Okay, but how do the fiery become meek?
Being meek, I’m guessing, is a learned trait. Moses, later known as the meekest man on earth, once, impulsively, killed an Egyptian he saw bullying a Hebrew.
The murder resulted in decades of “slow time,” hanging out in the wilderness in solitude, until he slowed down enough to notice the bush burning in holy ground. And, at the risk of his life, he learnt to obey, becoming someone to whom God spoke “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex 33:11).
We become meek the same way we develop any of the traits Jesus prizes, like agape love.
Firstly, we ask Jesus to change our hearts and create in us a gentle spirit like his.
And secondly, when he sends us “practice papers,” we try to pass them. People may provoke and annoy us. Will we answer with patience and wisdom and leave the issue in the hands of him who judges justly? Or flare up, answer harshness with harshness, defend ourselves and attack?
Jesus, the Meek, Gentle Man who Changed History
Jesus went to his death with the gentleness and dignity which were foretold of him.
He will not storm or rage,
Nor will his voice be heard in the streets. (Matt.12 19-21)
As a sheep before its shearers is dumb,
So he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 42:2)
The die was cast against him by the time he faced Annas, Caiaphas and Pilate. He was a man caught in a machine. Had he protested, stormed, raged, cried, cursed, denounced, or created a scene, he would have still died.
But had he not behaved with self-possessed meekness and quiet dignity-(so unusual for a tortured, brutalized man standing trial for his life that Pilate awed, and a little afraid, asked him, “Who are you? Are you a king?”) the death of this innocent Lamb of God who atoned for the sins of the entire world would not have reverberated down the centuries.
The hardened Roman centurion, observing him die, would not have said, “Truly this man was the son of God,” as we say 20 centuries later, as we watch “The Passion of the Christ,” for instance.
And sometimes the meek die with the most toys too.
Here’s a common one from the Book of Untrue Proverbs: He who dies with the most toys wins.
He who dies with the most holiday homes, swimming pools, tennis courts, fancy cars, private planes, boats, jewellery and companies wins.
But read between the lines of their obituaries, and you’ll often find isolation, joyless self-indulgence, depression, paranoia, bizarre eccentricities, addiction, infidelity, divorce, familial breakdown, and lawsuits.
Conversely, however, the blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:12). Jesus says that it can be our father’s good pleasure to give us the things the pagans run after—(which may take the form of giving us the good sense and opportunity to enjoy things without owning them) and, besides, the beautiful Kingdom.
* * *
I was mentored by a deep Christian woman, Lolly Dunlap, when I lived in America in my thirties.
Now, I didn’t think I was materialistic then, would have hotly refuted the suggestion, and, in fact, looked down on those whom I judged to be materialistic with a touch of disdain.
But oddly, when I chattered to Roy or close friends, you’d hear me say, “Well, when we make some money we will buy a house on the water; or a vacation home in the mountains or by the sea; a boat, a camper van…”
* * *
Well, Lolly was an absolutely unworldly woman, gentle, generous and trusting. She was constantly giving me gifts, her beloved books, poems she had written, beautifully transcribed, or hand-painted capodimonte porcelain roses!
And, to my amusement, I slowly discovered that this God-immersed unworldly women, married to a church-planter passionate about building Christ’s Kingdom, owned all the things I then planned to buy “when I had money!”
She owned a mountain cabin near Shenandoah National Park with 100 acres around it, from which she could see three states. She had a house on the water in Norfolk. She had a boat. She had a camper van, in which she used to go on long holidays in the lake-filled Voyageurs National Park, Canada.
How did she get all this? Her husband, John Dunlap, was a church planter–one of the post war breed of entrepreneurial, visionary American evangelicals–who founded the famous Tab church in Norfolk (which spawned several daughter churches, including the Williamsburg Community Chapel, which I attended), Triple R Ranch, Norfolk Christian Schools, Norfolk Institute of Learning Disabilities, and a long-running very popular radio programme.
They had three children, and were generous givers who lived simply. However, John Dunlap was an insomniac with a gift—repairing clocks. And so he bought antique broken clocks for a song, repaired them, and then traded them. One weekend, he went to a fair in North Carolina, with an antique clock he’d repaired, and traded up, and traded up, and returned with a used camper van. He similarly traded up from a clock to a boat.
Dunlap inherited $10,000 dollars, and used part of it to buy a cabin and a hundred acres near Shenandoah National Park, as well as Triple R Ranch, a Christian camp that has blessed thousands.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom. So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well, Matthew 6: 31-33.
And so you can die with the Kingdom of God, its righteousness, its shalom and peace (and if it is your father’s pleasure, with the toys which enhance your joy.)
Why is it so hard to believe that the meek inherit the earth?
Because, in the short run, the pushy, the ruthless, the scheming, the manipulative, the deceitful, and those without conscience do seem to win the prize. They apparently get their own way, get away with it.
And this is where practical faith comes in. Christian faith is not mere assent that Christ Jesus was the Son of God, who came to redeem us. That’s just the starting point. Faith is also believing what he taught: that one can walk in gentleness and integrity, and still be given the things the pagans run after (Mt 6:32-33).
Have you—or your children—ever lost something they wanted while they watched more pushy, aggressive or manipulative people get it? I have. But I have not suffered permanent harm because of these out-manoeuvrings, and neither have my children.
* * *
“Manipulate,” literally means taking things into one’s own hands. And then, all you get is what your hands can grab. “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible, contrary to popular opinion; trusting and relying on God, depending on God, however, is a consistent exhortation.
But, in fact, when tempted to take matters into your own hands, to work harder, network harder, hustle harder, it is good sometimes to just stop, and pray for blessing. To re-align yourself with God.
To remember that, ultimately, wealth, power and success are in the hands of God and he gives them to whom he pleases, (I Chron 29:12). To remember that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
To remember that all things are God’s, and that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the things the pagans run after. When the time is right, and as much as is good for us.
The discipline of trusting God rather than taking matters into our own hands, using the weapons of this world is a hard one to learn.
But worth it! The meek might lose battles, but win the war. Lose in the short run, but in the long run, develop some of the gentleness of Jesus. Become the kind of people whom both God and man want to help.
By being meek, we often set the stage for another power to rescue us. It has been so in my experience. And we experience some of the mysterious blessings of God. “You shall inherit what others have toiled for.” (Psalm 105:44). “To the one who pleases him, God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and heaping only to give to the one who pleases the Lord.” (Ecc 2:26).
* * *
How can we know that the meek really do inherit the earth? That it is safe to be meek?
We can only know it experimentally and experientially. We just have to try it and see.
And here, I take a deep breath, for meekness does not come easily to me.
But I want to learn of Jesus who was meek and humble of heart. I know his ways are best, and so I am going to set my face to follow him, and so find rest for my soul.
An excerpt from my ebook and paperback, The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth available on kindle and PB on