This was my friend Tammie’s idea…and I have been spurred on by watching Julie & Julia and a terrible coughing fit.
The other night at Life Group we were unpacking the Third Beatitude, or “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.” Though not my favorite beatitude (Blessed are the peacemakers), it’s definitely tied to it. Our revolutionary, macho-istic American culture tends to not favor the meek, painting it often in rather negative terms. Even the Websters definition is rather passive:
enduring injury with patience and without resentment
While this definition is a small part of what it means to be meek (having a great deal of patience), we unpacked it to mean something more. Chad discussed the meaning of the word for humility, how it referred to the taming of a wild ox to be yoked and plowing the fields, obeying the master’s command. Tying this to meekness, it literally becomes the embodiment of sacrifice, to throw off one’s own desires and ambitions for the people around us who need help, especially those who persecute us. This, as is often true with the teachings of Jesus, ran contrary to the image of a revolutionary conqueror that the Jewish people wanted. Naturally, Jesus not only didn’t meet their expectations, he showed them how they misinterpreted the prophecies and the law too.
So, what did Jesus mean when he said “Blessed are the meek?” He meant that those who put aside their own feelings for others, with great patience and no resentment, who take to doing the will of their Master instead of their own will, will inherit the Earth. In contrast, those who seek their own will lose everything. From this, we see one of the roots of Jesus teaching: the placing of others before oneself. Paul emphasized this in Philippians 2:4, where he tells us to “look to the interests of others.” The Message says it better:
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
The meek are viewed as timid, shy, and quiet, whereas, by Gospel and Pauline standards, they are those who give of themselves to help others, who relinquish their own wills in favor of the yoke of the Master. The meek do not go in guns blazing; they go in with outstretched hands. They don’t leave with a bang, but with not so much as a whisper so as not to draw attention to themselves, but to the Lord who has acted through them. The meek do not seek the praise of men, but instead choose to spurn it. The meek stopped seeking their own interest long ago in favor of the interests of the One who called them.
Becoming meek is no easy task, as it involves the complete throwing off of one’s own will and desire, including the desire for credit given where credit is “due,” as we have been taught to seek. We’ve been taught to seek acknowledgment for our works, but Christ has taught us to work in secret and not draw attention to ourselves. We are not the holy ones; we are but jars of clay, cracked vessels with a great treasure stored within. We are to share this treasure with others that they may given acknowledgment to the treasure holder, not to use the treasure to adorn our worn exterior.
The crazy thing about being meek, however, isn’t the lack of attention they draw to themselves, but the boldness of their actions and the impact they leave. They pick up the tab for others at restaurants and leave silently. They work in soup kitchens as often as they can, often for no thanks. They plant gardens in the city and leave no sign saying who did it. They open up their homes to whomever needs shelter, and don’t call the evening news to tell them what they’re doing. Because no attention is given them, attention can only be given to God. When the person in need has their needs met by a meek individual, they seek to give credit where credit is due, and when none can be given, they find they can only give it to God (Matt. 5: 16). You’ll never see the meek be called a “hometown hero” because, to them, what they do isn’t heroic. It’s a command.
By following the Master and His commands, the meek shall inherit the Earth.