Happy are the Humble

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

When it comes to the third of Jesus’ beatitudes, I think it’s helpful to keep this in mind: For many who were following and listening to Jesus, they had it in their mind that their expected messiah would be sent from heaven for the primary purpose of acting as a political and military.

See, at the time of Jesus’ ministry, Israel was under the heavy-handed occupation of Rome. They had been under Roman rule for about 70 years! And after all this time, most of the people in Israel were getting sick and tired of Rome being in mixed up in all of their business.

They thought, “Surely God will send a Messiah to once again provide us with independence and autonomy.”

On top of that, much of Israel’s religious practice was rooted in pride and self-righteousness.

People put a lot of effort into pious displays of religiosity, while at the same time, giving very little attention to their heart. Which in turn affected their attitudes…which in turn affected their actions.

Essentially, the general, overall thinking among the populace of Israel was that when the Messiah came, he’d be especially tough on the Romans…and extremely easy on them, because, hey, they were so good!

The picture people had of the coming Messiah was one of power and force and aggression.

So, for those who might have had an inkling that maybe, perhaps this Jesus WAS the messiah…imagine the surprise and confusion (and maybe even a bit of disappointment) when Jesus uttered His 3rd beatitude:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Many people look at the word meek, and right away associate it with a word that rhymes with meek: weak!

If we we’re trying to paraphrase this verse in our own words, we might think that Jesus was saying, “Blessed are the wimpy!”

But, knowing what we know about Jesus, we know that weak and wimpy are not words that can be applied to Him, and we can safely assume that’s not what he’s calling us to either.

So then, what does it mean when the Bible speaks of being “meek?”

Here are a few thoughts:

When the Bible uses the word “meek” here in Matthew 5:4, it draws from a word that describes the process of breaking a wild horse (which really serves no helpful human purpose) to the point that the horse can be ridden and employed to perform various productive tasks.

Think about it: the horse hasn’t lost any of its strength, but rather it’s strength has been brought under control so that it might become useful!

AW Tozer said this:

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.

He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.

As one man said of the one who is meek, “In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”

I believe the expression of meekness in a human being can be marked by a combination of things like:

  • Self-control
  • Wisdom
  • Humility
  • Peace Seeking
  • Confidence
  • Gentleness
  • Compassion

What we see here on this list has nothing to do with weakness, but everything to do with great power.

Truth be told, isn’t it a real blessing to be in the company of a person marked by meekness? They are people who aren’t overly aggressive, or vengeful, or proud, or out-of-control!

Yet, this kind of person is very hard to find.

 That’s because we live in a world where people are:

  • very aggressive
  • extremely vengeful
  • filled with pride
  • ridiculously out-of-control

And in some cases, these types of negative qualities are celebrated!

Many people go through life burning all sorts of energy…

  • defending their rights
  • justifying their ways
  • serving their own ends.

But those who are meek seek to pour their energy into understanding and submitting to God’s providence, rather than always striving and pushing ahead for themselves.

Happy are the Sad

Matthew 5:4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

Let’s be honest. Not too many people are excited about feeling sad.

We much prefer happy.

In fact, when I see someone who is sad, my very first and most pressing thought is this: how quickly can I make them “un-sad!”

In some ways, we might say that this beatitude presents for us an absolute paradox, for it appears that Jesus is saying, “Happy are the sad!”

It almost comes across like a brain-bending riddle.

In approaching the beatitudes, we must keep in mind that Jesus is speaking about things that are deeply spiritual. As a result, they will demand us to think a little harder and a bit deeper.

So, let’s take a little time to figure out what Jesus is trying to communicate with us.

I believe we can find a correlating scripture back in the OT book of Ecclesiastes:

These words were written by Solomon, as he reflected back over his life:

Ecclesiastes 7:1-6

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

Solomon seems to be saying the same thing as Jesus!

Sometimes it’s better to experience pain, sadness, even rebuke, than to always be surrounded by comfort, compliments and entertainment.

Here’s the deal: some of us make it our primary life pursuit to remain in a constant state of amusement.

We’re always on the lookout for the next thing that will take our mind off our problems and our challenges.

  • Maybe it’s taking a vacation.
  • Maybe it’s going to a movie.
  • Maybe it’s buying some new clothes or a new car or a new boat.
  • Maybe it’s working out or listening to music or surfing the internet.

The goal is to keep the endorphin pumping and the dopamine flowing so that our brains will keep producing for us a steady stream of positive feelings!

But…when we pour so much time, money and energy into feeling good, we sometimes deny ourselves the opportunity to sometimes feel bad about the things that we really should feel bad about!

See, mourning is a part of life.

Earlier in the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote this:

Ecclesiastes 3:4

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

And we know this is true, because life is filled with highs as well as it is with lows.

