New Life in Christ: The Beatitudes for Today IV -
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”(Matt. 5:4)
The beatitudes provide for us an ethic, a pattern of life in Christ, that runs so totally counter to the paradigm to which our world adheres that we often find them hard to fathom. That is never more clear than here in Matthew 5:5 in which it is the meek – the meek! – who inherit the earth. In our entrepreneurial, survival of the fittest, can-do culture, aggressive self-promotion is often the way to get ahead. Meekness is not a virtue in that context, and certainly not a plan for inheriting the earth. But the upside-down, inside-out grace of God calls us to a different life because we have been made citizens of another world through faith in Jesus Christ. The ethic of his kingdom may seem bizarre, even foolish to the world, but it is the pattern of life we find exemplified supremely in Christ himself: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28-29 KJV). This meekness was embodied by our Lord, who, “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Meekness dwells in Christ perfectly. And meekness must be a mark of all who dwell in him too. To have Christ as king means to have meekness as our attitude.
Notice, too, that there is a certain logical progression in the beatitudes. Poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3) is a clear sight of our personal bankruptcy apart from Jesus, so essential to the beginning and progress of the Christian life. It is an attitude that in turn requires and issues in spiritual mourning. As we see how much we need, we mourn for our sin and poverty, for our unlikeness to Christ, for our remaining corruptions despite all our progress in sanctification. In a heart that mourns for sin there is also always a necessary self-suspicion, a refusal to place the spot light on one’s self, to seek the limelight or to take credit- meekness, in other words. These all go together, live together in the same heart, and describe the basic orientation and perspective of a true disciple. Not that disciples are never proud – read the story of Peter in the gospels if you doubt that – but, that at a basic level we have come to see that our boasting is foolish and though we often forget it, Christ alone is sufficient and to him belongs the praise. I recently read a business leadership author describe the difference between authoritative leadership and servant leadership. The authoritative leader uses his authority to compel behavior in others. A servant leader makes his subordinates want to follow him and makes them feel safe while they do. In the kingdom of Jesus Christ the vital ingredient to servant leadership – meekness – is basic to the life of faithful discipleship. Servant-heartedness might be another word for the grace of meekness. It puts Christ first and others before self.
Jesus’ promise has the power to set us free from the kind of ambitious Wolf-of-Wall-Street-zeal for professional advancement that so easily dominates today. Meekness – servant-heartedness, looking not only to our own interests but also the interests of others (Phil. 2:4) – inherits as a gift, what acquisitiveness and a culture of aggressive self-promotion craves but never finds. The meek inherit the earth!