Can Believers Earn Blessing From God?
(What can I do to receive more blessing from God?)

Most Christians have a Biblical understanding that a person cannot earn salvation by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that trying to be good by one's self can never impress God (Isaiah 64:6). Where this seems to stop for many believers is after salvation. For them saved by grace (unmerited favor) turns into living by works. In reality, the Christian life is all about grace from beginning to end. Every good thing comes solely from God and every good thing we do is because God enables us. Every blessing God gives is solely because He is the one who blesses, not because we deserve it, or can earn it, or demand it.

A dangerous philosophy in many churches and with many believers is the conviction that God's blessing is proof that they are doing something right. They would define God's blessing in terms of increased numbers, financial well-being or other material successes. We will offer you this... Blessing is never proof of God being impressed with something you've done; it's merely proof that God is the one who blesses!

Understand that the Christian martyr who has lost all belongings, seen his family tortured and killed, and is about to die for his faith is still blessed. God blesses every single believer - the outworking of that blessing may vary widely from person to person. In contrast, the rebellious unbeliever - regardless of how many material things he or she gains - is never blessed. The issue is not what they have done; it's whether or not they have found favor with God. This favor is found totally by grace (unmerited favor), from beginning to end, through Jesus Christ.

Looking for proof that all who are found in Christ are blessed?

Psalms 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. [Emphasis ours]

Notice that this passage tells us that all who take refuge in Jesus are blessed, quite different than the idea that some who have taken refuge in Him might be blessed!

Psalms 32:1-2 Of David. A maskil. Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (See also Romans 4:5-8).

Again, all whose sins are forgiven, or covered, are blessed. Because none of our sins are ever counted against us, we are blessed on account of the one who blesses, not because of anything we do or don't do.

Psalms 94:12 Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law...

Who gets disciplined? Every believer according to Hebrews 12:5-8! And, once again, the Bible tells us that every believer disciplined by God is blessed. Consider for a moment that part of the blessing is the discipline!

Psalms 34:8-10 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

In God blessing us - every person who takes refuge in Him - He has promised us that we lack nothing and that He will provide every good thing. Who knows better what "every good thing" is than the one who is perfectly good and the source of every good thing? (See also James 1:17). In lacking nothing, not even the discipline we need, it is by His standard - He who knows our every need - not by the standard of our whim and wants (or societies' norms).

Psalms 119:1-2 Aleph. Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

Who is blessed? All who are blameless are blessed! This is not by the efforts of self but because their sins are no longer counted against them. Every believer has been assured that there is nothing that can ever condemn them again (Romans 8:1). It is the result, or subsequent fruit, of this salvation that enables us to keep His statues (Romans 3:31) and seek Him with all our heart (Hebrews 11:6).

This final passage from Psalms provides a slightly different illustration of blessing, in regards to having children.

Psalms 127:3-5 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Obviously not every person is blessed with children, only those who God chooses to bless with them. This passage clearly states that children come from God (as the giver, by His choice) and that the recipient is blessed. We can desire children, some have even demanded children of God, but the bottom line still remains - God gives them to whom He pleases. In fact, God also determines the amount of time we have them. While it can be said that this is a blessing which God gives to unbelievers and believers alike (as a common blessing, similar to those referenced in Matthew 5:45), the unbeliever never truly experiences the full blessing of understanding that their children are "a heritage from the Lord."

Perhaps the most known passage on being blessed comes from Jesus' words in Luke...

Luke 6:20-22 Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Notice the recurring theme in all these "blessed are" statements. Every one of them is a statement that applies to those who come to faith in Jesus Christ. These are not "do this and you will be blessed" statements, rather they are "because you are this you are blessed statements." It's those who turn these inside out that create a works based means of trying to find favor with God. For example, people have adopted ascetic ways of life to embrace poverty, hunger, and sorrow, all to try and somehow gain favor with God. Some even teach (including cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses) that going out and confronting people so they can "persecute" or "mock" you increases your blessing, or is proof that you have found favor with God. Again, this is totally backwards. These statements all pertain spiritually to those who are blessed because of Jesus Christ.

Moving to the book of Matthew, the "blessed are" statements here are even easier to see as being spiritual characteristics of believers - the only ones who receive the kingdom of heaven and who don't fall away from Jesus (those who persevere, overcome, endure - all biblical terms to describe God's working to completion what He begins in us. See also Philippians 1:6. This concept is also reflected in the "blessed is" statement found in James 1:12).

Matthew 5:3-10 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 11:6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

Do you believe that Abraham, the man of faith, was blessed? Well, every single believer is equally blessed along with Abraham! Every spiritual blessing available has been stored up for us in Christ.

Galatians 3:8-9 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

So is a believer's obedience and service to earn favor with God? Never! (For more on this see Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:22-25). It's totally out of love, love that originates and is empowered by God (John 14:15-24).

The last passage we will consider, and perhaps the most definitive, is the parable of the landowner needing workers.

Matthew 20:1-16 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 7 "'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'

8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' 9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' 13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

This parable so clearly shows that God calls and God provides. The denarius, which was equivalent to what a worker would need daily to provide for himself and his family in ancient times, represents the blessing each of us needs every day. God's blessing is in proportion to our need not our wants or efforts. To demand any more from Him is to be as ungrateful as the grumbling workers, who called the master unfair, while in fact they had been blessed with everything they needed.

One final note regarding blessing: Consider that sin is the reason we often cannot see God's blessing or wherein we squander or misuse it. Imagine for a moment one of the workmen, in the parable last considered, getting so angry as to throw away the denarius he had just been given. His anger (sinful thought) over a perceived unfairness led to an obviously wrong action, one that removed the results of the blessing from him. In the same way, through sinful thoughts and actions, many believers do that exact same thing with God's daily blessings.