Day 5: “Meekness” 08.07.18
Matthew 5:5 (NIV) “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Years ago, I went to a Saturday morning men’s fellowship breakfast. The brother giving his testimony was a lineman for an NFL team. He was the biggest human being I had ever seen. He told of the rough and tumble world of college and professional football. Of steroids and other drugs used to gain even a slight edge over the competition. And he told of how silly he had found the Christian faith and the guys he knew who were believers. In particular, he liked to say “Yeah. The meek shall inherit the earth. All six feet of it!” He couldn’t imagine why Jesus would say such a nonsensical thing. Then he got saved.
The man had an honest thought. Meekness always invites a picture of the quiet and reserved little guy who hardly speaks…and never speaks boldly. (Think Mr. Rogers.) He gets pushed around and does not fight back. He turns the other cheek (we’ll get to that verse ). You really can’t count on him for protection. He can hardly protect himself! But is that the person Jesus had in mind? Not really.
To untangle this verse, we will do a deep-dive linguistically. The original word used by Jesus (pra-ooce) could be translated “mild.” It was not a common word. It is only found in the New Testament a couple of times. It is the character trait of the person who does not live watching out for number one. He can stand up for himself but his mild way of dealing with others is, once again, counter-intuitive. He does not go through life saying, “You can’t do that to me.” He sees himself as a Kingdom of God person and as such he is not often concerned about “winning” the argument or “watching out for number one.” He is the man who gives up what he does not have to give up. He is the man who strives to put to death the naturally born obsession with his “rights.” The Apostle Paul said this about the Lord Jesus:
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
Where Paul says “he made himself nothing” it literally reads “he emptied himself.” It would take mildness and humility to do that. Now, some translations say, “Blessed are the humble for they shall inherit the earth.” The NLT does that. But there are other words translated “humble.” I think this word is different because humility is when we lower ourselves and, in a sense, allow ourselves to be humiliated as events come into our lives.
“Mildness” is an attitude that we carry into our day. An attitude that is mild towards God himself. An attitude that lives peacefully saying that “God is God and I am not.” Here’s is what I mean: God allows things into our lives and we must respond. All the time. Will our response, not to the events, but to God be “mild?” Consider this…if something is mild it is not abrasive. It responds when pressed not by scratching and resisting but with acceptance. The “mild-mannered” person is usually easy to get along with and almost impossible to provoke. In spiritual terms, the mild-mannered person understands that God is sovereign over everything in our lives. And that really matters.
I have, in my sin nature, some abrasive traits that still surprise me after over forty years with the Lord. I was raised by a Sicilian father and my DNA has a kind of fiery streak in it. When I am living in mildness, I am far less apt to react to the world’s unfairness. But the mildness instinct isn’t always there. After all, I was suspended from high school twice for fighting and I can be very strong-willed. Sometimes mildness as Christ was mild seems unattainable and almost unfair! Like when someone on the highway was riding my bumper at 75 and then tried to go around me by attempting a high speed “slip in” move. The guy deserved a ticket, but I didn’t have to respond in the flesh by having thoughts of screaming at him, or worse. The truly mild man of God says to himself “Well, these things happen so let me just move over and not make it worse.”
What does it mean to “inherit the earth?” I’m not sure. Jesus often spoke as if the Kingdom of God in its fullness will be right here on a renewed earth. That would be fine. But it would have to be a kingdom on earth without sin. A kingdom where everyone is mild and devoid of self-centeredness. For that to happen, we will need to be made new. Perhaps just belonging to Christ in this life will make us grow in meekness and mildness. If we depart for the other side of the kingdom before he returns, we will be instantly meek and mild because our sin natures will be gone. But, here’s a question¬¬-are we committed to being made more and more “meek” and “mild?” Not abrasive but Christlike while we are living on this side of the kingdom?
Peace. Pastor Alberta