ListenWhen Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12, NRSV).
Dr. Baldwin opened his message by saying, “The meek will inherit the earth, but they will never get the ball.” The meek are those who do not stand out in a crowd. The meek are those who do not attack problems or develop solutions to problems. The meek are those who do not pose a threat to the powerful. The meek are those who do not simply lack confidence in themselves but are those who have had their confidence forcibly taken from them. The meek are those who are subject to abuse and marginalization for no other reason than they are not powerful enough to fight back. Although some scholars like Robert Mounce claim that meekness is demonstrated in living “a life of humble and sacrificial service to God and [our] fellow human being,” Dr. Baldwin indicated that those who are meek have not chosen to meek. They have been made meek by forces outside their control.
Another way of translating the word for “meek” is “humble.” The Greek term is praus, a term that is used only four times in the NT (three times in Matthew and once in 1 Peter) and it is generally translated “humble.” We still, however, do not get the full sense of what Jesus is describing when he pronounces this blessing. For that, we must look to the Latin root of humble, the term humilitas. Here we see the extreme meaning of our term—humiliation. As John Dickson has noted, the difference between being humbled and being humiliation is the intent. I was humbled recently to have a well-known scholar reference some of my doctoral work in an academic presentation. We are humbled when we are in the presence of others who are greater than us. Our accomplishments are noteworthy, yet we are disciplined or instructed in order to become greater than what we are. To be humiliated, however, is to be unable to withstand a violent assault against our personhood. These are the folks who embody the poetic words of Psalm 37, those who are encouraged to “not fret because of the wicked” but “trust in the LORD” because God “will give you the desires of your heart” (37:1-4). The meek do not have power in themselves, yet they trust in God and in God’s power. And, as a result, they will inherit everything.
- Read the “Parable of the Gracious Landowner” in Matthew 20:1-16. Does Dr. Baldwin’s take on meekness shed any new understanding on this meaning of this parable?
- Pray the words of Psalm 37 for once a day for a week. If you are not a “meek” person, what was your experience in praying these words? If you are a “meek” person, how did you find comfort and encouragement in these words?
Robert H. Mounce, Matthew, New International Biblical Commentary, New Testament Series 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson/Paternoster Press, 1991), 39.