I absolutely love the Sermon on the Mount. Everything Jesus says there is radical, unapologetic, and to a certain extent, incomplete. In his preaching he does not stop to explain the fine details of what he is saying, he just says it. There are so many what-if questions we want to ask him, but he’s on a roll and there’s no time to raise our hand. Because of that, we’re left with radical statements that demand radical obedience from a radical people.
Jesus’ statement on meekness is no less radical than everything else he preaches in that great sermon. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5). The word being used here in the Greek is praus and it can be translated not just as meek, but as gentle or humble.
This cracks me up. By now we’ve caught onto the idea that Jesus calls us into the backwards Kingdom of Heaven—but this is just ridiculous! Who has ever inherited earth through meekness? Or through gentleness or humility? When we want land, we take it by force with a gun in hand! “This land is mine now—end of story!” But Jesus tells us that those who will inherit the earth are those who are meek. Can you see this image play out in your mind?
A man knocks on the door.
“Yeah, what do you want?” the homeowner asks.
“Uh.. well… I was just walking through the neighborhood and… I don’t know… I noticed that you have a very lovely house. And I guess… well… can I have it?”
By Jesus’ standards, that’s the kind of person that inherits land and it is the exact opposite of anything that makes any sense whatsoever. We inherit land by threatening and killing, but Jesus just hands it to the people who live in opposition to that mentality.
Surprisingly, this isn’t even new with Jesus, for he is simply quoting Psalm 37:11. I’m not sure how David—who came from a long line of people who took land by force—found this prophetic mindset, but Jesus solidifies it in his Sermon on the Mount.
Meekness is the way. Gentleness can win. A soft light puts an immediate end to darkness. A gentle breeze can put out a candle. Slow moving earthworms that weigh a fraction of an ounce alter the ground’s composition and prime it for farming. (1) A fly can eventually get the best of you with the sound of its buzzing wings. The common cold can keep you in bed for a few days. God’s low whisper may bring you to your knees. These things are small and quiet and meek, but they do win.
God has a way of exalting the meek, humble, gentle people around us. It’s the continuation of his backwards kingdom ways. Jesus told us that, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23:12). We’ve seen this at play in some of the leaders around us.
Mother Teresa, for example, was once given a VIP seat right next to Bill Clinton at his prayer breakfast, but when the meal was served she couldn’t be found. Where was she? They found her eating her meal with the kitchen staff and servers rather than in the VIP seat they had placed out for her right by the president. (2) She didn’t look for fame, God brought it to her. And I’m not sure she really liked it.
Heidi Baker has a PhD and yet serves the poor in Mozambique. She has taken on meekness and God has exalted her, increasing her ministry in Mozambique and taking her around the world to minister to countless others.
Henri Nouwen taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard Divinity Schools early on in his life, but later went on to work with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, the poor in Peru, and finally L’Arche in Trosly, France, where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. Though he had the capacity to teach at some of the most prestigious schools in the country, he humbled himself to teach those with developmental disabilities.
Some of the Christian leaders we most admire and respect are those who have taken on meekness. And now that they are living such lowly lives, you have to wonder how they feel about God turning the spotlight on them. He has done just as he has said he would and has exalted the lowly; and it seems the lower they dig, the higher he exalts them. So start shoveling.
1. Stewart, Amy. The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms. Chapel Hill, NC, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004, p. 10.
2. Claiborne, Shane, and John Perkins. Follow Me to Freedom. p. 45-46.
This is an excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus.