Blessed Are The Humble
One of my favorite thinkers A.W. Tozer once wrote, “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. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”
It is that last little bit, “In himself nothing; in God everything”, that caught my attention. That doesn’t sound like the mantra of our culture; meekness doesn’t really seem to fit in with our American ideal. We want to be the hero, we want to be the one wanted, the one desired. We don’t want to be the one who get’s sand kicked in our face, we want to be the one that is kicking the sand. And that’s a problem.
Most of us in this room today, probably all of us, believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We believe He turned the world upside down with His teaching and example of living a righteous life. We believe that He is the Suffering Servant Isaiah said was coming; humble, born in a stable, who gave His life as a ransom for our brokenness. We believe that He stood on a hillside and preached turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.
That is the Jesus we believe in, but that’s also the Jesus that we secretly struggle with. We find the biblical mandate for peace, gentleness, and meekness to be attractive and compelling. But there is something that just doesn’t sit right. Honestly, there are times when Jesus seems a little wimpy for the old Red, White, and Blue; our country who prides itself on our military might and power. After all turning the other cheek is one thing in Sunday School, but in real life doesn’t always seem realistic. Going the extra mile preaches pretty well, but doesn’t really translate into a strong foreign policy.
I would imagine that when Jesus said, Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, He raised a few eyebrows. Remember that the people gathered on that mountainside were expecting a king who would overthrow the Roman government. That was not going to get done by being meek. It would take a massive show of force and a great deal of aggression to accomplish such a monumental task. 2,000 years later we still raise our eyebrows when we read those words, because meekness doesn't really fit into our 10 year plan.
When’s the last time you heard someone say, If you really want to get ahead in life, try being meek? Or, If you want to rise to the top and be someone and get somewhere, exhibit a little meekness along the way. We don’t spend a whole lot of time teaching our kids to be meek. Actually we teach them to be strong, and assertive. We teach them that the world is not going to give them anything, if they are going to be successful they have to grab the bull by the horns and take it.
Once again the Lord shatters the conventional of wisdom of His day and ours with this third beatitude. In a culture that prides itself on its pride, the call to meekness sounds great in church but what about on Monday at work or Thursday at the ball field? According to God there is something good about being humble. There is something noble about being meek. Even though such attributes are out of style in our culture, these are the qualities that are praised in the scriptures.
As we take the next step up this mountain we need to get a real understanding of what meekness is, and why it is so important to our christian walk. I can think of two things that can only happen in a heart that is meek.
First, Meekness allows us to love the people God loves even when they are difficult.
We started this look at the beatitudes by saying they build on one another. The first step is realizing that we don’t have it all together and we need someone to put it together for us. The second step is understanding my true self and mourning my sin. Now we come to the third step which helps me understand my relationship with God and the other people who are created in His image.
One of the hardest lessons we need to learn is that we cannot please everybody in life. Just about the time you get one group of folks happy with you then another group of people get upset. The true test of our meekness is not how many people can you make happy, but rather how do you treat the folks who are disagreeable, people who irritate you, or people who like to argue with you? Do you show them compassion or are you condescending? Do you show them love or do you show them loathing?
In his book “Everybody’s Normal Until You Get To Know Them” John Ortberg discusses the plight of the porcupine. Each porcupine has around 30,000 quills that can be driven into an enemy. God designed these quills with barbs that expand when they are warmed by body heat which allow them to become firmly embedded in their enemies skin. The barbs cause wounds that can fester or worse affect vital organs and be fatal.
As a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling relationships: withdrawal or attack. They either head for a tree or stick out their quills. But porcupines were not created to live in isolation, they have the same desire to be in a community that all animals share. So as you can imagine, love is a pretty risky business when you’re a porcupine. Every porcupine faces a dilemma: How do you get close without getting hurt?
Everyone of us face that same dilemma as well. We are all carrying our own little arsenal of quills. Our barbs have names like rejection, condemnation, resentment, arrogance, selfishness, envy, contempt. Some people hide them better than others, but get close enough and you will find out they’re there. They burrow under the skin of our enemies; they wound and fester and even kill.
Just like the porcupine, we have two choices if we want to survive: withdrawal or attack. We find ourselves hurting, and being hurt by those we long to be closest to. And amazingly we still long to get close to someone else. We meet neighbors, go on dates, join churches, form friendships, get married, and have children. We spend a majority of our lives trying to figure out how to get close without getting hurt. We wonder if there isn’t a softer, less-barbed creature out there, a mink or an otter, perhaps. And of course, we can usually think of a number of particularly prickly porcupines in our lives. But the problem isn’t other folks, the sad truth is I’m somebody’s porcupine and so are you.
While it might be easier to get close to someone without quills, the reality is that we all have quills. Everyone of us have the capacity to attack. In Scripture, meekness is often contrasted with words like harsh, violent, and severe, but a meek person seeks to show grace to others, and puts up with imperfect people.
