Category: The Beatitudes
Blessed are the Merciful: The Irony of Angry Christians
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst
Blessed are the Meek
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5
Being meek is not a value in western culture in the 21st century. It is not a character trait that parents try to instill in their children. Yet Jesus holds up meekness as a character trait that is to be valued and the God rewards. A large part of the reason for this negative reaction to meekness has to be rooted in a false understanding of what meekness really means. Meekness has the dubious distinction of sounding far too much like weakness. Most people think of meekness like a Super Bowl winning coach who observed a player getting driven to the ground by another player. His response was, “So the meek really do inherit the earth“.
What we need to understand from the start is that meekness has nothing at all to do with weakness. Meekness is much more about humbly knowing your place as you stand before God. I love this quote from Matthew Henry, “The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God, to His Word, to His rod, who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward men” If you can stand before God knowing that you are a sinner who has nothing in yourself to commend you to God, yet also knowing that you are deeply loved by God and made in His image, then you can stand humbly but with dignity.
So much of the violence and strife between people rests in the desire for respect. How often have you heard of violence being justified because someone felt “disrespected”? When people are shamed, ridiculed, put down or otherwise written off, there is a natural reaction to fight. People who do not fight back or assert their rights are viewed as weak. Yet look at Jesus and look at his journey to the cross. He did not fight back even though He had ten thousand angels waiting for him to simply say the word. He did not assert His rights even though the trial he endured was as unjust and illegal as they come. He did not cry out in protest even though His very words carried the power to bring the entire charade to a crashing halt. In spite of His refusal to respond, Jesus was anything but weak. He was meek in the best sense of the word but He was also in that moment the strongest person on the planet. He had the strength to give His life for the very people who were shouting insults and pounding the nails. That kind of strength and courage only comes to those who have a humility that places the needs of others above their own.
How did Jesus do that? He understood who He was and what His relationship was to the Father. He was confident in His position before God. He was not boastful about it. In fact He humbly set aside all notion of leveraging that relationship for His own benefit. But because of His love for the Father and for people, Jesus meekly went to the cross.
But did he inherit the earth? Oh that and much more. In Paul’s Letter to the Philippians we are told that He has received a name above all names and that at the name of Jesus every knee will bend and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Jesus has received the place of honor on the throne of the universe and all will worship Him and give glory to the Father.
If you recognize that you are poor in spirit, what I call being spiritually bankrupt and that recognition leads you to mourn your sin, then you will be humbled as you stand before God. You will know that you have nothing to bring and must fully rely on the grace of God. That meekness will also give you the strength to put others before yourself. The reward of such meekness is that the world and all that is in it, really is yours. It is your inheritance for eternity. Jesus said that no matter what we have given up to follow Him we will have fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and homes and blessings beyond measure.
Meekness is not weakness, it is a humble strength that comes from a knowledge of our sin and at the same time our acceptance by God our Father.
Blessed are Those Who Mourn
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
” I am not religious but I am spiritual”. If only I had a dollar for every time I have heard that phrase. It has become the new mantra. People who have or want no affiliation with any organized religious group or tradition, still want to be identified as having some commitment to religious/spiritual beliefs and practices. Being spiritual is worn as a something of a badge of honor. Being religious is seen as archaic, cold, legalistic, and often arrogant. Being spiritual is seen as being free, enlightened, on a path to something higher and more noble and humble. Oddly enough I am convinced that the statement of being spiritual is at its heart a prideful thing.
As the first of His famous statements that we call The Beatitudes, Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the spiritual”. In fact He said the exact opposite. He literally said, “Blessed are those who recognize that they are spiritually bankrupt”. That is what is at heart of what Jesus is saying. It is extremely significant that Jesus says this as the first of the “blessed are you” statements. Before you can ever really experience blessing from God you absolutely must recognize how spiritually bankrupt you are. If you are ever going to recognize that you need God, you have to recognize at the core of your being that you are bankrupt without Him.
Going all the way back in the history of human beings our biggest problem is that we have been trying to live as if we did not need God. Saying “I am spiritual” is more about me than it is about God. In fact it is one more step in the process of trying to be our own gods in charge of our own lives. We have tried to deny our own need for God. Being “spiritual” is about my effort to get in touch with and become something other than what I am. It is about be being good enough to reach a higher spiritual plane. All of that sounds wonderful but it is dependent on me, my effort, my storehouse of personal resources and ability to become something more, something good, or holy, or enlightened.
The problem is we are spiritually bankrupt without Jesus Christ. We just don’t want to admit it. It is said that the first step of recovery is admitting your need. Our first step in spiritual recovery is admitting that we have nothing in ourselves that has any spiritual value. We are totally and utterly dependent on God for our spiritual existence. Paul makes it clear in Colossians 2:13-14 that before we come to faith in Christ, we are spiritually dead. That is just another way of saying spiritually bankrupt. We will never be able to get close to God until we can admit how far from Him we really are and how dependent we are on Him for any spiritual life we might have.
The hurdle that we need to overcome is our pride. We are afraid that if we admit that we have nothing to offer spiritually then we are somehow admitting that we are losers and we will be stuck there. What Jesus says is that we are spiritually empty but that he values us far more than we could ever imagine. In spite of the fact that we are spiritually bankrupt, actually because we are spiritually bankrupt and can do nothing for ourselves, Jesus came and died on a cross to open a treasure-house of spiritual life to us. We will not tap into that storehouse unless we are willing to admit that we are in desperate need of what Jesus offers. When you come to that place in your life you will be blessed beyond measure. Don’t be afraid to admit on a daily basis that you are a sinner saved by grace and totally bankrupt in yourself. Yet, because of what Jesus has done, you are filled spiritually everyday by Jesus who loves you more than you can imagine.