As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)
Whatever this woman meant when she shouted this out, it’s clear that she thought Mary had a sweet deal. You can almost hear in her words, “I wish I had a child like you!”
What, do you suppose, was behind her cry?
Maybe she had agonized over infertility or maybe she grieved the death of a child.
Maybe she was the mother of a disabled child and her cry came out of deep anguish, thinking herself or her child cursed by God (John 9:1).
Or maybe her own child was wayward, breaking her heart and shaming her family with a willful, defiant, destructive life.
Or maybe her children were unexceptional and an envy burned deep inside her against mothers whose remarkable children caused people to remark on how they must be exceptional mothers.
Whatever prompted the cry, Jesus graciously corrected her wrong thinking. She had, like many of us, located the blessing in the wrong place. The evidence of God’s blessing is not in being a parent of an impressive — even a holy — child. The evidence of God’s blessing is believing what God says.
Assessing God’s blessing on us (or others) by what our (or others’) children are like is tricky business. We often get things wrong because God’s purposes can actually be opposite of what they first appear.
Think of the many mothers of brilliant Pharisees and Sadducees. No doubt they were counted blessed by relatives and friends. But Jesus called their children “hypocrites” and “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).
Then think of the man born blind in John 9, before Jesus healed him. I doubt many mothers thought, “I wish I had a child like you.” Or that many women pined to be the mother of Zacchaeus or Mary Magdalene. And what about the mother of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth? His status, education, and achievements were likely not impressive material for the family newsletter.
Yet God gave these disabled, disobedient, and undistinguished children more important roles in redemptive history than the brightest stars in Jerusalem and Rome.
We must fight the temptation to boast in or covet children. How gifted or successful or even holy they become is no sure evidence of God’s blessing on us. Neither are disabled or disobedient children evidence of God’s disfavor.
God’s blessing rests on the one who “hear[s] the word of God and keeps it.” Belief is the evidence of blessing.