We live in a culture that tells us to stand up for our rights, to take it like a man, and to be all we can be. How can we reconcile that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:5?
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Jesus says these words just after telling the crowd on the mount that the poor will be given the Kingdom of Heaven, and those who mourn will be comforted. Now, in this sweeping statement, he gives his listeners the entire earth.
However, he only promises it to the meek. That leaves many of us out, doesn’t it? And anyway, why would the meek want the earth? Doesn’t even the Word of God say to be strong and of good courage? How can we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:5 and not feel we are being given conflicting messages?
The core content of Jesus’ statement centers on two of the words he chooses to use. Let’s look at them for a moment.
The word meek:
Often we see the word meek used in connection with mice. However, consider Moses. He was described as meek. Yet, he was a leader among men, defying the pharaoh of Egypt, guiding the people of Israel across the desert, and breaking the tablets in anger when he descended from the mountain top.
Jesus’ use of the word meek was to characterize people who do not exploit others, who do not try to seize power for their own ends, and who champion the needs of the oppressed.
The word earth:
The earth Jesus speaks about is not the literal globe. Israel had received a promise of place from God, a land they could call their own. Now they were scattered across the known world. The hope of the people was that the Messiah would return their lands to them.
The earth Jesus speaks about is a place that would be Israel’s alone, a dwelling of security that earthly despots could not take from them.
This leads us to see Jesus’ words in a new light. To rephrase this often quoted passage, try this: Inner joy will come to those who do not oppress the downtrodden, but rather lift them up in their time of need; for they will one day be gathered in heaven in the arms of the Father.
In no way does this suggest we should not strive to reclaim the fallen earth as our Christian birthright, for even as Moses looked upon the Promised Land, God assured him he would give all the land to his descendants.
That leads us to ask what God has given us for our inheritance.
The inheritance God has promised us is the harvest of souls in the end time. As Matthew 5:5 suggests, if we reach out to the poor and afflicted, many will come to know the Lord, one day rejoicing at our side in heaven, for they will see him through us.
In Matthew 5:5, Jesus doesn’t suggest that we are to be weak. Instead, he wishes us to champion those without hope, for then his kingdom will grow in strength and numbers.
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Rewind Wednesday: Originally Published April 14, 2013