Matthew 5:1-7 (5:5)
Along comes the Rabbi Jesus, and what is the next Beatitude that He proposes? Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Now, wait a minute, Jesus! This is completely the opposite of everything that earthly society and worldly people say to us all the time. If we want to dominate the world, we need to show everyone who is boss! We need to show off our strength and power and domination! Don’t we?
Or, what does Jesus say? Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Those words don’t sound very dominating or power-hungry to me! Here again, Jesus tells us explicitly that followers of Christ are not like the world. We are following the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus, here! Not going along with the world, at all!
The large crowd listening to the Rabbi Jesus was probably puzzled, too. What was this unknown Rabbi talking about?
Meekness is a synonym of gentleness. In Jesus day, land was meaningful and important and many people had their land taken away by people who used force and violence. Jesus promises the gentle, kind, and humble people (the meek) will receive not just land, but the whole earth. People of that day were used to hearing about the land grabs that the people in charge did, almost always without any consequences. Land was a source of wealth, and to be stripped of your family’s land was to have a great deal of wealth stolen right from under your noses. This was the situation with the oppressing, conquering nation of the Romans. They took a great deal of land and wealth from the Jewish people as an occupying nation.
When Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth, how do you think that sounded to the crowds listening to Jesus? What would that do to the occupying forces of Rome if meek, gentle people from Israel inherited the earth, right from under their occupying noses?
The worldly point of view – both in the 1st century and in modern-day popular society – is that fighting, conquest, and gaining material power is the key to getting to the top of the heap. Dominating other strong people, bulldozing your way to the front of the line is the way that worldly people get ahead. That’s the way people inherit the earth – isn’t it? Think about it another way. How are we to act as followers of Christ? Cut-throat, or Christ-following?
When you think of being meek and gentle, what do you think of? I mentioned caring for small animals a few minutes ago. Can you think of someone who cares for tiny puppies or kittens, and imagine them steamrolling over smaller, weaker people? These two pictures are not compatible. Which do you think Jesus would do? Which would Jesus want us to do?
I realize being meek and gentle gets a bad rap today. Someone who is meek and gentle is not the kind of person I’d imagine as a poster child for military organizations. Someone who is meek and gentle often comes across as a Casper Milquetoast, a person who is shy, retiring, and inoffensive. But, have you ever thought of someone who is meek and gentle as being a strong individual? Someone who is so strong and confident themselves that they do not care what other people think? I think that is exactly the kind of person our Lord Jesus was lifting up.
This promise – this Beatitude – this blessing towards gentle, kind and meek people is the wonderful blessing that these unlikely people will be the ones who become inheritors of the earth. The ones who will receive land, and therefore will receive riches and wealth, as perceived by the world. Not the worldly people who use power, force and control. Yes, these are indeed the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!
Jesus is not just talking about the physical land of Israel, but the whole earth. This also holds a powerful message for us about caring for the earth. Meek, or humble, people live with an awareness of others’ needs—the planet, animals, and other people. They remember that the whole earth—everything they have and receive, including land—belongs to God. And they care for it with that in mind, using what they have with respect and love.
Are you uncaring, oblivious to the needs of others? Have you been conscious of others’ needs today? Or, do you walk along, without a care in the world? I know there are people who are preoccupied with their own challenging problems and difficulties. The Rabbi Jesus is calling us to be outwardly focused, to come alongside of those who are struggling, becoming aware of others’ difficult journeys. There is much suffering and sadness in the world. We need to be strong – in meekness and gentleness.
Which would you rather be? Would you rather think and act on the side of the world, and steamroll and punch down any little pipsqueak who asks you for a hand or a cup of cold water? Again, what would Jesus do?
Or, would Jesus continue to be courageous and strong – strong enough to be gentle, meek and kind? It’s a clear decision that is open to us all. We are to follow Jesus. Be meek. Be gentle. Be kind, like our Lord. And especially, we are commanded to show love. Not picking and choosing, but instead being meek and gentle to all. No matter what, no matter who. Blessings from God to the meek, indeed! Alleluia, amen