What does it mean to be blessed? According to Bruno Mars in his hit song 24 Karat Magic, its “Cuban links,” “designer minks,” and “Inglewood’s finest shoes.” It’s having “money in my pocket” and “so many pretty girls around me.” Endless parties, bottomless drinks, beautiful bodies and all the money you could ever want, that’s the blessed life.
Bruno Mars is not alone in his thinking. If you search #blessed on Instagram, you will find over 141 million posts. And you don’t have to scroll very far to realize that Bruno’s ideology has permeated the thinking of (literally) millions. The top photos are all of sculpted bodies, elaborate vacations and expensive vehicles. The testimony of millions across the world affirms that if you can achieve success on this level, you too can be blessed.
But how does this ideology line up with what the Bible has to say about who is blessed? And wait a minute! Isn’t this a blog series about the fatherless (in Hebrew, yātôm)? What do Bruno Mars and yātôm have in common? I suggest more than you think.
In the last blog post, we discovered that the number one use of the word yātôm in the Hebrew Scriptures is that God will bring judgment on those who oppress yātôm – the basic idea being that God loves yātôm enough to protect them. In light of this, what do you think is the second most common use of the word yātôm? I will give you a hint: it has to do with Bruno Mars.
Contrary to the ideology of millions, the blessed life is NOT found in wealth and sexual experience. It is found – at least in part – by caring for yātôm. Listen to the promise of Deuteronomy 14:28-29:
“At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.”
Israel was instructed to bring a yearly tithe to the central sanctuary. This money was used to support the ongoing work of the Levites. However, “every third year, the tithe was to be stored in the Israelite’s own town or village to provide a charitable fund for the needy, the Levites, the resident aliens, the widows, the orphans.” (1) How beautiful is this?! Every three years God called each local community to replenish a food bank to provide relief and support for the most vulnerable. The heart behind the project being that the poor “shall come and eat and be filled.” I love this simple yet profound threefold vision of caring for the vulnerable: come, eat, be filled. ‘Come’ speaks of invitation, intimacy and relationship. ‘Eat’ speaks of sacrifice, love, attention and care. ‘Be filled’ speaks of connection, joy, support and hope.
These three words somehow get to the heart of every foster and adoptive parent. Each one who sought out and welcomed children into their home – ‘come.’ Then sacrificed, loved and nourished that child from the inside out – ‘eat.’ All for the sake of seeing them connected, whole, known and hopeful – ‘be filled.’
And what is God’s incentive for such work? Why should people disadvantage themselves for the disadvantaged? “That the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” As it turns out, the blessed life is not found in money, fame or exotic experiences. The blessed life is found in obeying the Lord and caring for the marginalized. And the people who do so – as Deuteronomy 26:12-15 teaches – can pray with full confidence “look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel.”
God’s blessing is NOTHING like the world’s. The shallow and empty promise of finding happiness in success only leaves you wanting more. God’s blessing is something other-wordly. It is the deep, soul-satisfying joy of being with God in the work He is doing. It is the permanent joy of God’s presence. It is the abiding knowledge that we are loved by God.
In my own experience as a foster dad, caring for yātôm has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Even this morning, as I opened the door to our nursery, my one year old foster daughter greeted me with a massive smile as she jumped for joy while exuberantly waving her arms in the air. That’s the blessed life. It’s also watching my four year old adopted daughter – by God’s grace! – surpass all expectations for how she would be able to learn, regulate her emotions and connect socially. There is nothing like getting a front row seat to God’s redemptive work in the life of yātôm.
I also experience God’s blessing in dark moments. In times of trouble, sorrow and difficulty, God has been my refuge and an ever present help. I am convinced that the blessing of God is felt with particular warmth by those who care for yātôm in the midst of their darkness. God is with yātôm, and his presence is felt by all who obey his command to care for the fatherless.
Bruno Mars may be a lot of fun to dance to (as I have done many times before!), but he is a terrible guide to a blessed life. Let us reject his lies – and the ideology he stands for – and return to the sacred and honest pursuit of finding our blessings in obedience to God’s commands to care for yātôm. Support friends, Advocates and Foster Families alike will be the first to testify that God indeed will bless those who care for the fatherless.
Theme #1: God will bring judgment on those who oppress yātôm
Theme #2: God will bring blessing on those who protect and care for yātôm
1 – Thompson, J. A. (1974). Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 5, pp. 199–200). InterVarsity Press.