We experience gains and victories, but we are also guaranteed to suffer pain and suffer losses.

This is normal life.

But, sometimes we get a mental signal that we really ought to avoid pain at any cost, and as a result we usually choose to routes:

  1. Flood our life with positive, feel-good experiences
  2. Try to numb any pain through self-medication or other sensation-stifling activities designed to distract us from reality

Which is your go-to method?

Yet, staring at what Jesus said in Matthew 5:4 are these words that come from the author of truth: “Blessed are those who mourn…”

So, what’s going on here that Jesus wants us to grasp?

I think at the root of all this is that when it comes to sin in the world, whether it be the sins we commit, or the sins in which we see others engage, ALL that sin ought to make us feel bad.

Think about all the negativity and ruination that sin brings into our world!

  • People get hurt
  • Relationships are fractured
  • Lives become shipwrecked
  • People are separated from God

I find it interesting, as well as deeply distressing, that in our current culture, the list of things we would consider to be sin seems to be getting shorter and shorter.

I believe a big reason why this is happening is that we’d rather not mourn about our sin, so we simply move them over to the category of things that we declare as being “acceptable activities.”

Often, when it comes to sin, we will find ourselves doing everything BUT mourning over our transgressions.

  • Sometimes we’ll laugh about our sin
  • Sometimes we’ll try and justify our sin
  • In some cases, we’ll try and cover up our sin.
  • Other times we’ll pour a lot of energy into defending our sin.

May I just say, none of these are helpful or healthy approaches to facing our sin!

Now…the idea of mourning over sin is not to go through life with a perpetual expression of doom and gloom coming from our face.It’s not about disallowing ourselves any good feelings.

Remember Solomon said there was a time to weep and cry, but also times in life to laugh and dance. And Proverbs 17:22 says, “a joyful heart is good medicine.”

No, what Jesus is calling us to here in Matthew 5:4 is to simply get real about sin.

His desire is that we become honest about the damage sin inflicts and how it negatively impacts our relationship with God.

How to Survive the Current, Crazy (and sometimes Caustic) Political Climate

In recent months, it seems wherever we turn, it doesn’t take long to find ourselves confronted with a lot of emotion, angst and hysteria. Why? Politics.

For some reason, our nation appears to be suffering from political overload. And with it comes a lot of tension and worry.

Turn on the news and you’ll likely be confronted with a steady stream of political stories intent on raising your blood pressure.

Social media used to be a welcome escape from such agitations, but not any more. Now, as you try and scroll through your news feed, you’ll likely have to dodge post after post devoted to the latest political outrage.

As a result, “unfollows” and “unfriendings” are skyrocketing.

It’s gotten so bad that time spent with friends or family can turn sour in a moment’s notice…once the topic of politics shows up. Friendly gatherings can give way to family feuds.

For whatever reason, a lot of people are hot under the collar. And they are often letting the steam escape and get all over anyone who dares to get too close.

What to do?

Here’s by two cents: follow the example of Jesus.

Jesus lived in a time and place when the was a lot of political angst and anger. The reason for this was the fact that Israel was living under the heavy-hand of the Roman Empire. Rome was often unfair and unjust toward her subjects.

Just like today, people back then were edgy. Some plotted rebellions. The relationship between citizens and government wasn’t polling very high.

But throughout his ministry, Jesus seemed to live on another plane.

Being God He knew all about Rome’s oppressive rule. Being human, he likely experienced it first hand as He grew up.

So what did Jesus do?

He prayed.

He served. 

He loved.

I think these three activities are the secret to getting past all the noise and rising above all the rancor.

When we do these things, it becomes much harder to allow our mind to be submerged by the tsunami of politics.

In world full of oppression and injustice, Jesus simply got to work. He took care of the business right in front of Him.

When we are making an impact, no matter how small, we can be filled with a satisfaction that can’t be found in endless debates and mind-numbing arguments.

I’m not saying that we should never think about politics or government. As Americans we have a duty to be involved in the process of government.

But we must be on guard lest politics consume us.

Remember what Jesus said to the religious leaders who tried to draw him into a political debate?  Some Pharisees (along with some Herodians) gave Jesus a Roman coin, asking whether is was right for them pay taxes to Caesar.

The question was designed as a trap that they thought Jesus couldn’t wriggle out of.

If he said, “Pay it,” then Jesus would reveal himself loyal to Rome

If he said, “Don’t pay it,” then He would have marked himself as a treasonous rebel against Rome.

So how did Jesus respond? Mark 12:17 provides the answer:

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Jesus knew how to keep His priorities straight.

Politics has its place. But God deserves a much bigger slice of the pie.

Too often the issue is that we are giving too much of our energy and passion to things that rightfully belong to God.

And when that happens, our spirits will be upset. Because we will likely be out of sync with God’s best.