Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Back when we first started going through the Beatitudes, we discussed how the first Beatitude speaks of how we in our humanness are poor in spirit — bankrupt of any righteousness with which to please God, and how that realization is the necessary first step for anyone to enter the kingdom of God. Then last time, we went to the next natural step in the progression: after realizing our lost and sinful state, we are brought to our knees in repentance and we receive comfort at the foot of the cross. We now come to the third Beatitude:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness is not a word typically seen in your average Facebook status or Twitter post. When people do use this word, they generally mean submissive, easily lead, or impressionable. But the word as used in the Bible is very different from what we relate it to. The literal interpretation is “gentle,” but the Greek offers a much deeper meaning. The picture that this word conjures up is to have great power to do harm, but choosing to suffer insult upon yourself rather than using your power to cause injury.
I hope that an immediate picture came to your mind upon reading this description. Christ is the ultimate example of this attitude and it is an attitude that should be characteristic of all Christians. We are to love others in this way because He, who is ultimately the Judge of the whole earth, stood in our place, and took the injury we deserved upon Himself. There is no way to describe meekness more fully than in the condescension of Christ.
Jesus, God in flesh, who is the perfect image of God’s holiness, righteousness, and truth, came as a humble servant only to be called a devil when he healed the multitudes, to be betrayed by one close to him and deserted by others, to be spat upon for claiming to be who he had proved himself to be, and to suffer the most agonizing death invented by man, all to bring about good for those who sinned against his law and to make a way of redemption for us.
More incredible still, even after Christ has come and we have killed him, this world keeps turning, sinners keep receiving ‘life and breath and everything’ from his hand, imperfect Christians are living in the protection of his grace and mercy, and the offer is still open for whosoever will come while this world becomes more and more vile with every turn upon its axis. God is still, at every moment, exercising the meekness that causes me to wonder in amazement. (I’m noticing a Pauline streak in me here with the length of my previous sentences. But looking at Ephesians 1:3-14, which is just one sentence in the Greek, I think he still has me beat.)
As with every Beatitude, this one ends with a promise; “They shall inherit the earth.” We may be meek and gentle here and we may suffer loss and insult, but there is a kingdom coming and we will rule and reign with Christ. Notice that this follows in the footsteps of our Lord. Philippians 2:5-11 speaks of Christ’s humility in stepping out of glory into this world to live and die as a man, and that passage ends with
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon 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.”
Christ suffered more than any man, but the day is coming when He will step out of glory to reclaim that which is His and will put an end to all sin and suffering to set up for Himself a righteous kingdom on this earth which shall have no end. And because of his meekness, we have been made joint heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord to inherit this earth that He will reclaim as His own.
But in the here and now, how do we work out this meekness in our everyday lives? Look at Titus 3:1-5 where Paul is speaking to Titus, who is the pastor of the Cretan church. This church was located in a place whose inhabitants had the reputation of being “liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Here in chapter 3, Paul tells Titus to remind this church to be “subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, to be gentle, and to show every consideration for all men.” It seems to me that all of the things mentioned in this list are symptoms of a meek person.
This Beatitude has a life application that hits very close to home in this day and time. This corner of the world is fast becoming hostile, not to religion, but to Christianity. Some, even among the church, would shout that we need to do the opposite of this list — to rebel, to fight back, to stop the tide of hostility with force. But Paul reminds us why we should be meek, taking insult and injury upon ourselves rather than returning evil for evil: “We also were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, spending our lives in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Now, how could someone of that description — foolish, malicious, and hateful — ever live up to the list of exhortations that Paul gave to the church in Crete and to us today? We can do it only through the power of the Spirit of God residing within us, because “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not because of good things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Realizing what we once were and would be apart from the kindness of God, brings about the humility from which meekness springs forth.