When Jesus stood on that mountain side and called us to be meek, He was not saying that we need to compromise our convictions. Jesus never intend for us to live our lives as a doormat always giving in and letting the other person have their own way. We are supposed to take a stand for what is right, while we shower others with respect and love.
There is no such thing as righteous indignation. It is never loving to be condescending or lash out in anger when we are faced with a difficult person. It was General George S. Patton who once said, You never fight a battle where winning doesn't make any difference. So don't get into an argument over something that doesn't matter anyway.
James shared the same sentiment in James 3:16-17 "Wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder... But wisdom from above is pure, peaceful, gentle, and friendly." An argumentative spirit is the fruit of an ego problem. If you like to fight, if you like to get into arguments, you've got an ego problem. Jesus says, that a person who is meek finds peace and happiness because they are secure in their relationship with God.
Meek people know how to disagree and not be disagreeable. Meekness is being able to walk hand in hand without seeing eye to eye. The old saying is true; when two people agree on everything, one of them isn't necessary. You eat with a knife and a fork, not two knives. We need variety. We need to celebrate the different gifts and abilities and talents that God has given us. We need to use these differences to worship and serve God in this community. Meekness not only sees the value in someone who has a difference of opinion, it allows us to consider that someone else might be right. Another way to say that is that humility is the ability to say that I may be wrong.
When Paul is writing to Timothy about the type of leadership they needed in Ephesus, he includes meekness as a qualification for spiritual leadership, The Lord's servant must not quarrel... those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in hope that God will give them a change of heart. (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
Those who lead in the kingdom must not to be looking for a fight. Instead they are to gently instruct those under their oversight in the hopes that God will give them a change of heart. The shepherds of God’s people know that they cannot sit idly by and condone sin; there is no retreat. They know that they cannot force anyone to change so they cannot attack. That only leaves the response of love. On that Mountain side Jesus called us to respond to difficult people in love.
Let me take a moment here to make a point. No one is perfect, except God. Your spouse will disappoint you; your kids will fail you; your friends will let you down; your church will drop the ball; and I won’t meet all your expectations. The reality is there will be a time when you will have a legitimate gripe. You will be right and they’ll be wrong. This is the crossroads of meekness. The question is which path will you take? Will you launch some quills or grant grace and peace?
Before deciding, remind yourself how gentle Jesus is toward you. You can choose to live your life disappointed and angry with everyone around you, or you can exhibit meekness and enter into the blessing of authentic community.
Paul writes to the Ephesian churches “Be completely humble and meek; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
The beatitude of meekness not only helps my relationship with you, but it also allows me to put my trust in God.
There are two times when it’s difficult to trust God. One is when things are going badly. And the other is when things are going well. When things are going badly we cry out and wonder if God is there and if He is there does He even care.
When things are going well we become consumed with pride. It is our pride that causes us to put our trust in ourselves instead of trusting God.
There will come a time in your life when you will find yourself between a rock and a hard place. There will be a time when life get’s hard or downright difficult and we have to make a decision on who and what we are going to trust. Do you place your trust in your intellect? Your health? Your possessions?
Time and time again our good looks, power, wealth, and influence fail us. If we trust in ourselves there will come a time, regardless of how much we have accumulated, when we will stare into the darkness and feel the waters rise around us.
It is only when we are meek that we can truly see ourselves as God sees us. It’s only in our meekness that we can be truly aware and amazed with the fact that the creator and sustainer of this universe sees us and knows us. It’s in our meekness that we understand what a great gift God’s love and forgiveness is in our lives. It’s only when we are willing to confess that our strength is inadequate and put our faith in God that we can discover why the humble and the meek of this world are blessed.
Christian humility is not cowardice. It is an invitation to work behind the scenes, to love the people God loves, and to trust God whose strength will never fail. Being meek does not require you to think less of yourself, it requires that you think of yourself less.
By trusting God we understand what it really means to inherit the earth. Living in this world and in this culture we expect that the strong, powerful, and ruthless will be the ones to overcome the world. But in the Kingdom of God, where everything in this world is turned upside down, we receive the promise that the meek will inherit the earth. We receive the promise to live with the one who told the disciples to take heart! I have overcome the world.
When we put our complete trust in God we can experience the life promised by God. While God does not offer us a life here that is free from struggle and pain, we are promised a life that is coming that far exceeds the unsatisfying and empty the trappings of this world. Our culture is seeking something that is lasting, our world wants something that will matter. That is the life that offered by Christ and Christ alone.
When we are willing to humble ourselves, we can come to God and trust in His might, His power, and His promise. When we humble ourselves we learn to trust completely in God and an amazing thing happens; our anger, bitterness, and complaining melt away. The meek are filled with the peace of the Lord and are a joy to be around.