We are studying the keys to real happiness in the form of beatitudes—attitudes of the heart. And they really do run against the grain of our modern culture.
The most misunderstood beatitude that we have is the first one before us this morning. Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed (or happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
A study of its usage in Scripture reveals that it is linked with and cannot be separated from lowliness: “Learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
Second, it is associated with and cannot be divorced from gentleness: “I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1).
Third, the Divine promise is “the meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way” (Ps. 25:9), intimating that this grace consists of a pliant heart and will.
Meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God, and of ill-will toward men.
Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 gives several fruit of the Spirit: Peace, patience, kindness…one of them is gentleness. This is the same Greek word that Matthew translates as meekness.
“The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God, to His Word, to His rod, who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward men” (Matthew Henry).
Aristotle, speaking of the ancient Greeks, listen to what he said about meek. “A meek man is angry on the right ground and against the right persons and in the right manner and at the right moment and for the right length of time.”
Our modern culture thinks and equates meekness with weakness. And people today crave power and strength and authority.
Meekness or gentleness…it’s not something that I can muster of my own power, of my own ability, it’s got to come from God, or it’s not going to come from me at all. And this word really is a word that was used to describe a wild animal that had been tamed or had been domesticated.
I want you to imagine a wild stallion. No one has ever ridden him. Bridle and bit have never been put upon him. He’s wild. He’s full of energy and strength and spirit. Now you take that horse and you tame him, you domesticate him. He becomes meek. You can put a saddle on him. His master can ride him, you can put a bit in his mouth and reins over his neck and he’s meek.
The only difference is, now that horse’s strength and energy, that horse’s life force are being controlled by his master and channeled for useful purposes.
Jesus is saying happy is that person who has all of his strength, all of his spirit, or all of her personality or energy, but they’ve allowed someone else to master them and to control them.
When we are meek…we’re no longer at the mercy of our own passion….at the mercy or the whim of our emotions or our anger or our temper. You can take an insult without giving one back. You can turn the other cheek but because you’re stable and because you’re strong in the Lord.
You’re happy because you’re free from bitterness, and you’re not easily provoked to anger. You don’t have to resort to revenge. You’re God-controlled, you’ve allowed his Spirit to direct your spirit.
When Jesus saw the merchants in the Temple, he was angry. They were making a mockery of the place of worship. And he made himself a weapon, and he drove them out. When Jesus denounced the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, he was angry.
But our Lord said of himself, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” He was angry at the right time. Near the end of Jesus’ life when he was beaten, when he was ridiculed and spat upon and crucified, he remained meek and compliant. Do you think he acted that way out of weakness? No. He acted that way out of the strength that he received from his Father.
Jesus gives us a great picture of this …look down at verse 38.Jesus says, ‘”You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.'”
Meek inherit the earth—proud send souls to hell. Matthew 23:15 (ESV) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
A proselyte is a convert to a cause. The Pharisees were out to win others to their legalistic system, yet they could not introduce these people to the living God. Instead of saving souls, the Pharisees were condemning souls!
A “child of hell” is the equivalent of “child of the devil,” which is what Jesus called the Pharisees (Matt. 12:34; 23:33; John 8:44). A “child of the devil” is a person who has rejected God’s way of salvation (righteousness through faith in Christ).