We understand the principle of a pendulum, swinging from one side to another. It’s often used to represent two extremes. The middle is the medium or mean between the two extremes. When used in politics there are the ultra-conservative and the ultra-liberal sides. Generally to work together, most decisions are made somewhere in the middle.
Weather can take extremes. It can be extremely cold up north or extremely hot in the desert. The medium is Hawaii.
The economy is affected by pendulum swings. OPEC can raise the cost of crude and prices at the pump skyrocket, strangling the economy. Or they can cheapen the price until layoffs begin, which also strangles the economy. What’s best is somewhere in the middle.
Aristotle said that virtue was the mean between two extremes. Extremes on each side and in the middle, was the virtue itself, the happy medium.
For example, he took the concept of excessive aggression as one extreme and being excessively passive as the other, in the mean between the two he placed the word meek. Both sides having given in to the moment, one to unguarded brutality, the other beaten down into abject submission. Neither are useful since both are being controlled by inappropriate inner forces.
If you want a guard dog: A vicious dog is too unpredictable to be of use. A cowering dog is too scared to be protective. A guard dog must maintain his ability to be vicious yet at the same time be controllable.
If you want a good horse: A wild horse, though strong and powerful, is unmanageable. A horse whose spirit has been abused and broken is too defeated to want to perform. A good horse must maintain his strength and power yet at the same time be controllable.
Our concept of meekness doesn’t fit these pictures but the definition does: strength under control.
There are times we need to demonstrate strength. There are times we need to demonstrate weakness, or times to be assertive and times to be non-assertive. So on the pendulum, if the opposite extreme of strength is weak, meekness again would be the medium. It is the ability to be strong or weak according to which is the proper response.
Jesus said: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:29-30)
Gentle and humble are words used interchangeably in the Scriptures for the old word meek. No one wants to use meek anymore. It has taken an effeminate turn to define a soft, passive, non-effective pushover.
But when Jesus used the word you don’t sense powerlessness. You hear Him saying, “I will bear the burden of your life.” That’s the extreme assertiveness of someone taking charge and taking action. “I’ll carry the heavy end of all that concerns you.”
The Bible says of Moses: He was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Num 12:3)
Show me a weak bone in Moses’ body. Show me how he was a soft, passive, non-effective man. He took control of a nation and led them for 40 years. He faithfully gave them God’s direction and instruction though they were obstinate and rebellious. That takes amazing strength under control.
Here, Jesus is talking to His disciples. Two of them wanted to call fire down from Heaven. One will take a sword and ty to take off a man’s head. As a group they agree to fight, even die, to keep Jesus off the cross.
They had great potential but needed balance to be of any use. Jesus had tremendous plans for them. Some would stand before kings, testify before tribunals. Some would place their necks on chopping blocks and not deny Him. Others would face severe persecution and death. Some would even get married.
So when Jesus told them the third Beatitude: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth, He wasn’t demanding they become soft, passive and non-effective pushovers. He used the word that meant: be strong, courageous and bold, but controllable.
St. Gregory of Nyssa, back in the 300’s, taught that meekness meant exhibiting a docility of spirit, even in the face of adversity and hardship. He was trying to create an emotional disconnect from life. No, Jesus wanted us connected to the moment and to ourselves but not be dominated by our impulses and selfishness.
Jesus was saying: Oh the blessedness of the man who has every instinct, every impulse, every passion under control. If that’s what He was saying, was He asking too much?
Make a list of the people in the world who have everything in their lives under control and that’s going to be a very short list. In fact, to say that to a crowd like Jesus did, you’re going to overshoot, oh everybody.
Reason: controlling ourselves is the greatest battle we face in dealing with demanding forces raging within our lives. Complete self-control is beyond our ability.
That’s why Paul listed self-control as a fruit of the Spirit. It’s such a hard expectation, we need the Power of God to bring it about in our lives.
Wait: my wife can follow a diet like nobodies’ business. She’s got tremendous self-control. Great: how’s her attitude? How’s her pride? How’s her fear? Her anger? How’s her patience? How’s her faith operating?
Why is self-control so hard?
Power of the flesh – we want what we want.
