Jesus' third Beatitude about meekness is for all practical purposes totally lost on English readers today. No one is sure exactly what "meek" means, and some are pretty convinced that what it does mean is something they never intend to be. Does meek mean weak? Does it refer to wimps? Actually, it does! One Merriam-Webster definition of meek is “deficient in spirit and courage.” Is that what Jesus wants us to be? Deficient in spirit and courage? Jesus was clearly a strong and courageous person, so what in the world was He trying to say? Do you see the communication problem we have here? The word “meek” just doesn’t make a lot of sense in our world. Most people believe the aggressive and assertive inherit the earth, certainly not the meek.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
HOW TO UNDERSTAND MEEKNESS
Consider this analogy. A horse is a powerful animal, but power alone is not the key to its usefulness. Only when it has been “broken to the reins” can a horse carry a rider, pull a wagon, and be a safe companion. A wild and free horse with its mane flowing like silk scarves in the wind as it bolts through the hills is a thing of beauty, but it has no practical value until it submits to the bridle. By being trained, the horse gives up none of its strength; on the contrary, it gains the caring attention and guiding intelligence of its rider.
So here is the real definition of being meek—a free and strong man or woman who has yielded his or her will to God’s will, like a horse that has been trained to respond to the reins and is willing to be ridden. (Hey, I don’t like people riding me or always telling me what to do, but as a young man I decided I would take it from God.) Meekness, then, is certainly not a sign of weakness or deficiency in courage, but of someone smart enough to ally and align themselves with a far greater power than they possess within themselves. Now their natural strength, spirit, and courage is enhanced by the presence in them of One far wiser, stronger, and courageous than they could ever be on their own.
Meekness is strength that has submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit. The meek person answers to a Person higher than himself, so he often dispenses with bravado, macho attitudes, and swagger, all of which are only presumed indicators of strength. He may be perceived as weak for a season, but in surrendering to God, the meek person hasn’t given up any of his vigor but has simply learned to wait for the divine tug on the reins, showing him which direction to go before he exerts his strength.
Why Yield to God?
So why would a free individual yield their will to God? Isn’t that sort of like voluntarily going to jail? No, and here’s why. When we yield our will to God, the Lord does not turn us into a robot or take away our free will. He does not hedge us in with guilt and condemnation but frees us from those things, restores our relationship with Him, forgives us for our years of ignorance, and then shows us how to harness our energy and creativity in fruitful ways. Still in possession of our free will, we can end our relationship with God and go back to doing our own thing whenever we want, but as we discover the best-kept secret in the universe—how much the Father cares for us as unique individuals and seeks the best for us—we never want to leave. In fact, we want to spend eternity with Him.
Wildness is charming for a season, but does a child need a mother who is a “wild thing” or one “reined in” and committed to caring for him or her? Which kind of dad would you like to have, one who is blatantly unfettered and free, or one whose passions are “harnessed up” to support his family? If you blow up a balloon and let it go, it darts all over the room in a spiraling, random path. (Some people remind me of a balloon.) But if you use that same principle of “equal and opposite reaction” within the confines of a precisely-made rocket engine, you can launch a Hubble telescope or land a rover on Mars. Meekness doesn’t mean being stifled, but being channeled in ways that help us discover our highest and best use.
We Are Strengthened by Yielding to God
To the world it may seem that yielding our will to the Lord makes us weaker, but actually that is not the case, for the strength of our will is now undergirded by the Lord. William Wilberforce, a member of parliament in England, became convinced that slavery was morally wrong after his conversion to Christianity, and that God was calling him to work publicly to abolish it. Wilberforce committed to the cause in 1787, and in 1833, three days before his death, he received word that the British parliament had finally decided to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire. He had stood against the evils of slavery for forty-eight years, because his will was strengthened by God’s will.
Jesus’ ability to endure the cross was maximized in the garden of Gethsemane as He prayed, “Father, not my will, but Yours be done!” (Luke 22:42) By yielding to God’s will for His life, the strength of God came into Him, and He achieved the ultimate spiritual victory by conquering evil through the cross. By His one act, He has set billions of people free from the condemnation of sin. When we yield to God, we are not made weaker but stronger.
We Become More Creative by Yielding to God
God is the most creative Person in existence. He first imagined, then formed, galaxies upon galaxies of matter, created Earth with its precisely-tuned environment for life, and designed intricate and complex life forms, inventing and using the incredible scripting language of DNA. All around us we see an amazing variety of created things, each with distinct differences and unique characteristics that show the skill of a Designer turning raw, lifeless elements into stunning creatures, each with their own personality. If you haven’t been to a good zoo or aquarium lately, go, and as you stand before exotic creatures, ask the Lord like I do, “What were you thinking?” The Lord created matter out of nothing, life out of non-life, and placed spirit and personality within living, reproducing organisms.
In his recent book, The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus teaches how each person’s life becomes a work of art when placed in the hand of the Master. In fact, the more we yield to God, the more His awesome creativity begins to flow through us. The Lord is the fountainhead of all creative ideas; in Him dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). When we yield to Him, far from losing anything (except our own lack of creativity), we gain things sometimes of inestimable value. What is the worth of one, new creative idea? A new product or invention can be worth billions of dollars. If it’s a breakthrough in medicine, a creative idea can save many lives. If it’s a new way to store energy or use existing energy forms more efficiently, it can revolutionize our planet’s energy future. Or what value can we place on inspired words of counsel that release prisoners from the grips of depression and discouragement?
Whose Hand Is Holding Your Reins?
When we talk about meekness, the choice is not between freedom and non-freedom, the choice is whose hand is holding our reins? Are we driven by the demons of discontent, addiction, covetousness, lust, or climbing the social ladder and grasping for power? Or are we gentled under the mighty hand of God, who is willing to bring all that He is to our humble stall? The choice is ours.
If you are willing to live by God’s wisdom, the wisdom of His Word and the wisdom imparted “on the fly” by the Holy Spirit, you too will inherit the earth and its bounty, in the right way and without regrets. The great Jewish patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did well in life because they were meek, listening to and obeying God. Moses was called the meekest, or the humblest, man on earth in His day, for he learned to do things God’s way. (Numbers 12:3) In so doing he delivered millions of people from the hand of Pharaoh, one of earth’s most powerful monarchs, led them miraculously across the Red Sea, kept the people alive and hydrated in a desert, and guided them to the brink of the promised land.
Jesus was right—the meek do inherit the earth. We too can yield to the Lord's will by praying as He taught us, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10) and "Neverthless, not my will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42) The promise and potential of this simple beatitude is yours to explore and fulfill: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
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