G.K. Chesterton defined a paradox as “truth standing on its head, calling for attention.” Certainly, this can be said of the teaching of Jesus: His words were salted with paradoxes. It was our Lord who said such things as: Giving is receiving – Dying is living – Losing is finding – Least is greatest – Poor is rich – Weakness is strength, and – Serving is ruling. The beauty of a paradox is that it draws attention because it doesn’t sound right to the ear. Nothing could be more true of the third beatitude of Jesus. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” said Jesus. But isn’t it the self-made,the self- sufficient, the intimidating who get everything on this earth? How are the meek going to inherit anything? Such thinking runs counter to the laws of nature and society. Look at the people who occupy the executive suites. They are the strong, the self-sufficient, the overbearing, the proud, the capable, the aggressive, the ambitious. Can there be any doubt that the world belongs to the Bill Gates’ of society?
It was Rabbi Harold Kushner, watching his son die of progeria, an early aging disorder, who coined the phrase, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But an equally perplexing question is, “Why do good things keep happening to bad people?” Some people get away with murder. They make their way through life fat, dumb and happy, and never seem to pay the consequences of their evil. Others can’t get away with anything. Terrible, frustrating, costly things keep happening to them, and we wonder why.
Meekness is the last thing anyone wants to be known for in our world. But that is because we don’t understand meekness at all. We need to say at once that meekness is not weakness, cowardice, timidity, or a desire for peace at any price. Meekness is not indecisiveness or a lack of confidence. It is not shyness, having a withdrawn personality, or niceness. Meekness is not sweetness. Clark Kent is not a good example of meekness. There was nothing mild about Jesus. In fact, he got quite angry at times. The Greek term translated “meek,” or “gentle,” is very colorful. It is used in several ways in secular writing. A wild stallion that had been tamed and brought under control is described as being meek. Carefully chosen words that soothed strong emotions are called meek words. Ointment that took the fever and sting out of a wound is called meek. In one of Plato’s works, a child who asks a physician to be tender as he treats him uses this term. People who are polite, tactful and courteous and who treat others with respect, are called meek people.
So meekness includes such enviable qualities as having strength under control; being calm and peaceful in a heated atmosphere; emitting a soothing effect on people who may be angry or otherwise beside themselves, and displaying tact and courtesy that causes others to retain their dignity. In the first two beatitudes, if poverty describes Christians’ attitude toward themselves, and mourning their attitude toward sin, then meekness has to do with our attitude toward others. We are teachable, so we are not defensive when we are wronged. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that meekness denotes a humble and gentle attitude toward others, determined by a true estimate of ourselves. He points out that it is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge that we are sinners in his sight. He goes on:
“But how much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me. I instinctively resent it. We all of us prefer to condemn ourselves than to allow somebody else to condemn us. In other words, I am not prepared to allow other people to think or speak of me what I have just acknowledged before God that I am. There is a basic hypocrisy here; there always is when meekness is absent…Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others…The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. This makes him gentle, humble, sensitive, patient in all his dealings with others.”
Meekness is a non-defensive position, a refusal to defend yourself and retaliate when you are unjustly accused. Taking things into our own hands always makes matters worse. Of course, it is not wrong to defend the rights of others. Meekness is not standing by when other people’s rights are trampled upon. Meekness is a reluctance to be quick to defend ourselves. So meekness involves a determination not to defend yourself when your rights are being taken away. What should you do? Let God defend you! Peter describes Jesus’ actions in these words: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Jesus did not retaliate. He didn’t answer back when he was unjustly accused. He took everything that was hurled at him, entrusting himself to the One who judges justly. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” (Matthew 5:5).