Blessed are the Meek: A Sermon on the Beatitude of Meekness

As we go through the beatitudes we have heard all sorts of different theories and perspectives on what they are. They are values of what people should hold in being part of the Kingdom. They are statements about the fate of the people they describe. They are evolving and natural characteristics of all Christians. We’ve talked about two of his statements thus far:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

The first beatitude is the very basics of the Christian faith. It asks us to have an honest look at who we are and realize our own poorness and inability to hold onto any righteousness on our own. All are poor in spirit, but only some realize this and live in this reality. As the parables as well teach us, anyone who thinks he can make it on his own or come even close to being better off than someone else (Pharisee and the Tax Collector) is not poor in spirit. When we realize that death to ourselves is the only option and that life only comes by the death and Resurrection of Christ, that is when we become poor in spirit. We’ve also heard the opinion that being poor in spirit is not a quality that we should seek or desire. This isn’t saying you need to be poor. This is making a statement that it is those that are poor in spirit that the kingdom of heaven belong too. However, this of course makes you want to be poor in spirit, so that you will get the kingdom of heaven also.

This inevitably leads to the second statement by Jesus which Aaron spoke about last week. We end up mourning and crying out along with all the father’s of our faith. The earth, the angels, our spirits and Jesus all cry out and mourn the coming and redemption of all things. We mourn because things are not as they should be. We mourn because it doesn’t feel right, something is broken, and that something is us alongside of every else that we are surrounded by. We mourn because we are pour in spirit.

Out of these two, comes the statement by Jesus that we are going to focus on this morning.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

This is a wonderfully backwards statement. The world in Jesus time, and conveniently enough for this sermon, the world today works completely different. In today’s world, in any world actually, the line would normally be something like

Successful are those that push to the top
for they can become anything they want

The world moves around through strength and power and success and self-congratulating and non-stop aggressiveness. We tell our children that they can be anything they want to be. Our schools are setup to be competitive in nature so our children are constantly compared to other children and then based on that we evaluate their performance based on a few letters. The more you assert yourself in this world, the better chance you have to get what you want. This is what we tell our kids, this is what we believe and this is how generally the world, and us, work.

Even in this Jesus time when he was saying these things, people would have not really grasped what was going on. The Jews had ideas for their kingdom that was going to be violent and militaristic. They were waiting for a Messiah to come and wipe their enemies and restore their power. They were trying to scheme all sorts of ways to speed up this process and bring back the control that they so longed for. They were expecting victory and world conquest. Then, this man who people claim is the Messiah launches into his victory speech. Remember the speech that Gladiator does before his army goes into battle? All his troops are lined up and ready to slit the throats of their enemy and then Russel Crowe gives his pump-up speech before the battle. That’s sort of an exaggeration, but this is kind of how I see Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Those that are listening to him are blood-thirsty and longing for freedom from their oppression by the Romans. They want vengeance. This Messiah is exactly that person who is supposed to lead them into that. Thousands follow him at this point in his ministry and it’s not just because he can do magic tricks. It’s because he was ushering in a new kingdom and people thought this meant forcing out the old. They were for their prophecies to come true and freedom to be taken a hold of.

If you’ve seen any war movie, the opening speech is usually a pump up speech that gets people ready to go into battle. People are hooting and hollering and banging their swords on their shields. They are all there to finally get what they deserve and give to the enemy what they deserve. This is how I picture the beatitudes. This kind of scene, with these kind of people just longing for God to end the suffering and free them from oppression and most importantly restore their power. Then Jesus gives his victory speech:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

What? Really Jesus? What a downer. These are not what they would have expected. This was completely backwards and a little anti-climatic. Especially this blessed are the meek line. Like we get that the people who mourn are going to be comforted and we can even let the fact go that those that are poor will inherit their rewards later in heaven. But this blessed are the meek part doesn’t really fly. So why? Why not? What is meek and why is this so appalling?

