The Sermon on the Mount 7

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. — Matthew 5.5

The Beatitudes operate on a counter-intuitive level. At first blush, we might wonder if Jesus has missed it on this one. The meek? Inherit the earth? I don’t think so, Jesus. We look around and it doesn’t seem as if the meek are inheriting much of anything. And the earth? It belongs to the power brokers, the ones with clout to throw around and muscle to flex and wealth with which to acquire…qualities that aren’t exactly synonymous with meekness.

It’s an unfortunate association that we often make between the terms “meek” and “weak”. Weakness, of course, implies a lack of power. But meekness is different. Meekness is controlled power. It’s about restraint, submission. There’s an association between meekness and the bridled thoroughbred; the power remains, but it has been harnessed.

In this way, meekness is about not going around doing everything you’re capable of doing simply because you can. If we all went around doing everything we were capable of doing, the result would be anarchy. Take traffic laws, for instance. Do I have the power to disregard stop signs, red lights, speed limit signs? Well, sure. But if we all went around driving this way, there’d be no order. There would be chaos. To drive this way isn’t good for me or anyone else. When we yield our power in that circumstance, we are creating a better society. We all know this to be true.

Why, then, do I find it so difficult to submit myself to the will of God? Why do I continue to white knuckle certain areas of my life, refusing to submit myself fully to God? Why do I think that unrestrained power in another area of my life is any less harmful than it would be on the highway behind the wheel of my truck?

In 2 Kings 2, Elisha has just received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. How does he use this power? He calls down a pack of wild she-bears to maul 42 children that mock him and call him “baldhead”. There’s simply no way to sugarcoat this story: unrestrained power is a dangerous thing.

2 Samuel 11 tells the same story. Why did David take Bathsheeba? Because he could. Plain and simple. And the story is repeated throughout scripture. Solomon’s uncontrolled passion; Moses striking the rock; Peter striking Malchus. The figures and circumstances change, but the point is the same. Unrestrained power is a very dangerous thing.

We get to Jesus and we realize that it was never about power anyway. With Jesus, it’s about being strong enough to assume powerlessness. That’s the message of the cross. There’s something profound here – that God’s most definitive act in the world was not an act of power, but an act of powerlessness. And by submitting ourselves to His power, we become inheritors of the earth.

From Clarence Jordan:

…a surrendered human will is the agency through which God’s power is released upon the earth. They become God’s “workhorses” on earth. Through them God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven; through them the kingdom of heaven comes to earth. That’s why you can’t stop them. That’s why they “inherit the land,” that is, the promised land or the kingdom. Only the meek, “the terrible meek,” the totally committed meek, are considered worthy of an inheritance in the new land, the kingdom of God on earth.

There is indeed a blessing for those who surrender their will to the will of God.

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2 Responses to The Sermon on the Mount 7

  1. jamesbrett says:

    jason, i’ve been struggling through some of this lately. in moving to tanzania, i knew i’d witness a darkness that is different than in the states (not necessarily darker, but manifest in a less subtle way). i was thinking a lot about “power encounters” — how those in villages, the hurting, witch doctors, etc might experience God and his power in a clear and miraculous way: exorcisms, healings, etc. and i believe those things happen — have seen some of them in person, witnessed them.

    but the greatest encounter these people can ever witness is a life transformation through acceptance of Jesus and entry into his kingdom. what people in villages need to see is an individual who has died to self and exchanged his own unharnessed power for a meek existence in Christ. not a weak existence, but an existence in which he has the very power of God inside him, and commits it to God’s glory rather than to his own. an obedient life of service.

    i also like the traffic analogy. i’ve experienced firsthand unharnessed power in the operation of motor vehicles:

    • Jason says:

      I think a lot of times we minimize the transformative power of Christ in our lives. What I mean is that we emphasize God’s redemptive power when it comes to salvation, “going to heaven”, etc. But I think sometimes we’re guilty of limiting what God can do to the “spiritual” realm without ever having the eyes to see what He’s trying to do in the here and now. I think that’s why it’s so easy for us to yield ourselves to Him to a degree — because we want heaven, eternity with Him, etc — and still hold so fast to our way of life in the present. Like you said, it’s all about yielding control to Him.

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