When you look at the plight of refugees running from political chaos you wonder what a beatitude like “blessed are the meek” can mean. It certainly seems to the refugee that the powerful, the revolutionary, those with tanks, are the one who inherit the earth, not the meek.
When you look at our world of advertizing and political noise you wonder what a beatitude like this can mean. It certainly looks like those who intimidate, exaggerate, and escalate are the ones who get heard. They inherit the earth, not the meek.
And yet, into this world, once again, Jesus speaks in Matthew 5:
3 “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 children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Spiritual meekness is gentleness toward others based on an understanding of who we are in Christ.
As we try to understand this verse we have to acknowledge that there is a “natural assertiveness scale” that everyone falls into. On one end you have the person who will send back a Big Mac for not having enough pickles. On the other end you have the person who takes home the wrong car because the salesman made a mistake. Some people are assertive. Some people are not. This beatitude must mean more than that.
Godly meekness grows out of the other beatitudes.
To be Poor in Spirit is to realize we have nothing to bargain with when facing God. We have nothing to offer him to atone for our sin or pay our spiritual debt. Mourning means that we are beginning to understand what sin is, how it is rebellion against the God who created us and our own stubborn desire to do what we want. We see how deep the root of our sin is. Meekness is when that reality starts to affect how we relate to others. We now carry this right attitude of ourselves to others. We will be gentle with others when we realize that God has been gentle with us. Meekness grows out of understanding the gospel. The gospel also reveals God’s acceptance of us because of his love and grace. Despite my irrational need to rebel his love for me is constant. The gospel is about grace because above all he does not treat me as my sins deserve.
What does this mean for how I treat others?
The need to assert ourselves just to be heard erodes.
The need to assert to make ourselves valuable also fades.
We are free to be gentle, free to let other people “be.”
Peter in Acts shows meekness and courage
At one time Peter was so assertive that he even rebuked Jesus. When Jesus told his disciples he was going to Jerusalem and that he would be killed, Peter pulled him aside and told him to stop thinking like that. Peter was wrong and Jesus corrected him sharply, but it reveals how his assertiveness overwhelmed his knowledge. He did not want to face rejection so he rebuked Jesus hoping that they could avoid the cross.
In the same way when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him, Peter protested. He would never deny Jesus; he would die for him before that happened. Again Peter was wrong. He did deny Jesus. Maybe Peter asserted his confidence because he actually feared that he would falter. We do not know. But he certainly was assertive. And if we had any doubt at all we only need to think of how Peter responded when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the garden. Peter pulled out a sword and cut of the ear of the high priest’s servant.
But after the resurrection, after he had been forgiven for denying Jesus, after his restoration, after the filling of the Holy Spirit, he and the disciples began to share the message of eternal life through Jesus in Jerusalem. God did miracles through them which aroused great jealousy among the religious authorities. In Acts 5 they were arrested and tossed into jail. This is what the scriptures say:
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade…
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Looking at this passage you can tell that Peter is meek enough to be arrested without a fight—twice. He comes before the Sanhedrin peacefully but also courageously. He is respectful but also clear that he will not stop talking in Jesus’ name. So here we see the peace that has come as a result of Peter’s spiritual transformation. He does not need to prove himself and he does not need to take up arms. His meekness, his gentleness grows out of his confidence in what Jesus is doing in him. But it also fuels his courage.
Think of it this way: too much of life is like an American Idol episode. On American Idol, you sing in front of judges, eventually singing the songs they give you to sing. If you are good enough in their eyes you move to the next level and sing again. Such is so much of life. We sing the songs the culture gives us to sing. We try to perform the way they want us to perform hoping that they will like us enough to move us to the next level. But what would it be like if you already had a contract with a music company to record your own songs? Then when American Idol came around you would decline. “Thank you but I will not be part of your dog and pony show. I already have the approval of someone more important.” That is what the gospel can do in us. We have the approval of our God so we do not need to assert how great we are to the judges of this world. We are spiritually gentle, meek, non-assertive because we do no need to be assertive.
Transition: This inner peace is one reason why Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. When you have inner contentment you don’t need to fight for more things.
The Meek will inherit the earth now through contentment and later through allegiance to Jesus.
If meekness means that we do not need to assert ourselves just to prove who we are it also means that we are not as susceptible to others in their opinion of us. This generates contentment, the kind of peace Paul claims in Philippians 4.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
This is the first way that the meek inherit the earth. Because we have been accepted by our God we can own things rather than be owned by them. We do not need unnecessary thing, most of which are acquired to be acceptable to those around us. In this way, the earth is open for us to enjoy without fear of losing things or needing things. This reflects what Jesus will say in Matthew 7: “consider the lilies of the field.”
But the promise to inherit the earth is not only figurative. There is a literal promise as well. We see this in Psalm 37 when David proclaims that God will vindicate the faithful despite what happens in this world.
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
We don’t know for sure when David wrote this Psalm, but one wonders if it was when he was being chased by Saul. During that time David vowed not to kill Saul even though he was given the opportunity. In that way David was meek. He would not assert himself against the King. Saul, on the other hand, was assertive and belligerent because he was insecure in his calling and afraid of losing everything. David rested in his calling and trusted that God would vindicate him one day. David’s meekness grew out of his trust in God. He says with trust in his heart “the meek will inherit the land.” David did inherit the land and all those who were allied with him did as well.
There is a literal application of this beatitude for us today as well which is why Jesus paraphrased David’s words and gave them to his people. Philippians 2 remind us that Jesus trusted God to vindicate him and that as a result he would be declared ruler over all the earth.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus trusted the Father to vindicate him. He was obedient even to death and for that God will exalt him. He will inherit the earth and we inherit it along with him because we are his people.
We are those who have allied ourselves with the one who died for us. We are those who walk with him in this life and so will reign with him in the next. Though this world seems to be controlled by chaotic and evil forces, though evil seems to win at every turn, in reality this is God’s world and he will build his kingdom. One day, there will be not more tears or crying or pain for the old things will pass away. And he will remake heaven and earth; we will inherit all that.