Lesson 5: Blessed Are The Gentle
Matthew 5.5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are the gentle… humble…meek. Each of those words are used in different translations. No matter how it’s translated, it’s counter to the worldly view that only the powerful, mighty, wealthy, beautiful, popular, bold and daring will be blessed. Many churches have fallen for a prosperity gospel averring our circumstances reflect God’s favor. However, God’s people have never been the most powerful, nor the wealthiest. This was certainly true in Christ’s earthly time when Israel was occupied by a foreign power. Why wouldn’t we all worship Rome’s gods? Or earlier in history, Babylon’s or Greece’s or Assyria’s gods? If their circumstances determined the one, true, most powerful god, then Israel’s YHWH would not even make the top 10 list. Even the early church, in its first few months of existence, experienced people being imprisoned and killed.
We are not to look at things the way the rest of the world does. We trust that humility, gentleness, meekness will prevail. Serving and loving others is our calling. Adam Grant in his seminal work, Give and Take, points out that surprisingly at the top of organizational pyramids more people are Givers; they serve and assist without seeking anything in return. They also dominate the jobs at the bottom because they do not seek self-promotion. Takers—those who receive without giving anything back–do not survive long at the top. They are sabotaged by other Takers and by the Matchers (those making deals or helping on the basis of quid pro quo).
In this verse, Christ is quoting Psalm 37.11—“But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” How cruel this may have sounded to His audience at the time, who were humbly waiting for God to fulfill His promises. True, they were living in the land of their forefathers but it wasn’t theirs to fully own or govern. We too might be wondering when our labor will be rewarded. How long must I serve others—even those who don’t appreciate it— before I am promoted or see a pay increase? Maybe I should take matters into my own hands.
Yet Christ is calling His disciples and those in the crowd to maintain the right heart towards God and not seek any power/influence, wealth, popularity or other trappings of what we might call success. Throughout His teachings, He warns us against serving other gods—such as wealth, known as mammon—that promise us peace, love and joy. Our peace is not found with dollars in a bank account or romantic affairs or a cover story on a news forum. Our peace comes because we know Him and He knows us. We are stewards of God’s possessions. Even the Israelites were warned not to think too highly of themselves after occupying the Promised Land.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect and its cousin, the superiority bias, describe how we think our capabilities are greater than they actually are.7 More than 90% of us think we’re above the average capabilities of our peers—a mathematical impossibility. Those scoring in the bottom 1/8th (F— in grades) think they perform above average (close to a C grade). We think we’re better at our jobs than we might be. One management guru claims we each have 2.4 blind spots on average. Blind spots are those actions or behaviors in which we think we excel but others can see that we don’t. We then should be gentle, meek, humble with a true sense of our capabilities.
We think we own our success. Our success is often because we were in the right place at the right time; our disasters were often because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most others don’t hurt you intentionally; often people are doing something for themselves and you just happen to be in the way. Thus, our circumstances are not an indication of God’s favor. He wants us to remain humble, meek and gentle despite prosperity or poverty, or however much we’re self-assured and self-congratulatory.
…for they shall inherit the land.
What is this Promised Land? How many “Jordan Rivers” do we need to cross before we can inherit it? How many “giants” do we need to fight? How many “cities” do we need to conquer? And how can a meek or gentle person inherit it? One of the pillars of God’s covenantal promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the land—a place to call their own. Earlier in Psalm 37, we are encouraged to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” You might want to think about what cultivating faithfulness—resilience in the face of postponed promises, confidence in a God we can’t see—might look like.
In an oft-quoted promise, we know God has plans for our welfare, not for calamity, but for a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29.11). The requirement in that promise is to settle down—outside the Promised Land, in exile from home—for the duration and help our neighbors prosper, even those who are aboriginal to this foreign land. For if they prosper, then we too will prosper. The exile is not going to end before God’s determined time. Don’t try to make it happen sooner. Do your best now, today.
Several times in my career I’ve worked for horrible bosses. They were horrible in different ways—incompetent, dishonest, untrustworthy, narcissistic, power-hungry. I prayed for “them” to change or for my job to change. Only when I asked God to help me serve them, follow them as I would follow Him, and only when I started to do just those things that made the horrible bosses shine before others, God intervened and changed the circumstances. All I could do was to cultivate faithfulness. All I could do was to seek the welfare of those I live among.
- Matthew 5.5
- Matthew 6.24
- Psalm 37.3, 11
- Deuteronomy 6.10-15 (note proximity to the Shema in 6.3)
- Jeremiah 29.4-14
1. What does meek, humble, gentle look or feel like to you?
2. What “land” would you like to inherit? When would you like to get it?
3. What’s in your way of getting to the promised land? What was in the Israelites’ way at different times in their history?
4. What teachings of Christ do you recall that deal with those obstacles?
5. What will you do differently this week?
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Blessed Are those who hunger & thirst For righteousness