Power Under Control
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.
When I was in college, a guy would appear instantly 100 times cuter to me if he was holding a small baby. There was (and admittedly still is) something so amazing by watching a guy, who is supposed to be tough, strong, and full of muscles be gentle enough to really enjoy holding an infant. The same goes for guys who get on the floor, put on a feathered boa and tiara, and play tea party with 5 year olds in their lives.
I’m also amazed when watching huge, strong animals exhibit gentleness with their babies or with other animals. The elephant, who you never want to see charging in your direction, who can also give a gentle hug with their trunk. The huge horse, who could crush your fingers, gently lifting the treat from your palm. The dog, who is supposed to an aggressive monster, curled up next to the infant or letting the toddler climb all over them.
There is something special about witnessing such an imbalance in power. In seeing the obviously more powerful being keeping their strength and power under control so the much more vulnerable being will know they are safe. It is this idea that is captured in the third Beatitude of the meek inheriting the earth. In fact, the original Greek word for meek is one that is also used to describe reigning in a stallion.
Too often, meekness is seen as weakness. It can also often be mistaken for niceness. But it isn’t that at all. A meek person is someone who actually has a lot of power but CHOOSES not to use it to benefit themselves. To be meek implies mercy and self-restraint. If you think those are easy things, try forgiving the person who has hurt you most in this life. Or try staying away from chocolate during the upcoming holidays. Mercy and self-restraint at not things which come easily or naturally to very many of us.
To be meek is to be humble and gentle. It is to draw courage, strength, and conviction from God, not from our own, self-centered, human resources. It is a state of mind which outlaws a self-seeking attitude to oneself and hard-hearted attitude towards others. To live meekly is to live in such a way that we don’t want any glory for ourselves and we are willing to be thought of as nothing in order to achieve what is good and beneficial for others. It means we don’t get the credit we, honestly, so often feel we deserve.
One of the things which I find most intriguing about this particular Beatitude is to remember the audience to which Jesus was preaching. He wasn’t preaching to the religious or political leaders of his time, but to a hillside full of villagers. He was speaking to the average citizen of his time. People who, when it came to faith and politics, had very little, if any, power. It is a powerful reminder to us that we all have power we can control. Perhaps we don’t have millions of dollars in the bank, hundreds of employees on the payroll, or regular phone calls with other world leaders, but we do have the power to control how we treat other people, how we speak to other people, and how we use the resources we have been given.
In calling blessed those who are meek, Jesus is challenging people to really think about how they use what power and control they do have. Do they use it to bring glory to themselves, or to God?
It is worth noting that even the most perfectly meek person who ever walked the earth, Jesus himself, did not let being meek mean he never displayed strength or power. On the contrary, he cleansed the Temple BY FORCE twice (Matthew 21:12-17; John 2:14-15) and denounced the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders multiple times (Matt 23:13-26; Mark 12:13-40; John 8:12-59; John 9:39-41). He had access to all the power in the universe. He could have called down countless angels to any time to be done with his time on earth and yet he allowed Roman soldiers to nail him to a cross. That is meekness.
It’s not about not using strength and power. Instead, it is about the motivation behind when you CHOOSE to you use your strength and power. Do you use it to bring glory to yourself, or to God? Do you use it to defend your ego, or God’s honor?
- What images come to your mind when you think of power under control?
- What power do you have in your life which you abuse? What power do you use to bring glory to God?
- How does your image of Jesus fit with the characteristic of meekness? Is it harder for you to picture him as someone powerful and cleansing the Temple or someone who is humble and gentle? Why?