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Blessed: The Be Attitudes – Blessed Are The Meek

Date: 29/08/2021/Speaker: Ps Gary Chan

Good morning, my name is Gary and we’re so glad you’re here with us as we go into the Word together. A big welcome if you’re joining us for the first time whether you here with us in church, or joining us live online right now or watching this sometime in the week ahead.

If you are joining us this morning live, one big benefit is that we can collectively come together to contribute to this sermon using menti.com. So if you have a second device or on your computer at home, you can open your browser and go over to menti.com and enter today’s code “4230 2793” and you will be able to contribute anonymously to today’s sermon.

This has been such a valuable tool for us in a time when we are not yet able to meet in person and fellowship together to be able to hear your voice and learn together as we continue with our sermon series called “Blessed – the Be Attitudes” based on one of Jesus’ first and perhaps most famous sermons He preached recorded in Matthew 5. But how much of the sermon do we actually understand? And so this series set out to help us unpack this and look at these eight strange proclamations of blessings by Jesus and what it meant for the people back then and for us today.

Today we are going to the look into the third proclamation of blessing in Matt 5:5, and it reads: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

This beatitude follows a similar structure to the rest of the beatitudes – you have the proclamation of blessing, to an audience (the meek), and then a promise (for they will inherit the earth).

So let’s take this part by part and let’s begin by asking you, what does this word “meek” mean to you?

This is certainly not a word that we use very commonly today, but the people who were listening to Jesus’ sermon would have got their ideas of what this means from the Greek word that was used “praus” which is closest translated to being gentle, or humble and is associated with having a lack of strength or being undervalued.

I don’t think they are too different in our understanding of what it means to be meek today.

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In order for us to better understand how this would be received, we have to remember the situation that the Jews were in when Jesus were speaking these words. The Jews were living in a time when their land was being occupied by the Roman empire and being oppressed by the Roman army.

When Jesus started His ministry and declared Himself to be the Messiah, the expectation by the people starting to follow him was that this rabbi would move in a powerful way – He would be that great revolutionist who would overthrow the evil government or be this mighty leader who would drive out the Roman army and reclaim the Holy Land for the people of God.

But we know that Jesus didn’t do any of that.

Instead he takes this upside down, countercultural approach and challenged people with these eight proclamation of blessings to the most unlikely of recipients.

You can imagine the confusion and the frustration that audience might have been feeling when Jesus says statements such as “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

What are you talking about Jesus? We know meek. We have had our property taken away from us because we are meek. We are in debt because we are meek. We have been abused, we are oppressed, and we certainly have not inherited the earth. You know who has inherited our land? The Roman empire has. And they have done with their power and might and at our expense. How can you call “the meek” blessed?

Do you think it is different today? Are the meek blessed today and inheriting the earth?

Look at what we see happening around us. The powerful get their way, the ambitious get promoted, those with privilege get richer, and people succeed by asserting power and pushing over others.

These are the people who are blessed and are inheriting the earth right? What you are saying here Jesus is making no sense to the reality we are living in.

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But Jesus doesn’t let this idea go and later on this same sermon he goes on to expand this in Matt 5:38-41

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

Are you crazy Jesus? This is exactly how the meek are taken advantage of. This is not how the world works, Jesus. This is too radical.

Even Barack Obama in one of his speeches in 2006 suggested that the Sermon on the Mount is so radical, it is doubtful that the US Department of Defence would survive its application.

So let’s first just put it out there that all the Beatitudes are challenging and that’s why it is important for us to unpack perhaps Jesus’ most famous sermon and take time to understand what Jesus was saying.

And we need to begin by first looking at what meekness means.

We earlier talked that the closest translation in the Greek of meek is the word “gentle” and it is usually used in Greek common language to describe three things – medicine, wind, and horses.

What? Yes, medicine, wind and horses.

Well you see, when a doctor prescribed a medicine that would take away pain during that time, the word for meek would be use to describe that medicine.

And when sailors felt the gentle cool breeze coming off the ocean on their face that refreshed them, they too used that same word meek to describe it.

Finally, when farmers had a stallion that was broken in and was ready to help them to plow the field they would describe that horse with that word “meek”.

What’s the common thread here? Every single one of those things are powerful. But when their power is used under control, they benefit others; out of control, they are destructive.

Consider medicine – medicine is powerful to help with an ailment and when used in control it is beneficial but when abused it can ruin lives – drug abuse has ruined lives from ancient times up until today.

Think about the wind that sailors feel on their face – it can be a breeze that refreshes or a typhoon that could destroy the very boat they are on.

Finally with a horse we know that the horse is a beast that has amazing structure and powerful muscles that can help to do things – carry things, run through fields to plow them when domesticated, but untrained, a stallion runs wild and can cause a lot of damage.

So meekness is not weakness. Medicine, wind and horses are powerful. The meek are the gentle – those who have power under control that it becomes beneficial to others.

To get a better understanding of what it means to have power under control, and to better understand this beatitude, let’s look deeper at what Jesus was speaking to.

