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©Douglas Beyer 2000

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THE MERRY MEEK
Matthew 5:5

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." That's what Jesus said, but writing on it today makes me feel like a necktie salesman at a nudist camp. No matter how hard I try, I don't think you are going to "buy" it. There is not a very hot market for meekness nowadays. Can you imagine the George W. Bush presidential campaign committee coming up with this slogan, "Vote for Bush, the Humble Guy," or Gore campaigning as the "Meek Candidate."

"Nice guys finish last" is the accepted slogan not only on the athletic field, but in many endeavors. Most would like to be "nice guys," but not if it means finishing last.

Meekness is not even a highly desirable trait in clergy. In none of the four churches I have served as pastor did the pulpit committee list meekness as an important qualification in their pastor. It's a good thing. For if they had, they probably wouldn't have selected me. I am not famous for meekness.

It's not that meekness is unbecoming of a president or a preacher. In the judgment of many historians, our meekest president was also our greatest. Abraham Lincoln's speeches in the midst of a bloody civil war are models of moderation and meekness.

Could it be true that despite the low "retail value" we have placed on meekness in today's market, Jesus was right after all: that the earth belongs not the mean, but the meek; that the final conqueror will not be a lion, but a lamb — a lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:6,12)?

Could it be true that the worldly wise men of our day have it all wrong: that the things and people which appear to many as being all powerful are actually weak and inconsequential? William W. Story writes:

        "I sing the hymn of the conquered,
        Who fell in the battle of life
        The hymn of the wounded, the beaten,
        Who died overwhelmed in the strife…
        Speak, History! Who are life's victors?
        Unroll thy long annals and say:
        Are they those whom the world calls victors,
        Who won the success of the day?
        The martyrs, or Nero?
        The Spartans who fell at Thermopylae's tryst,
        Or Persians and Xerxes?
        Pilate, or Christ?"

"Even Dogs Get Ulcers…"An article appeared in the New York Times with the headline: "Even Dogs Get Ulcers Leading a People's Life." It reported the results of a laboratory experiment in which dogs were subjected to the kind of tensions which are common in the competitive human environment.

Meekness may be the most underrated value in the catalogue of today's virtues. It is not well enough understood to be appreciated. We all laugh at the cartoon of a little wimp of a man cowering under his bossy wife who says, "If the meek inherit the earth, I figure you are in line for about two thousand acres." He must have been the same man who said he had found the secret of domestic harmony: "During the day I permit her to do as she pleases. In the evening I do as she pleases." No husband wants to be called meek. And no liberated wife wants to be called meek either. But that's because neither really understand what meekness is all about.

MEEKNESS IS HUMBLE TOWARDS GOD

This is clear in the Hebrew word for meekness. Anaw means "humble, lowly." It is the picture of a subject bowing before his or her master. It may come as a surprise to you to learn that this beatitude is not original with Jesus. He is quoting from an Old Testament passage in Psalm 37:11. Here the meaning of meekness is expressed in the preceding verses.

        "Fret not yourself because of the wicked,
        Be not envious of wrong doers!
        For they will soon fade like the grass,
        And wither like the green herb.

        Trust in the Lord, and do good;
        So you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
        Take delight in the Lord,
        And he will give you the desires of your heart.

        Commit your way to the Lord;
        Trust in him, and he will act.
        He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
        And your right as the noonday.

        Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
        Fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way,
        Over the man who carries out evil devices!

        Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
        Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

        For the wicked shall be cut off;
        But those who wait for the Lord

        Shall possess the land. (KJV: "The meek shall inherit the earth")

Look at those strong verbs of meekness: "Fret not… be not envious… trust… delight yourself… commit your way… trust also in him… rest in the Lord… wait patiently." That's the meaning of meekness. It is obediently accepting God's will. Any heathen can be meek before circumstances or events. But a Christian is meek before God. That kind of meekness becomes strength when it faces the trials of living.

It is the attitude of Job who, having suffered the loss of his possessions, his family and his health, said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the name of the Lord… .Though he slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 1:21; 13:15). It is the attitude of Mary who responded to the angel's announcement that she was to bear a son out of wedlock by saying, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). It is the attitude of Jesus who prior to his crucifixion concluded his prayer in Gethsemane by saying, "Not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39).

