Read Matthew 5:1-12.
We are continuing on in the Beatitudes which kicks off Jesus’ first and arguably most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, which spans chapters 5-7 of Matthew. The Beatitudes contain 8 statements of blessing. As Brother Daniel shared last week, you can translate blessed in this passage as happy. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy are those who mourn. The biblical picture of someone who is happy or blessed is vastly different from the people we would naturally think of as being happy. A Christian is not someone with a perpetual smile on their face. It’s not someone who feels totally satisfied in every area of his or her life, non-stop, all the time. Rather, the happy life is one that exhibits these 8 characteristics.
These 8 characteristics describe a born again Christian, or a citizen in the kingdom of God, or a true disciple of Jesus Christ. These 8 qualities ought to be displayed simultaneously in increasing measure. Meaning, the longer you are a Christian, the more you should display a poverty of spirit, a posture of mourning, and meekness and so forth, gradually, more and more.
What’s the structure of these 8 blessings? Each of these 8 verses start with a blessing–blessed are the blank. Then, the second half of the verses contain the reward. Blessed are the poor in spirit. What’s the reward? For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In terms of structure, we also learned that we can divide these 8 blessings into two categories. Some are personal. Others are relational. Being poor in spirit is personal. You can be poor in spirit shipwrecked on an island all by your lonesome. Like the movie, Castaway. It’s just you and a volleyball named Wilson and you can still demonstrate a poverty of spirit. Being meek is relational. Meekness is displayed in your relationship with others. Wilson is not enough. You need an actual person who can respond to you. You need another person to exercise meekness, or to test whether or not you are truly meek.
We studied the personal qualities last time and they include: 1) being poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and 4) being pure in heart. Today, we are going to focus on the the first 2 relational qualities, which are: 1) being meek toward others, and 2) being merciful toward others. Next time, we’ll cover the last two–being a peacemaker toward others and being persecuted by others.
This second grouping of blessings are geared toward our relationships. You will be blessed by God if you relate with others in these ways. Let’s call these relational blessings.
The first relational blessing is found in v5–
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
In the Greek, “meek” means humble, it refers to a mildness of disposition and a gentleness of spirit. The meek will inherit the earth.
This is counter-intuitive. Do you see guys who are humble and mild in their disposition and who possess a gentle spirit inheriting the earth? Would you describe Jeff Bezos of Amazon or Larry Paige of Google as humble, mild or gentle in spirit? What about Kobe Bryant or Lebron James? They’re not meek. It’s those who are aggressive, and bold, and charismatic and probably a bit abrasive who make it far in this world, right? Guys who are humble and mild and gentle, guys like that are spit on, stepped on, stepped over, left behind, left in the dust. Am I right? Will a CEO lead his company to increased market share by being mild and gentle? It’s doubtful. Will an NFL quarterback like Michael Vick lead his team to the Superbowl by being meek? I’ve never seen it. Maybe Tim Tebow will be the first. Those who take life by the horns and exert their will and get rid of dead weight and who beat out the competition are the winners. According to worldly calculations, meekness is for losers.
Nietzsche, in his book entitled, The Anti-Christ, repudiates the whole value system of Jesus.
Nietzsche writes, “What is more harmful than vice? Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak. Nothing in our unhealthy modernity is more unhealthy than Christian pity. I condemn Christianity. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity. It has made every value a disvalue.”
Nietzsche is not saying anything too shocking. He just had the courage to verbalize what this world believes intrinsically. We don’t like weakness. We don’t like to be pitied. If someone has the power to defend himself and he doesn’t, we call that person pitiful, pathetic, spineless. We look at weakness and we get angry. Don’t let people treat you that way! Stick up for yourself! Don’t you have any dignity? We detest meekness because we think meekness is synonymous with weakness.
I grew up an angry kid. My dad was under a lot of stress as a first generation Korean trying to provide for his family and his siblings while trying to put himself through school. He worked full-time during the day and got his PhD at night. He lost his father at age 15 so I can’t imagine how difficult his life was being forced to grow up so fast.
Given his situation, understandably, he was stressed. He was moody and often angry. He had a bad temper. And he took a lot of his stress out on me. I never openly rebelled. I kept it in, but I was seething within. I didn’t want to show him how I was hurting inside so I channeled all that anger into a desire to prove my worth to my dad. How dare you treat me this way? Someday, I’ll show you.
I think this is why I loved taekwondo. When I was training at the studio, I felt invincible. I might have had a bowl haircut in junior high school, but if someone pushed me over the edge, I knew I could throw a jump spinning round house and take him out.
We grow up in a world that tells us to stick up for ourselves, to fight for ourselves. Don’t let anyone look down on you. Don’t let anyone diss you. You got to fight for what is rightfully yours.
Isn’t it ironic that God exalts the humble and brings low the proud? God calls the first last and the last first. God ascribes greatness to the servant. He sends the rich and powerful away empty-handed and declares the meek to be his heirs. We have to realize that the culture of the world and the counter-culture of Christ are always clashing. The kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God are on a collision course. The world celebrates the rich and the famous and the powerful. Jesus welcomes little children and congratulates those whom the world discards and calls them blessed.
God values meekness. Blessed are the meek. The meek will inherit the earth. Anyone who has been going to church for a while knows how important humility is in the Christian life. The question is, how do you know you’re meek, and therefore, blessed by God? Answer: somebody has to tell you. Somebody has to say, brother, you’re meek. Sister, you’re humble. The moment you tell others you’re humble, then you’re not humble. People who have to tell others how humble they are, they’re among the most obnoxious people you will ever meet. They are blind and deluded, but certainly not humble.
What if you have a guy who is proud and arrogant? He may be blind to himself, but ask anyone who has spent even a few minutes with someone like that and they will be able to tell you right away, that guy is arrogant.
The same goes for meekness. Meekness is a quality that others notice in you as you interact with them and as they see you interacting with others. Those who are meek will inherit the EARTH, not inherit heaven way up there, but the meek will inherit the earth, which makes sense if you consider the fact that the future kingdom of God is going to be a new heaven established on earth. When Christ returns, heaven will come crashing down to earth and this new heaven and new earth will be inherited by the meek.