In a culture that worships those who manipulate to win, who bolster themselves, and are seen as a “bully” for those who feel threatened, the call to be meek and to lay down our power and rights is seen as downright absurd. And yet, if we are to take this thing called faith seriously, that is exactly what we are called to do.
Last week we started our series of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. This week we look at the next two “blesseds” on the list.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (MSG)
Before we go further – we need to properly define “meekness.”
“(It is) proper balance between anger and indifference, of a powerful personality properly controlled, and of humility. …A willingness to disregard one’s own “rights” and privileges. …Strength under control” (Guzik).
“To be meek towards others implies freedom from malice and a vengeful spirit.” (Carson)
Ultimately it takes more “power” to not be easily drawn to anger and be a bully. It takes more to not say something mean because it will hurt another person than to “get it off your chest” or to “teach someone a lesson” or be right.
If Christians are doing it right, they are willing to give up their “rights and privileges” because they ultimately know that God has us. He will be our defender. In HIS TIME we will see the outcome of learning to control our temper and not demand our way. We won’t feel threatened when we are asked to share or give up our “rights” because ultimately our validation does not come from living in a county of our design.
If you spend your whole life fighting for your privileges and your way of life you have entirely missed the point.
To be “meek” is to realize the bigger picture. The ultimate example of meekness, of strength under control: Jesus on the cross. Read Matthew 26 and 27 and see all the times Jesus did not retaliate. Count all the moments Jesus could have answered with a quick comeback, or returned a threat, a punch, a mock. All the moments He could have called out to God who would have sent His legion of angels to do what the mockers wanted.
But He did not.
From leaving the garden to His death, Jesus only speaks three times (five in Luke, seven in John).
If Jesus can hold His tongue, deny His rights, lose every comfort, and lay down His life for mockers and men who did not get it – why oh why do we think we exist under different standards as His followers?
IVP in their commentary on Matthew 5 write:
“(T)he humble are not easily provoked to anger. …Jesus promises the kingdom to the powerless, the oppressed who embrace the poverty of their condition by trusting in God rather than favors from the powerful for their deliverance. The inequities of this world will not forever taunt the justice of God: he will ultimately vindicate the oppressed. This promise provides us both hope to work for justice and grace to endure the hard path of love.” (emphasis added).
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
“(A Godly man) hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He does not hunger and thirst that his own political party may get into power, but he does hunger and thirst that righteousness may be done in the land. He does not hunger and thirst that his own opinions may come to the front, and that his own sect or denomination may increase in numbers and influence, but he does desire that righteousness may come to the fore.” (Spurgeon)
“We see Christians hungering for many things: power, authority, success, comfort, happiness – but how many hunger and thirst for righteousness?” (Guzik)
Righteousness: being in the right attitude with others, ourselves, God, sin, etc. Only God can get us there. But we have to do our part.
Jesus walks us through change in a progression. He starts with our hearts – do we rely on ourselves or God? – and then slowly peels back the layers of faith to expose what is underneath. Against popular Christian culture, growing in God does not equal more fame, power, money, or prestige. It equals more dying to self, giving things away, and living not for yourself.
We cannot desire His righteousness and cling to our rights.
We cannot desire His righteousness and cling to our stuff.
We cannot desire His righteousness and cling to our comfort.
We cannot desire His righteousness and cling to our need to be right.
The thing that impresses us about people who give it all for God is their ability to lean in and endure what feels impossible from the outside. How could Elizabeth Elliot forgive her husband’s killers and go live with them? How could Maria Skobtsova risk her life and safety to harbor and smuggle Jews out of France in WWII? How could Mother Theresa be that close to sickness and death and still be kind, loving, and full of faith? How could Dorothy Day give up all of her wealth, comfort and ease to go live with those society rejected in New York City and become an outspoken advocate for their equality?
The Beatitudes meant something to them. They lived them and lived by them.
We cannot live a great life for God while rejecting everything Jesus tells us to do because it is uncomfortable or will cost us something. Friends, it is supposed to cost us something.
But to pursue Him – to recognize our neediness and dependence, to grieve the condition of our world and sit alongside those who mourn and lament, to lay down our power and not assert our rights, to pursue God’s glory before party, nation, denomination, ourselves! That is what Jesus says is required and you will be blessed – it will be well with as one commentary puts it – beyond our endless imagination because someday we are all going to face God and it will not matter how we voted, what denomination we belonged to, how good we lived our lives, how big our checkbook was. What matters is our heart and surrender to God.
It starts in our hearts. It starts one on one with God, on our knees, Bible opened, all other distractions left behind. It starts with getting real with our condition, who God is, and what our place is before Him.
It starts by being poor in spirit and recognizing that all the other things we have morphed God into are simply idols, false shadows and flawed representations, and letting God tell us what is important to Him and how we ought to live.
One final note: The blessing is in every case in the present tense, a happiness to be now enjoyed and delighted in. It is not ‘Blessed shall be,’ but ‘Blessed are.'” (Spurgeon)
Until next time, be well friends. God is waiting, will you answer His call?
- David Guzik’s Commentary on Matthew 5
- Warren Wiersbe – New Testament Commentary (affiliate link)
- Charles Spurgeon’s Sermon, August 5, 1905
- IVP Commentary on The Sermon on the Mount