Grace For The Journey
The early church theologian, John Chrysostom, was once asked, “What are the three most important Christian virtues?” His answer was, “First, humility; second, humility; and third, humility.” With these first three beatitudes we have looked at: 1) those who are poor in spirit; 2) those who mourn over personal sin and the sin in the world; and now, 3) those who are meek being blessed, we have a picture of a follower of Christ that is beginning to take shape.
In a way, the first three beatitudes are all variations on the same theme – that of a life that comes empty-handed, is humbled, and surrendered before the Lord. The Greek word translated as “meek” is a hard one for which to find an English equivalent. Some New Testament verses, where the same Greek word is used, are translated as “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3.4), “humility” (Ephesians 4.2) and “forbearance” in 2 Corinthians 10:1. The word was used at that time to describe what happened when a untamed horse was tamed through the bridle and saddle. The horse would be broken of himself, still have the same ability and power, but it was now surrendered to the rider. So, the biblical idea of someone who is meek is that of a person who is broken of sin and self and who now yields and surrenders to the will and direction of God. They are known as ones who do not insist on their rights even when they are violated or even denied.
Does this sound like most people in the world today? Not at all. Today there are various movements that either insist on or stand for people who are oppressed and denied justice in some way. While this is important, after all, James says; “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” (James 1:27a), this third beatitude tells us the Christian is neither surprised when he or she is denied worldly rights because of faith, nor demands the world’s justice for personal affronts.
When Jesus speaks of meekness, He is describing a person who chooses to forego asserting himself to advance personal goals and becomes content with whatever the service or situation in which God has placed him. It’s important to view the beatitudes as progressive. Why are the people of God meek? Because they have first become poor in spirit and mourn their spiritual condition and continual sin.
This is a picture of a disciple of Christ. Jesus goes on to say that, “the meek shall inherit the earth.” But knowing the world in which we live, that those who follow Christ will be persecuted and suffer for their faith, why then would a Christian want to inherit this broken and dysfunctional earth?
The answer is clear when we understand that the promise of inheritance is not for this current earth. Instead, it is for the renewed heaven and earth. The inheritance we look forward to is the inheritance granted to all who are children of God. And that is the renewed, unmarred by sin, eternal Kingdom of God. Because of this promise, the Christian can face anything that comes from this fallen world.
But there is another reason that those who are meek are blessed. Spiritual poverty, humility over a correct self-assessment of our true condition with the resulting meekness not only affects our relationship with God, it has direct bearing on our relations with others. Most commentators agree that an attitude of meekness is best understood as an attitude that effects our relationships with people. Meekness represents a step forward in spiritual maturity, one that is difficult to make. D.A. Carson says this: “We may acknowledge our own bankruptcy and mourn (over our sin), but to respond with meekness when others tell us of our bankruptcy is far harder.”
With this understanding of meekness, the question then becomes, “How can one develop the spiritual maturity that meekness portrays?” Consider . . .
First, the meek are teachable. The Bible stands opposite from the conventional wisdom of men, and it requires meekness, as displayed by a teachable spirit, one that leads us to submit to the Word of God. Meekness is required if you are to reorder your thinking and values; and since our sense of who we are is often wrapped in our views and values this is a difficult task. But for those who do, they will be blessed.
Second, the meek receive correction graciously because they are teachable in their spirit. So often, people who are offered correction can’t hear it because they are on the defensive. Not so the meek. When correction is offered, the meek don’t become angry, they don’t offer excuses, they don’t blame others; and they never attack the messenger. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones says; “The one who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and others can think of him as well as they do.” That is the attitude that allows correction to be received with thankfulness.
Third, the meek are gentle and kind to others. When we recognize our own shortcomings, we tend to deal more gently with the shortcomings of others. On the other hand, those who are proud are often unable to look with understanding at the failures of others. The greatest example of this attitude is seen in Jesus. Quoting Isaiah on the Messiah, Matthew writes; “a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench,” (Matthew 12:20a). Those who are meek are patient and gentle with others, even as they fall short of expectations or promises.
Finally, the meek are modest. When we recognize that all we have is from God, including all our skills, talents, and gifts, then we come to view our creatureliness in an appropriate way. How can we boast about our performance in any endeavor when we recognize that it’s all from God? Paul writes; “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7b).
Poverty of spirit,
Mourning over the condition
Of ourselves and the world,
And displaying a meekness
That is not weakness,
But a recognition of
Our condition apart from God.
This is what sets Christians
Apart from the rest of humanity.
So, if you are not a “strange” individual to others because you act in accordance with these three beatitudes, then maybe you need to look again at your profession of faith. None will have these attributes fully complete, but they are what each follower of Christ should be working toward each and every day.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”