Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth“. The word ‘meek’ has become devalued over time and this statement sounds as though Jesus was saying “Blessed are the weak …”. So, who are the ‘meek’, and how will they inherit the earth?
The meaning of meekness
- Meekness in not weakness.
- It means having strength but under control.
- It involves speaking out against injustice when it involves our fellow-man more than when our own rights are affected.
- Not being easily provoked to anger.
- Not seeking our own way at the expense of other people.
- Curbing the natural desire to rebel, fight and push ourselves forward.
Examples of Meekness in the Old Testament
Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation and other nations. He was powerful and prosperous, but he was also meek. As Abraham and his family group flourished, there was a dispute between Abraham’s herdsman and those of his nephew, Lot. Abraham was the senior figure and could have insisted that his flocks had the best pastures. But he obviously considered that peace in the family was more important than his own rights. He was in a position of strength but chose not to exercise the strength, and let his nephew choose the best pastures.Instead of demanding his own rights, he sought to keep the peace.
Moses was described as being a meek man.
“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”
Yet Moses was the ruler of a million or so refugees from slavery who often rebelled against his leadership. He stood up for the rights of the people of Israel who were slaves in the land of Egypt. He had to contend with the most powerful ruler of his day – Pharaoh.
Jesus, the ultimate example of meekness
When I was a young boy, I was taught to say a prayer that went like this:
“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child.
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee”
I appreciate my Christian upbringing, but this prayer, said nightly, gave me the wrong impression of Jesus, the King of Kings. Jesus certainly was not weak, nor could he be described as mild, but nevertheless, Jesus was the ultimate example of what it means to be ‘meek’.
- Jesus had authority over sicknesses and demonic powers, but exercised that authority in a quiet way, without shouting and hype.
- He mixed with tax-collectors for the Romans, prostitutes, and ordinary people in a non judgmental way. (When he did rebuke wrong-doing, it would be a quiet, “Go, and sin no more”.)
- His strongest words were reserved for the religious rulers, because they were causing other people to stumble.
- He showed anger when he turned over the tables of the temple traders, but it was controlled, and only because people were being cheated (“den of thieves”).
- He wasn’t afraid to show emotion. At the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he wept (even though he knew he was about to raise him from the dead!)
- He submitted himself to the abuse and cruelty of the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers even though he knew that he had the power to defeat them.
- He submitted himself to death itself, and at that point had only his faith in God, his father, to believe that he would be resurrected three days later.
If we are to inherit the Earth, and seek to be meek, we can do no better than follow the example of Jesus. As followers of Jesus we can know authority, but let us exercise that authority in quietness, with no hype. Let us stand up for the rights of others but not be pushy in defending our own rights. Let us submit to authority with strength under control. And finally, when the time is right, let us submit to death itself with a quiet faith to believe that death is a beginning, not an end.
Inheriting the Earth
What does it mean to inherit the earth, 2000 years after those words were spoken. We can inherit, now, at the current time, and we can inherit in the future. There is a real sense that the world belongs to the meek, as described above. We may not be the most powerful, or the most prosperous, but in controlling our strength, by not getting angry or pushy, by standing up for the rights of others, we are winners.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17 NIV)
We can be co-heirs with Christ, who one day will totally rule on earth. Then it will be totally true that the meek, the Christ-like, will inherit the earth.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.