Meek, 26 July 2020

Blessed are the Meek
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:5

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: The humble who use their power to bless others will be blessed.

NIV: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (Matthew 5:5)

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word…power? Is it a corrupt politician? Maybe it’s something you are seeking. It could be a force like electricity or even a tornado.

Someone said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but is it possible to use rather than abuse power?

Today we’re continuing our series on the Beatitudes, the blessings announced by Jesus. We are in Matthew’s gospel or “good news,” chapter five. In our previous weeks, we examined

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Our text for today says,

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Meek is an uncommon word in our modern vocabulary. In might conjure up images of weak, frail, and powerless. One definition calls the meek, “quiet, gentle, and easily imposed upon; submissive.” The doormats will inherit the earth?!

The Beatitudes—or blessings—taught by Jesus are not instructions to follow or things to achieve, but rather simple statements of reality. They announce what God is doing. They offer declarations about our present world and what is to come. In fact, many of them are filled with prophetic imagination, a vision of the future when there will be no tears, pain, or suffering.

It seems hard to image the weak inheriting the earth. But actually, that’s not at all what Jesus says. Meekness is not weakness. It’s quite the opposite. The original Greek word for meek used by Jesus,
praus, means power under control. It was used to describe a broken horse, one trained to be ridden or used to pull a vehicle. A wild horse does what it pleases, but a broken horse exhibits strength under control. It has the same power as a wild horse, but it’s used for the good of its rider.

Meekness is displayed in our lives through self-control. Have you ever met someone who lacked self-control? We often describe them as childish because children are often selfish, doing whatever they please. Unfortunately, many adults are concerned only about their needs and desires, thinking nothing of others.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The humble, the self-controlled are blessed.

One of the most challenging verses in the entire Bible states,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Those are strong words from Paul: do nothing out of selfish ambition. Don’t be selfish. Instead, be meek. Use your power for the benefit of others, not yourself. Avoid the temptation to make it all about you, and seek the good of others.

Professor D.A. Carson says, “Meekness is a controlled desire to see the other’s interests advance ahead of one’s own.” It is gentle and humble in heart, but it is others-centered. The meek do get angry, but not because they are personally offended, but rather when they see others treated unjustly.

There could be no greater time to meditate on these words than at this moment in our lifetime. The pandemic has been an inconvenience for us all, a catastrophe for some, and a great opportunity for others. Many of you received a $1200 check a few months ago you didn’t expect when the year began. Some of you have received unemployment benefits, some greater than your previous paycheck. While some businesses were closing, others have been booming, hiring, and even offering bonuses to workers.
What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

The second major story this year, of course, has been the cries of injustice. Though nothing new, the evil of racism has been exposed in fresh ways, reminding us that while we’re all created equal, we’re not all treated equal. Power is not distributed evenly…and while the temptation is always to abuse power, the meek will use it to bless and serve others. Any oppressed group—whether it’s workers in sweat shops, persecuted Christians, victims of prejudice, underpaid women—needs advocates who possess the power to liberate. What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

Andy Crouch, one of the most thoughtful writers of my generation, wrote a book entitled,
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. His definition of power is, “the ability to make something of the world…the ability to participate in that stuff-making, sense-making process that is the most distinctive thing that human beings do.” He goes on to say, “Privilege is the ongoing benefit we receive from past successful acts of power.”

Our city has been rocked by two power scandals recently, one involving councilmen using their power inappropriately and another involved the Ohio House speaker over corruption allegations…ironically involved nuclear power. I’m not here to judge them, but they stand as obvious examples of people with power who used it for their gain rather than serving those who granted them the power in the first place.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

That hardly sounds like our materialistic, consumeristic, every person for themselves culture! Do you remember shopping for toilet paper a few months ago?!

Those who can control themselves, those who utilize power well, they are blessed and will inherit the earth. The Message reads,

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (Matthew 5:5, The Message)

One of the blessings of being meek is contentment. Why do we always seem to want more? Why do we silently envy those with more power? Why can’t appreciate what we have and who we are?

For one thing, comparison kills. How can I be satisfied if I see you have more toys or power than I have? It’s only an issue when my eyes are on you rather than on Jesus. Last week we said
anything you want more than God is an idol. Period. It can be money, pleasure, popularity, sex, your children or grandchildren, your marriage, your career, sports, entertainment, power…anything you want more than God is an idol.

Power isn’t bad, in and of itself. Just like money, it can be used and abused. We can use our reputation, resources, relationships, opportunities, education, and experience for our benefit…or the benefit of others.
Power is a gift. It can be used selfishly or generously. It’s a blessing, but you know the old adage it’s better to give than to receive.

Who do you know that is meek, that uses power well?
I often think of Abraham Lincoln as another meek person who used his power well. He was not a perfect man, but he blessed others. Another one of my personal “small-h” heroes is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Again, he was not perfect, but he gave his life for the freedoms and rights of others. Literally. Note: the meek often get killed! Blessing others can be costly. No good deed goes unpunished!

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes, “The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do…We are to leave everything—ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future—in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.”

What would it look like for you to use your power for the benefit of others, even to the point of suffering?

