This post is number 6 in the Sermon on the Mount Series and examines the familiar Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek.” which is found in Matthew 5:5. The benefit conferred upon the meek is that they will inherit the earth.
The word translated meek (NIV, ESV, NKJV) can also be translated, mild, tame, gentle, kindly or lenient depending on the context. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus uses this word to describe himself where it is translated gentle. One other use of this word is found in Matthew 21:5 which is a quote from Zechariah 9:9, where Jesus is referred to as “humble and mounted on a donkey.” So whatever understanding we have of what it means to be meek should be shaped by what we know of the character of Jesus.
Those of us in western society, and especially those of us in 21st Century America, may struggle with meekness as being the path to inheriting anything, let alone gaining the entire world as an inheritance. In a world of self-promotion, image consultants, spin doctors and press agents, how does meekness fit in?
If we look at the immediate context into which Jesus uttered this statement, we see him speaking these words to a people group under the domination of Rome. Rome ruled much of the world with an iron fist. The Pax Romana was established, and it was maintained, by harsh, brutal domination of the conquered people. The Romans were not known for meekness or gentleness in their efforts at inheriting the earth.
The Jews, as a conquered people, longed for the day when they could throw off the yoke of Rome and be self governing once again. But to what effect is meekness in coming against a brutal Roman regime?
To understand something of what Jesus is expecting of us, let us examine what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus seeks to be relieved of the responsibility of going to the cross. Yet, his ultimate prayers is “not my will be yours.” A defining characteristic of Jesus was that he was dependent upon and submitted to the will of the Father.
Jesus’ connection with the Father and Jesus’ trust that the Father’s plan was perfect allowed him to submit to that plan. In the same way, when I walk in obedience and trust, I can be assured that God will work things out according to his plan. I can surrender control knowing that someone a lot smarter than me is controlling the outcome.
This meekness, this submission to a higher authority, this surrender of control is contrary to the course of action that the surrounding culture prescribes. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says this about a Christian living out this proverb in the world today:
“. . . we are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world. It is a difference in quality, an essential difference. He is a new man, a new creation; he belongs to an entirely different kingdom. And not only is the world unlike him; it cannot possibly understand him. He is an enigma to the world. And if you and I are not, in this primary sense, problems and enigmas to the non–Christians around us, then this tells us a great deal about our profession of the Christian faith.”
I am challenged by this. Am I living my life in such a way that the people I work with and interact with on a regular basis wonder about my grasp on the way of the world? Do I operate in such a way as to demonstrate my reliance first and foremost upon God and not myself? Sadly, I think that I often fail in this regard.
The stakes are high, a huge inheritance is waiting if we get this right. The whole world can be ours!
Why then, should I stress out about the next sale? Why then should I worry about that next promotion or how I am viewed? Why should I worry about my standing in society or the work place? All the wealth and resources of the world are offered and too often I’m content possessing a few shiny rocks of no real value.
Paul provides some words of encouragement to us as to how to live out a life of meekness. He uses the example of Jesus. They are found in Philippians 2:1-11 and are a fitting close to this post:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.