Don’t get too caught up in trying to describe the word, sometimes it’s easier to describe the person. Generally the word meek as been thought to mean just humble. In many cases they are right, they definitely have similarities. Meek though has a whole bunch more meaning that doesn’t usually come with the word humble. Greek word Praus which mean gentle strength. So this word more denotes two different realities. Humility is only one of them. We can barely picture someone being strong and meek. A meek person is one who has great power and is confident yet full of humility and self-realization of who they actually are. It’s kind of a paradox. For this person will appear weak at times, but they will have great strength. They will have looked defeated yet they will be content with knowing they have won.

If we look at the word meek to simply mean “humble” then I think we have missed a step. We end up using teaching things like to go into the closet and pray, keep private, your faith doesn’t need to be on display. Jesus though constantly speaks against this type of humility in terms of becoming a disciple. Matthew shows us this in other chapters when he quotes Jesus saying things like ‘You are the light of the world.’ and ‘a city built on a hill cannot be hid.’ Jesus doesn’t want his disciples just to keep to themselves and be humble followers in a corner somewhere. He obviously wants his followers to be out there, not hidden, being light, not dark. Any attempts that we try to make ourselves invisible, Jesus diminishes. So meekness isn’t being hidden, or staying in a closet. So how does a humble person be meek?

So I’m just gonna throw this out there to get the conversation moving. Here is what I think a meek person looks like.

What qualities do you think I am wrong about in this list? Would you add any? What worries you about a meek person?

Lots of great discussion happened in this part.  Some said that you can still be worth something while not defending yourself.  Some said this description didn’t have enough outward action statements about what this guy does actually do.

So Jesus has done it again. He has flipped what was common feeling about how the world should work and he lifts up the losers and those that don’t have it together.

“…in the Gospels the kingdom message transforms those who meekly embrace it, just as it crushes the arrogant, the religiously and socially satisfied.”
– Craig S. Keener

So how do we be transformed into being more meek, if we have to meekly embrace the kingdom to do that? What comes first? Here is my suggestion. This is only one suggestion of a way that we can see the world and an attitude that I think will help transform us to become more meek. Paul echos the words of Jesus in a few of his passages in 2 Corinthians 6,  I think it might help us make more sense of what to do with Jesus’ statement.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

It’s this last sentence that I think is quite similar with what Jesus is saying here. How can one have nothing and yet possess everything? The same question I ask, how does one be meek and yet inherit the earth? So here is my suggestion. My thought here is that typically when we see a paradox in the gospels is because there are two different realities colliding. One one hand you have to die, but by doing that you live. Now this doesn’t mean that if you jump off a bridge, you are going to be resurrected. What it does mean though is you have to die to yourself spiritually, so that you can come alive in all things. How can we be sorrowful and yet always rejoicing? Well it’s the same like Aaron pointed out last week. Jesus was somehow able to live in both worlds. He was able to mourn the loss of Lazurus all the while knowing he could raise him from the dead. So there is a paradox here, but it’s an easier one to explain because it’s talking about two different realities and living in the tension of both.

To be meek is to understand and live in this tension of both realities. The realities are this.

  • You have nothing and are nothing
  • You possess everything and are loved

How do these two things work together? A meek man has somehow figured it out. This would be a good explanation of someone who is meek. Someone who has learned to live in both these realities.

On the one hand a meek man recognizes his sinful nature and sees himself as nothing special, nothing to be worshiped, not one to deserve his own way. On the other hand he recognizes he is a child of God, valued beyond all measure, and all things are his for the taking. Meekness can live in both realities. I found this quote online recently, and it came to my mind for this sermon.

All of the computers on Ebay are mine. In fact, everything on Ebay is already mine. All of those things are just in long term storage that I pay nothing for. Storage is free.
When I want to take something out of storage, I just pay the for the storage costs for that particular thing up to that point, plus a nominal shipping fee, and my things are delivered to me so I can use them. When I am done with them, I return them to storage via Craigslist or Ebay, and I am given a fee as compensation for freeing up the storage facilities resources.
This is also the case with all of my stuff that Amazon and Walmart are holding for me. I have antiques, priceless art, cars, estates, and jewels beyond the dreams of avarice.
The world is my museum, displaying my collections on loan. The James Savages of the world are merely curators.
As I am the curator of their things, and thus together we all share the world.

