“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
The meek rarely, if ever, get good press, if they get any press at all. In fact, being meek or part of “the meek” is often like being part of a running joke.
There are reasons for that. The meek are people who are more quiet and gentle. They may have internal (or even external!) strength, but they keep it under control. They are reckoned as “mild” people. As such, they are easily forgotten and passed over. It is always easier to just hear the shouting voices and to deal with the loud mouths, along with those who lash out and act out according to their whims and desires. It is much easier to forget about those people who are more reasonable and who maintain their composure. And, as tyrants know, they are a lot easier to oppress as well!
But Jesus does not make a joke out of the meek– He will, in fact, later identify with them (Matthew 11:29). He declares them blessed– happy and fortunate (Matthew 5:5). He can do so because of their ultimate end– they inherit the earth (or land, Matthew 5:5).
Much ink has been spilled and not a few false doctrines have been advanced on the basis of the meek “inheriting the earth.” Suffice it to say that Jesus is evoking, if not quoting, Psalm 37:11, and much regarding the “beatitudes” is quite practical and earthy. Jesus is as much challenging the standard worldview about our time on the earth as He is pointing to some later spiritual reality; if this is not clear from Matthew 5:3-9, it is much more so in a later retelling in Luke 6:20-26. We are not wise to build our eschatological views primarily on what Jesus says in Matthew 5:5.
Nevertheless, why is inheriting the earth the reason for the blessed state of the meek? It speaks to the ultimate value in meekness– there is strength there, but it does not have to be flexed and used. The meek are more than happy to remain under the radar, so to speak– loud mouths may, for a time, advance in life, but if they run afoul of authority, we all know their end. Meanwhile the meek are able to continue their existence, reproduce, and maintain their existence on earth. Moderation and self-control pay off in the end.
Even though we do well to understand the verse in terms of the physical in its context, we can certainly make spiritual applications. There is great value in sensibility, maintaining strength under control, and not feeling compelled to loudly advance oneself. Jesus Himself is meek in heart, and we are called upon to follow His example (Matthew 11:29, 1 John 2:6).
The world does not lack loud people aggressively trying to advance their own agendas; it never has, it never will. In such an environment, those who have no less conviction but maintain moderation and self-control are easily passed over but are no less valuable or important. Meekness has never been really considered a virtue in the world, let alone a mark of manliness; yet in the Kingdom of God, those who are meek are greatly treasured and honored. Let us work to develop a spirit of meekness, and inherit the Kingdom!
Ethan R. Longhenry