           

Of course I’m not the ultimate judge of motives for why people chose to post these photos and tag them with #blessed. But on the surface, when I look at these photos, I mostly see physically beautiful people, signs of wealth, and good times shared with family. The message I take in, perhaps unwittingly, is that God’s blessings come primarily in various forms of health (physical, social, financial) and external comforts. 

In other words, this popular and unbalanced use of #blessed sends the message that God is a God who blesses almost exclusively in these ways. We love to worship that version of God…or do we? History shows us not everyone who is #blessed with prosperity actually worships God as a result. But I digress.

I have to ask if this proclivity to use #blessed in conjunction with posts displaying prosperity on social media is something that feeds into my faith struggles when life gets hard or I feel lacking in various areas of my life. If I am not #blessed by the Blesser per social media’s standards, who do I perceive God to be to me? It can feed into those age-old questions that Satan has always loved to whisper, “Doesn’t it seem like God is withholding something good from you? Are you sure you can really trust Him? Are you sure He’s as loving as He says He is?”

The enemy can use the easy snare of comparison on social media and twist it into misperceptions of God when posts of people and lifestyles we envy are tagged with #blessed. Romans 12:2 warns us against passivity towards the world’s influence on us, and exhorts us to make sure our minds are set upon God’s renewal and transformation so that we might distinguish truth versus lies about how He works about His good in the world.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

How an undiscerning use of #blessed can distort who we believe we are 

Misperceptions about God through unbalanced and unbiblical uses of #blessed on social media can also feed directly into our sense of who we are and what we are called to pursue. The near exclusive coupling of #blessed with “happy” posts suggests that God is a God who only blesses certain people (the 1% of the 1%), or only certain people in certain good seasons. If this is the case, it's easy to feel as though everyone else is left to sort out their sense of God and sense of themselves in seemingly lesser ways. You see, friends, we cannot miss the fact that this is a cultural phenomenon, not a spiritual work of God.

If we miss that vital distinction, then the lies about what it means to be #blessed can easily twist into other compounding lies such as: 

In the most distressing of times, we may even be tempted to think, “Well, I’m not being #blessed by God, so maybe I should forget Him altogether and do my own thing.” 

As doubts and questions are cast upon God through unbiblical uses of #blessed, our focus is essentially shifted to us and what we think we need to do in His stead to make a “better” life for ourselves. If blessings are perceived as primarily external, then our standards for a pleasing life will ultimately be defined by human approval. Paul addresses this dangerous shift from the Gospel to self in Galatians 1:6-7, 10:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

God’s blessing certainly may include external comforts, luxuries and physical well-being. In some ways, these external blessings point us back to the Garden of Eden, and point us forward to Heaven, when our entire universe will be happy and well. If God has given you riches, praise Him! But 1 Timothy 6:17-19 tells the rich to do more than just throw up a post that displays the riches, tag it with #blessed, and call that a life glorifying to God.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

During this time between the Garden of Eden and Jesus’s return when all will once again be made perfect, we look to the fullness of His Word rather than the dictates of man to tell us what it truly is to be Biblically blessed as God’s people. We are no longer subject to the tyranny of social media “likes” to measure whether our life seems to have God’s stamp of approval. We are more than the lack or accumulation of our #blessed posts. 

Returning to what it means to be Biblically #blessed

It is true that in the Old Testament (OT), we see many examples of God’s unabashed blessing directly displayed in the wealth and comfort He bestows on His people when they are faithful and obedient (Gen. 24:35; Deut. 30: 15-20). However, we need to understand this in the bigger context of what God was doing in the OT—using the nation of Israel as a light to other nations, showing through Israel’s outward circumstances that following Yahweh as the One True God resulted in fullness of life. As God’s blessing and judgment fell on Israel through their good and painful external circumstances, respectively, God was ultimately showing all of mankind that even His chosen people could never faithfully obey on their own—even after receiving all of His external blessings—without the Savior’s work in their hearts. In other words, He was showing us that no one could ever work their way up to a truly blessed life without Him. All of this was a foreshadowing of the deeper, broader, eternal life that God would bring through Christ, springing forth primarily from the soul. Only God could bring true, lasting blessing from the inside out.

If we have comfort and luxuries in this life, we do well to give thanks to the Giver of all good things. But external comforts can come to all people, believers or not, simply because of the gracious generosity and loving mercy of the Father. 

Matthew 5:43-45 reads,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God is so gracious that even His enemies could be #blessed by a beautiful sunrise on vacation or #blessed by abundance of life’s provisions as implied by the rain in this passage. Everything externally good and comfortable comes from His hand, whether we acknowledge, love and worship Him for it or not. 

So then what is it to be Biblically blessed specifically as His chosen people? What exactly are we praying for, when we pray for God to bless us and others? Is our prayer for His blessing rooted in the Gospel? Ephesians 1:3-10 provides one of the richest and most well-known descriptions of the blessings we now have in Christ.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Can I challenge us even more in how we need to Biblically reframe our understanding of what it means to be #blessed? Matthew 5:3-12 may in fact turn our social media #blessed posts on their head.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

These passages tell me that blessings can come in the form of warm sun and refreshing, life-giving rain. They can come in the form of wealth which is then to be used to serve and share with others. But beyond these temporary blessings, we believers are blessed with adoption into God’s family. We have an eternally secure home and loving family that will never perish. We are blessed with redemption and forgiveness. We no longer need to rely on outward appearances to prove to others and ourselves that we are good or worthy people. We can count ourselves blessed even when our faith thrusts us into situations deemed undesirable according to worldly standards, because God can use those situations to give us our greatest treasure, which is Himself. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Finally, it strikes me that the indescribable fullness of the Biblical blessings we have in Christ simply cannot be captured in social media posts. The deep security we have in God’s loving adoption, the redemption and forgiveness we have in Christ, the treasure we have in the person of God, can ultimately only be shown through the authentic living out of our relationship with God in the world. Social media posts tagged #blessed can go a long way when used redemptively, but they can never replace a faithful life of integrity testifying to the reality of all the Biblical blessings we have in the Gospel.

Alina Sato

Alina is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church as a servant minister.

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