Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Luke 6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

I may have used this story before, but I think it bears repeating at Thanksgiving time, especially a Thanksgiving coming in a time of economic crisis and global turmoil. I’m not going to comment on it except to say this. The Bible is full of talk of blessings, and when we count our blessings we tend to think of the good things that have come to us. But when Jesus describes blessings in what we call the Beatitudes (in Matt. 5:1-12 or a bit differently here in Luke 6:20-26), he doesn’t list things that would be at the top of our list of things we’re thankful for—things like hunger and weeping and persecution.

The story below comes from an ancient Chinese work entitled “Lessons in Human Life,” in “Huai Nan Zi” and compiled by Liu An (179-122 BC) in the Western Han Dynasty. That means it was around more than a hundred years before Jesus was born. Did the story travel from the Far East and reach the ears of Jesus? Maybe a story told to Mary and Joseph by one of the Wise Men? Whether Jesus ever heard the story or not, there is something of its perspective in Jesus’ teaching about blessings. Here is the story. Apply as needed.

There once was an old man who lived at the northern border of the state. He was skilled at raising horses. One day he discovered that his horse had disappeared into the neighboring state of Hu. Neighbors felt sorry for him, but the old man said, "Who knows if this will turn into a blessing?"

A few months later, the missing horse suddenly returned, bringing back a fine horse with it. Neighbors came to congratulate the old man on his good luck. But the old man said, "Who knows if this will turn into a disaster?"

His son loved riding the fine horse, and one day he fell off the horse, broke his legs and crippled himself. Neighbors came to comfort the old man, who replied, "Who knows if this will turn into a blessing?"

A year later, the neighboring state of Hu invaded, and all the young and strong men were drafted to fight the war — nine in ten ended up being killed. The son, being crippled, stayed home and his life was spared.

Blessings can become disasters, which can then transform into blessings. The change is never ending, and its mystery is forever unrevealing.

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