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

What does it mean to inherit the earth? The earth or land is a common subject throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. God promised land to Abram in Genesis 12. The Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness in their journey to that place. Hundreds of years before Jesus’ declaration, the psalmist wrote,

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Psalm 37:10-11)

Later in that same psalm it says,

those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. (Psalm 37:22)


Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. (Psalm 37:34)

For a first-century Jew, land meant Israel. It meant peace in their special land. For us, we can think of the new heaven and new earth promised in Revelation 21:1. Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth.

What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

Abraham chose to give his nephew, Lot, the first choice of land in the book of Genesis chapter 13. Moses repeatedly demonstrated his meekness by refusing to defend himself and speaking to God on behalf of the wayward Israelites. Followers of Jesus are to…follow Jesus. We are to act like Jesus. We are to treat others the way Jesus treated people. Followers of Jesus are not here to be served, but to serve.

The greatest model of meekness was, of course, Jesus himself. James and John asked if they could sit beside Jesus in glory, an audacious request.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45)

The God who has all power gives life and creates. He is others-centered. He not only created us, He recreates us through the cross, the empty tomb, and the Holy Spirit. All power in heaven and on earth was given to him (Matthew 28:18), yet he did not come to be served, but to serve…and offer the greatest act of service: his own life.

That’s great news for us…as well as a challenging example for us to follow.

So What?

Perhaps you question whether you even have power, but every one of you has been blessed with power, with presence, with opportunities many on our planet could only imagine.
Somehow you were able to access this sermon. You may not have a title or position, but you have influence.

If we’re honest, we all want more, yet we believe others misuse theirs without giving a thought to the possibility that we could do the same. It’s so easy to criticize “those people” without realizing we might actually be “those people.”

Who are the powerless? Who are those with “less power?” Whose presence is ignored in our society? The invisible ones might be the elderly, the mentally ill, or the disabled. Our neighborhood is filled with people living below the poverty line, the homeless, the abused, the neglected. We partner with Cherry Street Mission and Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission to serve the powerless…with love, dignity and respect.

When I think of the powerless, one of the most significant groups is immigrants and refugees. Our Home Missions partner Water for Ishmael is devoted to caring for, loving, and educating those from other nations, many of whom have escaped wars and atrocities, desperate for survival, highly vetted, yet searching for hope, for opportunity, for a friend. Most of you can volunteer or give money to Water for Ishmael. It might be as simple as becoming a conversation partner, being a friend to someone from another country. We can all pray for them!

The poor. The powerless. Immigrants and refugees. “Pastor, do you have a political agenda?” This is not about elephants and donkeys, but about the Lion and the Lamb. These are kingdom of God issues. When Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth, its yet another example of his upside-down kingdom. It’s not about ascending the power structures of this world to dominate others as we’ve seen not only in business and politics but also throughout church history. It’s about the kingdom of heaven kissing earth, breaking in, the already-but-not-yet. The kingdom of God is here, but not fully here. We usher it in. We reveal it to the world. When we care for the least of these, when we serve others, when we love well, when we live counter-cultural, selfless lives, we offer glimpses of God’s kingdom to others.

Listen to the stories of others who don’t look, act, vote, smell, or sound like you. Once you’ve heard someone’s story, it’s nearly impossible for them to be your enemy.

Ask God to show you people who are invisible to you. It might be a neighbor, an entry-level worker at the grocery store or gas station, or even someone on the street. Notice them. Look them in the eye. Smile. Say hello. Thank them for their good work. Ask them about their life. Invite them to join us for Wednesday’s Ice Cream Sequel from 7-8 PM!

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Blessed are those whose
power is under control.

We live in possibly the most individualistic culture in history. I’m not critiquing it, but simply acknowledging it. We have tremendous freedoms thanks to the wisdom, sacrifice, and even death of others. But with freedom comes responsibility. We need to be good stewards of all of our gifts…time, talent, treasures, and freedoms.

The current pandemic is unlike any season in our lifetime. The information we have been given has been inconsistent, at times contradictory, in some instances outright lies, and at the very least a work in progress. It can be challenging to know what is true, what is right, and what to do. Every news source seems skeptical of every other news source. Cancel culture is stripping away nuance for the sake dangerous, binary thinking.

Nevertheless, anything you want more than God is an idol. This includes your own rights. The command of Jesus was not to love self, then love others, then love God. It was to love God first and foremost, and right below it to love others as you love yourself.

What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

It’s easy to buy into the messages of our culture that it’s all about us, we deserve this and that, we have rights that we must defend, we’ve worked hard to earn our stuff so don’t ask me to share, …do I need to go on? Instead of following Jesus, too many of us are following nationalism, capitalism, or consumerism. We look and act just like our non-Christian neighbors when Jesus plainly tells us to be different, to live radical lives that are others-centered. That doesn’t mean we avoid self-care, but our highest purpose should be God’s glory. That’s the bottom line of our mission statement.

Family, I want to challenge you to use your power, your wealth, your education, your experience, your relationships for the benefit of others. Seeking first His Kingdom means being a good steward of all of your blessings.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The blessing for the meek is two-fold. First, we said they can experience contentment. They accept that it’s not all about them. They already have everything…in Jesus. Second, they will one day encounter the fullness of their inheritance…in the new heaven and the new earth…the presence of God…for eternity! Hallelujah!

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project, Dr. Matt Carter

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