When Jesus says, “blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth”, it wasn’t something brand new that He came up with. He was actually quoting Psalm 37. Let’s take a look at Psalm 37:11 (NIV) –

But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity.

So we see right there a very similar rendition of this blessing and promise. And surrounding this passage gives us context of what it means to have an attitude of power under control. Reading from v1 –

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

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

So the first be attitude I want to talk about being meek, is the one who trusts and hopes in God.

Trust in the Lord and do good;

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:

The meek are those who choose to trust in God. Someone who is meek is also a person whose hopes in God. The word trust and hope come from the same core word in Greek. So the meek is the person that chooses to put their hope in God and trust God will provide everything that is needed.

A person who trusts is one who does not worry. Three times we see the phrase “do not fret” in Psalm 37. Do not fret because of those who are evil. Do not fret when people succeed in their ways, do not fret, it only leads to evil. To fret, simply means to worry.

The meek do not worry about how others are doing, or what others are doing around them because their trust and hope is in the source of their power, in God.

But how often do we look at others getting ahead, becoming more prosperous, and start worrying that we are not keeping up. The meek are those who trust and hope in source of their power and that God is in control.

Living in hope also doesn’t mean that one isn’t concerned about what is going on around them. But as one trusts in the Lord and do good, lives out of a place of hope of the power, grace and sufficiency of God, our attitude can be one of bringing these concerns to God and not towards either cynicism or worry. Cynicism says why bother because the situation can never change – that reflects a lack of hope. Worry says I need to fret about everything, even if there’s nothing I can do about it, and that reflects a lack of trust.

But Jesus encourages us in Matt 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The second attitude about being meek, is that of self-control.

Ps 37:8

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Here we see the attitude of self-control in the way we are called to refrain from anger and turning from wrath.

A great picture of this is one of Jesus being arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. The Roman soldiers came with Judas with swords and clubs and torches to arrest Jesus and Peter grabs a sword. He’s trying to defend Jesus and he swings and cuts off the ear of one of the soldiers. And Jesus tells Peter, hey put away your sword. You live by the sword, you will die by the sword. Don’t you know right now I could call 12 legions of angels to my defence? Did you know that a Roman legion comprises of 4,200 soldiers?

So that’s 50,400 angels that Jesus is saying could come to his defence. But he doesn’t. He has all the power and authority but He is not going to do that because His power is submitted under the control and the will and purposes of the God.

The attitude of meekness does not mean one is not responsive; it means one is not reactive. James reminds us in the book of James 1:19-20 –

James 1:19-20

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Do you often react in anger to a situation when you are treated unfairly?

I have to be honest that this is an area I struggle with especially with the multitasking stress of life, especially when I am tired. Someone offends me, annoys me, does something unfair to me and in that moment, I react and snap back – I am quick to anger and slow to listen.

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We are an easily offended generation and what that does is to move us relationally apart. We may be right, our reaction may be justified, but it breaks relationships down and moves us relationally away from shalom, the wholeness of relationships that God had intended in God’s kin-dom.

Self-control is almost like a hallmark of being meek. It is one of the fruit of the spirit and we only bear this fruit when we are willing to give up control to the Spirit of God. It is submitting ourselves to the gentle voice of the Spirit of God who dwells within us who empowers us to be more self-controlled.

It’s kind of counter-intuitive isn’t it? How do you gain something by giving up something. But by losing my pride, my need to be right, my personal direction over what I want, and giving control over to the Spirit of God, I gain self-control.

So far, we have covered two attitudes about being meek, one who trusts and hopes in God, and one who has self-control.

The final attitude about being meek, this idea of power under control, is one who is intentional.

A few weeks back we talked about Ecclesia and Mission, of how Jesus’ mission was to break in this new kin-dom, and how this kin-dom was aligned to God’s mission of restoring shalom – restoring the way things were intended between us and God, us and ourselves, us and one another and us and creation.

This clarity of purpose set Jesus on a path towards that mission. He exposed the systems of power, He turned the value system of worthiness upside down, He stood in solidarity with those who were marginalized, He preached how God’s presence, favour and blessing was especially with the least. And that intentionality set him on a path towards the cross.

We see Jesus’ clarity of mission and attitude of intentionality in the final reference to meekness in Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on Matt 21:4-5, fulfilling the purpose as prophesised by the prophet Zechariah.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle (meek) and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

This is a picture of power under the submission to the mission and will of God.

In the gospel of Matthew, history is divided into two ages: the present evil era that God will soon end, and the coming realm when all things will take place according to God’s purposes of love and justice.

You see, the breaking in of the kingdom of God doesn’t just refer to the future coming kingdom of a restored world that His followers would trust and hope in God for and inherit, but also one that they would participate in as well in creating in the here and now.

This same attitude of meekness, of intentionality that made Jesus a change maker, and that made him stand out in how he lived his life is the same charge of meekness is given to His disciples, His followers in their time as well as today.

