What is a blessing? What is a reward? In the biblical sense, what does it mean to be blessed and rewarded by God? In the simplest of terms, to be blessed by God is to enjoy His favor. God is pleased with you, your relationship with Him, and your service to Him. The word reward in the Bible is almost synonymous with blessing. What then does a blessing look like? Christians who love the Lord should truly want to understand what a blessing is.
Lamentably, pop Christian culture has twisted the concept of being blessed by God to mean something other than what God intended. (Kudos to Joel Osteen, Paula White, et. al. for that.) The church has allowed the world to influence its understanding of what it means to be blessed by God.
The heresy of the prosperity gospel has taught for too long that to be blessed is to enjoy material favor with God and too many believers readily accept it. If God loves you, if God's favor rests upon you, then God will give you a lot of stuff. This is not what the Bible teaches. Material prosperity is often included in the blessing of God's people, but it is not at the expense of minimizing the gift of Himself. Materialistic Christians have made it their ambition to acquire a lot of things and then when they get those things, they fool themselves into believing the lie that God has given those things to them. And often they get these things to the detriment of their families.
Nowhere do I believe this false concept of being blessed and rewarded by God has shaped our understanding of it than in the family. The family is no longer considered a blessing. Christians do not guard their families at all costs anymore. Children are nuisances and not beautiful gifts from God. Children are a burden and not a joy. Children are to be seen but never heard. Children are a hindrance to selfish moms and dads not getting what they want. Children are a trophy case for soccer moms with appearances to keep up. It was normal fifty years ago to have more than 2.2 children and a dog. Now, if you have more than the societal norm you must be crazy and need to be checked into an insane asylum, or are at the very least expected to be on some sort of medication. Whenever we get the groceries and fellow shoppers start counting noses (I have four children), they almost always turn and mouth a sickening platitude. Children, in short, are not a blessing. I have yet to see one Bible verse that shuns having children. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite.
"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward." Psalm 127:3
"[Esau] lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, 'Who are these with you?' So he said, 'The children whom God has graciously given your servant.'" Genesis 33:5
"Joseph said to his father, 'They are my sons, whom God has given me here.' So he said, 'Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.'" Genesis 48:9
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may His name become famous in Israel.'" Ruth 4:13-14
"God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply...'" Genesis 1:28
"So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm my covenant with you." Leviticus 26:9
"The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning and...he had seven sons and three daughters." Job 42:12-13
"Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed his great mercy toward her and they were rejoicing with her." Luke 1:58
Is it any wonder that because God thinks so highly of children, that He chose to bring the ultimate blessing to this earth as a child? "Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
The book of Ruth is one of my favorite Old Testament books. The conclusion of the book teaches us much about the current state of the family in our churches. In the conclusion, there is no list of material blessings. Details about Ruth's shower, the wedding, the celebration that followed, and the honeymoon are all conveniently and purposefully left out. The book does not close with a lengthy list of possessions; it does not close with a list of oxen, sheep, and donkeys; it does not close with a four bedroom, two and a half-bath Victorian situated on three and one-half acres with a bubbling brook, but rather a family history.
That is what was important to God and still is. Stop evaluating your children at the cost of diapers, formula, insurance, and a college education. Stop thinking about what you could have had if you had not had kids. Stop blaming your kids for all of your faults. Stop criticizing them for your mistakes. Stop degrading them in front of others. Stop talking about them like they are not there. Stop avoiding them with little escapisms like the Internet and bringing work home. Stop feigning busyness. Stop valuing your friends over your children. Stop thinking things like, "If it were not for the kids..." Stop feeling noble if you have supper with your family and its the first time in a week. Stop leaving all your responsibilities to the public schools.
Start talking to them. Start making them feel important. Start loving them. Start touching them in loving ways. Start hugging them. Start smiling at them. Start telling them they are wonderful, in spite of their shortcomings. Start training them to do as you tell them to do. Start expecting obedience. Start laughing with them. Start playing with them. Start reading to them. Start taking them to church. Start worshipping with them. Start praying with them. Start intentional conversations about Christ with them.
The Bible is consistent; to be blessed of God meant God had given you children. To be fertile meant that God's favor rested upon you and to be barren meant that God had cursed you. Are children a blessing from the Lord? Are they a reward? Certainly Joseph and Mary thought so. Hannah was so excited she burst into song. Isaac was the apple of Abraham's and Sarah's fading eyes. Hosea cared for his three in spite of Gomer's harlotry. And the next time you count my four little noses, remember you are counting little blessings.