When I first read this quote to people, they gawked because it obviously isn’t a reality. All of the computers aren’t literally mine. However, here would be where I think separates a meek person apart. A meek person would have the attitude where this quote is true whether or not it exists physically or not. This isn’t a statement that describes reality, rather it describes a approach and attitude to a way of looking at the world. Meekness has a large part to do with an attitude towards life, and very little to do with what actually happens in your life. Someone who is meek sees all humans as equal, all in the same boat, all deserving the same fate, all having access to the same gifts as anyone else. All the early church fathers saw all possessions as being in common with all, why would one have more rite to something? They can live their life with this reality. Someone could steal a meek person’s IPod and they wouldn’t really flinch, because they never had the belief that it was really theres in the first place. Someone could hurl insults non-stop at a meek person, and the meek person could go on living their life, because meek people live in truth, not try to create fake ones.

The next part of Jesus’ statement is that they will inherit the earth. When we look at this verse we could interpret it has someone who longs for power would look at it. This meekness is not simply a tool to gain power and inherit the earth. Some think that this verse means that the meek will one day rule over us all. I’m more inclined it’s more like what we were talking about earlier. There is a paradox here. There is statement of what will happen to meek people. What if it means that meek people, because they are meek, have an attitude towards the earth that sees it as all theres already. What if meekness is the quality needed to fully embrace everything that is yours already?

If you don’t have any lower to go. If you have already admitted to yourself that you don’t really deserve anything, that you aren’t all that you want yourself to be, only then can you be free to see the world for what it is and receive God’s grace and your value from a true source. If you don’t see everything in the world’s as being a gift to us all, then you will not see everything in the world as yours already. If you see yourself better than you are, then you only have down to go.

“He that is down need fear no fall.”
– John Bunyan

So this morning what I want to do is grab the journals and write down and answer a few questions, then I want you to comment on your own answers and internally wrestle with your own answers.

Do you get/stay offended when someone says something mean to you?
Do you complain a lot when you go through standard trials in life such as sickness or over material possessions?
Do you think you have anything to learn from children or the disabled?
Do other people annoy you a lot?
When was the last time you took the back seat so someone could surpass you?
Are you mostly a content/happy person?
Do you find yourself upset about where your life is at and unable to make change?
Do you love having new things and shopping?

After you have answered these questions, just write about it. Why did you answer these questions this way? Are they good answers that you are proud of or do you wish you would change? What steps are you going to make to change? I don’t ask these questions to make you feel bad. I think it’s important to ask these questions because they help reveal parts about you that you should begin to discipline yourself to change. Is we are going to be a community of meek followers of Christ, then we need to all be actively seeking this way of living. So be honest with yourself. Question your motives. Dig deep into yourself and ask these questions and then after, just write and reflect on your answers.

Let’s pray together.

2 Comments

  • I love your sermon, Nathan. This whole concept of meekness is fascinating. I’ve always been drawn to Numbers 12:3 which some versions translate as meek. Thanks for unpacking the verse. Get any good responses to the questions in the weeks following?

    Doug

  • I would like to say that I have some different views on what being meek is. There is more complexity to the word itself, however not always that easy to say. I see that you said that Jesus taught against it. “Why?” “How?” I would like to hear your reasonings. If Jesus spoke against it, why then would he mention it at that moment and then virtually contradict what he said by speaking against it. I have learned that the Beautitudes are a process. It is a more unique type of humbleness. I am a person who is rather quiet. I would also consider myself a gentleman (as others have said to me). Do you think that that is weakness or meekness? I can tell you that Christ was meek. He, although sometimes quiet (in prayer), was strong and with authority he stood up for what he believed in (just look at him entering his father’s house: seeing all of the commercial activities.) I encourage you to argue your reasoning, but please do not be rude in rejecting my opinions and own personal reasoning.

    Thanks, May God bless you.
    (To your question: Something else I heard “Jesus +nothing=everything”-If you would like the sermon please email)

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