Encouragement of temptations – we need what we want.
Selfishness – we get what we want.
He who has no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” (Prov 25:28
It’s like the prisoners being in control of the prison.
The kids being in control of the school.
The addict in control of the pharmacy.
But meekness is more than telling ourselves NO. It is realizing:
· The vanity of a self-fulfilled life.
· The emptiness of a self-indulgent life.
· The recklessness of a self-important life.
· The danger of a self-directed life.
· The pain of a self-inflicted life.
That’s why an additional meaning for the word meek is honesty.
Paul said we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think but soberly—not undrunk but clearly, realistically. I am not better just because I think I am nor am I worse.
Meekness lets us be honest about our lives. It says, “I don’t know everything I need to know, I can’t do everything I need to do and I can’t meet every need I am going to have. I can’t control everything that needs controlling.” I NEED HELP!
So Jesus said: Oh the blessedness of the man who has the honesty to admit his own ignorance, his own weakness, and his own need.
Meekness points me away from myself to God. It is an honest evaluation of who I am and an accurate understanding of the greatness of who He is. I see my limits and I see His power. I submit my limits to Him and trust Him to make me able.
He doesn’t beat me into submission. He simply shows me who I am when I’m in charge. He shows me the emptiness of my results and shows me what I can be, yielded to Him.
Which is the second part of the Beatitude: Oh the blessedness of the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
David had already told us this: Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. (Ps 37:3-9)
Inheriting the land or the earth is our inheritance until we die. It’s just on the other side of surrender. Meekness is a surrendered life. A surrendered life is one that has placed the demands and expectations of life upon the One who created that life. Jesus calls it the inheritance of the earth: which is, the promised riches of God’s provisions for living faithfully while on earth.
Until we die, the objective is to live on earth with the same degree of surrender there is in Heaven. Thy will be done on earth as it is being done in Heaven.
Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t of the earth so his goal wasn’t to make earth better. It was to transfer the glory of Heaven into His people so, as they lived out their lives on earth, the goodness of God could be seen in them.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)
Paul said: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20)
The life I live, I live through the faith of the Son of God. He’s the example. He defined the terms. He’s the one who showed us what meekness looked like: by being bold, courageous, tender, loving, stern, forgiving, passionate, violent to throw the money-changers out of the temple, yet, silent before his accusers and compliant to those who nailed Him to the cross.
He said: I came to do the will of the One who sent Me. Jesus’s life message was to live in submission to the Father, to do whatever it took to do the Father’s will. That takes strength under control to be strong when appropriate or weak when that is a better response. Power to submit – determination to yield.
The blessedness of the meek is a surrendered life, trusting in the adequacy of God to manifest in our lives the evidence of His purpose and power, enjoying the riches of what He provides for us while on earth.
O the blessedness of those who have submitted every instinct, and impulse, and passion to God’s control, who have the honesty to admit their own ignorance and their own weakness, declaring themselves in need of God’s help, for such people are blessed for Heaven operates within them now!
An old story from India tells about a mouse who is so terrified of cats he asks a magician to transform him into a cat. That helped him with his fear until he met a dog. He was so afraid of the dog, he asks the magician to turn him into a dog. He is content until he meets a tiger. Once again, he has the magician turned him into what he fears. But when the tiger comes to complain that he met a hunter, the magician refuses to help. The magician said, "I will return you to what you originally were, for though you have the body of a tiger, you still have the heart of a mouse."
He thought the outside determined the inside. It’s just the other way around. Regardless of how he appeared, he remained what he was. That’s why the change Jesus expects of us can only happen from the inside out.
God willed to make known to you what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
Only God can produce the life we want. Those who have discovered this are called the meek. They are the ones who demonstrate strength under control and honesty in their dependency on Him. In light of the pendulum, they live the balanced life.
1. God didn’t save us so we could continue life on our terms.
2. Neither was His goal to simply make our lives better.
3. He is the benefit for living effectively on earth, which is why the reward is called blessing.
4. As His children, we are blessed to be among those living according to His design.
5. Being blessed isn’t the result of our efforts, but the evidence of His goodness working on our behalf and us living in agreement with His plan.