Max Lucado said the meek are "pawnshop pianos played by Van Cliburn. (Hes so good no one notices the missing keys.)" Meekness is humble towards God and…

MEEKNESS IS GENTLE TOWARDS OTHERS

Although the Hebrew word for meekness looks toward God, the Greek word looks toward humankind. Praus means "under control, tamed." It is used of taming a wild horse. Its spirit is not broken, but broken in and harnessed for service. Matthew Henry said that meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God and ill-will toward others.

Centuries before Jesus spoke about meekness, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, had identified meekness as the virtue that was the "golden mean" between the opposing vices of hate and apathy. The meek person feels anger, but it is under control. It is on the right grounds, against the right people, in the right manner, at the right moment, and for the right reason. Anger, like strong medicine, can do great good when it is used rightly, or great harm if it is used wrongly.

The apostle Paul wrote, "Be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26). That's what the meek are able to do. They have learned how to be "good and mad." They avoid the two most common mistakes made by angry people: it is a mistake to get angry for offenses against yourself (Matthew 5:22); but it is also a mistake not to get angry at the offenses against others — especially the weak and defenseless. Jesus is our best model on how to be "good and mad." He was never angry at the insults and injuries given to him personally, but his eyes glint with anger when religious leaders put law above mercy (Mark 3:5) and when money changers profited from poor pilgrims at the temple (Mark 11:15-17).

That kind of meekness is grounded in strength. It is an active meekness, not the passive weakness, fear or indifference that sometimes masquerades as meekness. It is strength under control. Only the strong can afford to be meek.

The two meekest men in the Bible were also the strongest: Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New. It was said of Moses, "(He) was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). And yet this same Moses was courageous in the court of Pharaoh, determined in the wilderness wandering, and so angry that he broke two tables of stone on which the commandments were first written.

Jesus said of himself, "I am meek and lowly of heart" (Matthew 11:28). But this same Jesus denounced the Pharisees, whipped the money changers, and was courageously silent before Pilate. When you get to know Jesus, you will never again mistake meekness for weakness. All power in heaven and earth was given to him, but he was still meek and lowly of heart.

He earned the right to say, "Happy are the meek." He wants you to know that happiness is no contest in which the winners defeat the losers. Happiness is found in the kind of meekness that looks out for the interests of others. Happy are those who respect the opinions of others. The unhappy people are those who have never learned how to listen. They don't really converse; they just take turns talking. Such people have few friends because people don't care how much you know; but they know how much you care by the way you listen.

The meek are blessedly happy because they respect the opinions of others and because they regard the feelings of others. They speak the truth, but always in love (Ephesians 4:15). Their care penetrates through the facts about people to their feelings.

The meek are happy not only because they respect the opinions of others and regard the feelings of others, but because they remember the needs of others. If you are unhappy with your lot in life, build a service station on it. The truly unhappy are those who are self-centered, who spend all their emotional capital on themselves. They have no time or energy to deal with the needs of others.

MEEKNESS INHERITS THE EARTH

Inherit the EarthThe merry meek are promised a surprising reward: they will inherit the earth. It is surprising for two reasons: they are the last people we would expect to wind up with the earth in their possession, and it is the last thing they were trying to possess. The key to understanding this promise lies in the word, "inherit."

That the meek will inherit the earth does not mean that sinners will be so touched they will turn over the world to the meek. Nor does it mean that the meek will become so powerful that they will take over the world from the sinners. What it does mean is that God will hand over the world to the meek as a legacy, just as he gave Israel the land of Canaan as an inheritance in the days of Moses and Joshua.

None is so poor as one who has everything except the power to enjoy it. And none is so rich as one who enjoys everything whether or not he possesses it. Paul writes to Timothy: "Religion does make a person very rich, if he is satisfied with what he has. What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us" (1 Timothy 6:6-8). And to the Corinthians he writes: "Actually everything belongs to you: Paul, Apollos, and Peter; this world, life and death, the present and the future — all these are yours, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

To belong to Christ means that we have everything worth having. We are sons and daughters of the living God, to whom belongs the earth and all its fullness (Psalm 24:1). We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16). We know we are as weak and helpless as God has declared us to be, but we also know at the same time that we are, in the sight of God, more important than angels. We know well that the world will never see us as God sees us and we have stopped caring.

Happy indeed are the meek who are humble towards God and gentle towards others for they will inherit the earth.

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