"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
All of the Beatitudes are fairly counter-intuitive when held in light of our culture. This third one given by Jesus is no different. In fact, it’s this third one where one might begin to wonder if Jesus is biting off a little more than He can chew, so to speak. After all, thousands of years of human history have seemingly shown us that the meek do not inherit the earth.
Based on history… we see that conquerors are the ones who inherit the earth. The affluent inherit the earth. Those with power and position inherit the earth. Those with a specific birthright inherit the earth. The meek? Not so much.
Part of the problem with understanding this beatitude, however, is that we might not really know what ‘meek’ means. I hardly ever use the word ‘meek’ in conversation… I hardly ever hear the word ‘meek’ used by others in conversation. I think many of us, when we hear the word ‘meek,’ immediately translate it or associate it with the word ‘weak.’
So it’s tempting… when Jesus says: “Blessed are the meek…” for us to read into the passage: Blessed are the weak. And then just assume that Jesus is trying to make those of us who really don’t have the power and authority to make any significant changes to how the world operates feel better about ourselves. But that’s NOT what Jesus is talking about here. He’s not talking about weakness here.
The word meekness has a very peculiar meaning behind it. Perhaps the best definition I’ve heard used to describe meekness is this one: ‘Controlled strength.’ It’s not a lack of strength. It’s not an absence of strength. It’s not a lack of courage or ability or power. Meekness actually assumes strength… but that strength is under the will of the one who is entrusted with that power.
The word meek actually comes from a word that means ‘liquid.’ An interesting definition. Take a regular egg as an example. If you want to crush the shell… you will have no problem with breaking it down. If you want to crush the yoke… then you are going to have a harder time accomplishing that. That liquid, adaptable yoke… will just press around your resistance.
Maybe what Jesus is trying to teach us is that there is a strength that comes when we move towards humility and gentleness and when we learn how to control our strength. So again… meekness is not weakness. In fact, meekness can’t be weakness. You have to actually have strength that is harnessed in order to be meek. So this isn’t about losing confidence or lacking power or courage or strength.
In fact, it’s about capturing it. This isn’t Jesus condoning a life of indifference… or laziness… or passivity. He isn’t inviting us to be uninvolved… or just sit back and let the world pass us by. He’s actually inviting us to take all of our strength and place it under His submission… He’s inviting us to take all our energy and power and use it for good… to use it for love… to use it for God’s kingdom.
By the way, whether you know it or not, I bet just about everybody who is reading this article has displayed meekness recently. How many of you stopped at a red light sometime this past week? All of you, hopefully. And when you stop at a red light… you have the power to run that light. All you have to do is take your foot off the brake… hit the gas… and you are on your way through the red light. You actually have the capacity to act on that decision.
But you choose not to. And when you stop… you are basically yielding to someone else so they can get to where they are going. And in turn, others will do the same for you so that you can get where you are going. And this creates a better and safer system of travel… and this principle leads to a better society. When we yield ourselves… this actually promotes the most good.
We understand that if you choose to run the red light… and someone else chooses to run the red light… and if that behavior becomes consistent… anarchy would be the rule on the road and eventually someone would be needlessly killed. This leads to an important truth: If you always do everything you could do… you would actually bring more harm to the world than good.
And what we have to do… is come to a place in our lives where we ask the right question. That we get beyond asking: What is my entitlement? What is my right? But rather we ask: What can I do that would lead to the most amount of good?
Meekness is not a life without strength… it is a life of controlled strength. It is a life which never uses strength to overpower others… but rather to empower others.
So I say we take Jesus at his word. Let’s resist our ambition and let’s resist the temptation to use our talents, and strength, and our intelligence to overpower and control others. And let’s take all that we have… all we are… all our strength and passion… and bring it under control. Specifically, that we bring it under His will. And let’s use all that he gives us to serve humanity. Let’s use all that he gives us to empower others. Let’s use all that he trusts us with to accomplish the most good in the world.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth...