The Third Sunday in Lent March 7, 2010
16, 408, 142(1-4), 652(4)
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Sometimes you hear people say, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.” What they mean is that people are willing to fight, bite, and devour one another in order to make gains for themselves. Whenever it comes time for elections we see this happening among the contenders. They all seek the same office, and they are willing to do nearly anything to get it—even if it means hurting someone else in the process. Those who want to gain a high position in politics or in the corporate world often trample on many others to get there.
But the dog-eat-dog mentality is not only present among the rich and powerful, it can be found among all ages and classes of people—from Jacob stealing his brother Esau’s birthright by trickery to your own young children fighting with their friends about which toys they want to play with. People will often be harsh, cruel, and unloving in order to get what they want and worse than that, they think that is the only way to behave—the only way to “get anywhere” in life. Have you ever heard someone say something like: “Well, you have to talk to them that way or they just won’t listen!” The world thinks that there are times when you just have to be a little bit nasty if you really want to get results.
Jesus told His disciples that this was not how they were to deal with others. They were not to be harsh and rude as they carried on their daily activities. He said “Blessed are the meek.” People who are meek do not fight back at every opportunity. They do not seek revenge the moment someone does something to hurt them. They respond to harsh words with gentle, kind words. They do not seek their own gains at the expense of others. They are not looked upon as “fighters,” for they do not jump headlong into the fray with fists flying.
If we want to see meekness illustrated we need to look no further than Jesus Christ, our Savior. In Matthew 11:29 He said, “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (NIV). Another way to describe meekness is “gentleness.” When we turn to Jesus in sorrow over our sins—sins we have committed against Him—we do not find Him to be an angry sort who lashes out at us in revenge, but we find a kind and loving One who says, “Learn from me…you will find rest for your souls.”
On Palm Sunday when Christ entered Jerusalem just a few days before His death, the Bible says, “See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5 NIV). That gentleness—that meekness—was visible throughout that week even when His own disciples were ready to strike everyone down with their swords. Remember when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? Peter cut off a man’s ear trying to defend Jesus! The Lord immediately told Peter to put the sword away. That wasn’t how things were going to be handled (cf. Matthew 26:47ff).
Jesus did not fight back when His enemies came to take Him to the cross. Even though He could have called down legions of angels to His defense, even though He could have made very short work of the religious leaders, governor Pilate, and those Romans soldiers who gambled for His garments at the foot of the cross, even though He could have brought them all to nothing in a moment, yet He endured the shame and the ridicule meekly, refusing to retaliate against them and praying for them instead.
Jesus was meek both toward God and toward other men. He was meek toward God in that whatever His Heavenly Father told Him to do, He did. He did not complain or question His Father’s direction and guidance at any point even when that guidance took Him to the cross of agony where He was to feel the full wrath of God for human sin. Jesus was meek toward other men in that He did not strike back at those who tried to hurt Him. When He was verbally abused Jesus did not answer with cutting words in return. When He was physically abused Jesus did not answer with His own measure of violence. We always find Jesus “turning the other cheek,” choosing to be hurt rather than to hurt others.
Jesus’ example of perfect meekness causes us to see our own shortcomings. We might well be amazed at how Jesus simply stood there and “took it” when others trampled all over Him. After all, we know how riled-up we can get when someone “pushes the right buttons.”
For example, what happens…
…when we get into arguments with our spouses? More often than not, instead of answering in a meek and gentle way, we lash out with raised voices and anger to defend ourselves or make our point.
…when someone does something mean or nasty to us? How tempted are we to bristle and fight back?
…when God leads our life in a particular direction—a direction we don’t like so much? Do we respond saying, “Yes, Lord, I will follow You,” or do we enter into arguments with God in our minds?
…when our sins are revealed to us? Do we adopt an attitude of meekness which says, “Yes, I am a sinner”? Or do we try to defend our actions even when they are wrong?
Meekness is not something that comes naturally to human beings. Godly meekness is an attitude which the Holy Spirit must create in us. It is a fruit, a result, of our faith in Christ Jesus. For example, we don’t have to tear down everyone else in an attempt to get ourselves to the top of the heap because we already know where we are going. We have already been assured of our eternal salvation, trusting that Christ died and was raised to life for us.
God’s love in Christ moves us to be meek. We don’t have to fight back rudely when others are rude to us because we recognize that as Jesus forgave us, so we can forgive one another. God works in us so that we actually “grow in meekness.” He cleanses us of our sins and helps us to live a new life by the power of His Spirit dwelling in us.
But where does this all get you? Aren’t those who don’t fight for themselves just going to be steamrolled in life? If you take a gentle approach to life won’t you lose out? Won’t people take advantage of you? Won’t you be hurt or come out behind in the long run?
Jesus said the opposite: “Blessed are the meek.” He said it is actually a joy to be gentle. The Apostle Peter agreed when he wrote about the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (cf. 1 Peter 3:4).
You are actually happier if meekness is your attitude and outlook. In the first place, there will be less pressure on your life if you are not constantly worrying about scrambling to the top, or being better then the next person, or how you will “take out” someone else who threatens your well-being.
Your relationships with other people will be better if you are gentle instead of harsh. If you are meek and gentle instead of vicious and rude you will be able to get along with more people, maybe even those with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye. A spirit of meekness helps marriages go from sour to sweet, turns good friends into best friends, and goes a long way toward settling disagreements and resolving conflicts.
Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to “fight to the finish?” Your sins are forgiven—paid for with Jesus’ own life on the cross. You are one of God’s own and, therefore, God will take care of you. He will see to it that you get from the earth everything you need to get. Didn’t Jesus say that? He said: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
If you need particular blessings you do not have to fight others for them as if there were no God to supply them for you. The meek will “inherit the earth.” Even though they are meek, the Lord will supply for them from the land what they need. So you can have a gentle spirit and still have a job and a place to live and food to eat. God uses the fruits of the earth for the benefit of His children. We do not have to get our earthly blessings by hurting others.
Jesus actually used a phrase from Psalm 37. In that Psalm King David talked about how we do not need to despair when people succeed in carrying out various wicked schemes. The arrogant and thoughtless who take pride in hurting the meek and faithful of God will not stand in the end. The Psalm says, “The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace” (Psalm 37:11 NIV). God will still take care of those who are gentle and kind.
Leo Durocher, a controversial and outspoken baseball manager, coined a phrase that has become familiar to many: “Nice guys finish last.” His point was that you had to be rough on people in order to get anywhere in life—you had to play dirty or you couldn’t survive.
Some think this is true, or at least partly true, but Jesus turns this so-called “wisdom” upside down. He says that the meek will receive blessings from His hand. He promises that you, His dear children, won’t be hurt by being gentle and considerate.
Our prayer is that God help us to be meek in our attitude toward Him and toward our neighbor.
O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind Thou art,
How good to those who seek! [TLH 350:3]
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.