In the same sermon, Jesus charged those who were listening to him in Matt 5:13-14 that –

Matthew 5:13-14

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

So intentionality is not about blending in with the status quo, it is also not trying to stand out to outdo everyone else to get ahead or increase one’s value. It is recognition of the power of God in your life and the purpose we have as Christ followers to be change makers in the restoration of the world to the way that it was originally created and intended.

If you were listening to the words of Jesus that day, as you are listening today, you would probably be thinking, what can I do? I feel no different from the people at that time – you talk about power under control, but what power do I have? You talk about self-control and intentionality, but you seem to be contradicting yourself Jesus.

Aren’t you asking us to let people trample over us? Not to resist an evildoer, to let those who abuse us strike us on our left cheek after they have struck us on the right. And to give up the rest of our garments when they want our coat, and to go above and beyond in the way that we are asked to respond to helping others by going the extra mile?

And while we read these in confusion, the people listening at that time were beginning to realize exactly what Jesus meant in these responses that brought these attitudes of meekness to life.

The word do not “resist” and evildoer (antistēnai) is better understood as do not go to battle with an evildoer. Jesus is here is telling his followers it’s not about taking things lying down thinking you have no power, and it is not about going all out using your power to retaliate violently to repay the evil, but instead there is a third-way, the way of meekness.

For the first example that Jesus cites on being struck on the right cheek, theologian Walter Wink explains that to this audience listening to this message, this refers to a backhanded slap by the right hand of their master or whomever is above them in power and authority to humiliate them, to get them back into line to what they wanted them to do.

But Jesus here is saying, the power you have is to turn to have your left cheek face the oppressor. If you were the master, you can no longer slap the person on the left cheek with the back of your right hand. Try it!

So why can’t you hit the person instead with the back of your left hand? Well that would make the oppressor unclean and excluded from community for 10 days! Well how about if the person punched you instead with their right hand? Well they could, but that would be saying you would be an equal to the aggressor because only equals fought with their fists. When you are responding by turning the left cheek, Jesus is saying you can defy oppression, assert your humanity, and not answer the oppressor in kind. This is the way of meekness – non-violent action that will not cooperate with anything humiliating!

Alright Jesus, what about your second example of the giving the rest of our garments when someone sues us for our coat? You see, Walter Wink again helps to explain that the people Jesus was speaking to then were in a system of continual poverty at that time from their debts because of continual exploitation by governments to collect tax to fund their war efforts. The only thing by law that could not be permanently taken is one’s coat so they have something to sleep in at night. And so this collateral would need to be returned each evening so that the poor could have something to sleep in.

So what does this have to do with responding by giving the rest of one’s garments? This would mean that the debtor would not just hand their coat to the creditor but also strip off the rest of their clothes and hand that over as well and leave the courtroom naked. With nakedness being taboo in Judaism, the debtor with no power to win the case now has turned the shame instead on the creditor and the people viewing the nakedness and in effect create a powerful protest against the existing system and unmasking the people that created their systemic cycle of debt in losing their dignity viewing the nakedness.

And finally, while we have today co-opted the third example cited by Jesus in going the extra mile for others, Jesus was really referring to system that gave the ability for a Roman soldier to force any person to carry their backpack of 30kg for one mile while they were dispatched to faraway places. We see how Simon of Cyrene was drafted by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross. And here we see Jesus tell people not to retaliate to the system but to instead just continue to carry the pack another mile. This would be breaking military code, this would be an insult to the solder’s strength, this would cause him to end up being disciplined.


And although these examples may seem strange or distant to us today, these examples were not lost on Jesus’ audience. Theologians believe that these were three very common examples for this audience – people who believed they were powerless, and that there was no way to be able to respond in meekness, and how they could incite a social revolution and be a change maker.

There was no need to wait for the future kingdom of Rome to be defeated, for them to have their land restored, or to be freed from slavery. They had power and agency over their immediate realities to be that salt, to be that light, to be a change maker regardless of their station to recover their dignity and freedom, to unmask the inequalities and create social change.

And that is taking the fullness of meekness and responding from a place of hope and trust in God, exercising self-control in response, and anchored in the intentionality of following Jesus towards God’s mission of restoration.

As we close today, you might be sitting there like those listening to Jesus thinking – I have no power. Know that the same spirit that formed the earth from chaos, the same spirit that descended on Jesus, the same spirit poured out onto the disciples, is the same spirit that is with you today. God’s promise is that God is pouring out God’s spirit on all people – you are the beloved of God – equally loved and equally empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What is the spirit of God saying to you today? Is there a situation is God calling you to respond in meekness, and not in weakness, not in cynicism, and not in retaliation? But in meekness?

And as you respond in meekness, as you submit to God’s power in you, as you live out of a place of hope and trust as God’s beloved, as you set intention towards God’s purposes in your lives and in the world, and as you submit your power under God’s control, you become a follower of Jesus Himself, and God calls you blessed.

Amen.