Upside Down: “Meekness”

Upside Down: “Meekness”
A Message on Matthew 5:1-5
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Feb. 18, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

Matthew 5:1-5 (NRSV)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

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Today we are beginning a sermon series that will run through Lent titled “Upside Down.” We will be looking at the teachings of Jesus that seem “upside down” and backwards from what our world tells us.

 

We’re starting off today with the topic of meekness. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

 

What does it mean to be meek? It’s a word that is falling out of use in our language. One of the most common connotations of the term implies weakness, submissiveness, being walked on. But the term means much more than that. It means righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering, and in biblical terms it means willing to follow gospel teachings.

 

One definition I like is that it is “strength under control.”

 

This past Friday I drove up to Plano to be with my dad in the hospital. My timing was not very good as I got stuck in rush hour traffic. I witnessed two near-wrecks caused by aggressive drivers. Heavy traffic is bad enough, but when you add aggressive drivers to the mix it gets much worse. It’s enough to raise your blood pressure for sure.

 

Those drivers were not practicing meekness. It was all about first-person singular: me. I am the most important. I will drive the way I want to. Get out of the way, I’m more important than you. Just the opposite of meekness.

 

Our world overwhelmingly sees “meek” in a negative light. It’s not something to strive for or  teach our children.

 

  1. Paul Getty, founder of Getty Oil Co. and the richest man in America in the late 50s once said, “The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights.”

 

There are no academy awards giving for meekness. No Olympic medals. No endorsement deals. No “trending on Facebook.”

 

So why should we strive for meekness?

 

The Apostle Paul knew a lot about meekness. In his letter that we call 2 Timothy he says gives some advice to those who want to follow Christ: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:24-25, KJV)

 

The Bible talks a lot about meekness. Listen to this from Psalm 37:

 

“8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
   Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
   though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land,
   and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.”

 

So what does it mean for the meek to inherit the earth?

 

Let’s look at the eschaton, what we call the “end times.”  Well a lot of our thinking of the end times is that we all go to heaven. We even perceive it as being up in the sky .

 

But in the book of Revelation, written by John, it says something different. Listen to this:

 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them…” (Revelation 21:1-3)

 

Now did you catch that? We don’t go up into heaven to God, but God brings heaven to earth! It’s right there, in the Bible!

 

So now does that change our perspective of the meek inheriting the earth? Hmmmmm.

 

As humans we are caught in the tension between two voices: heaven and earth. The earthly voices tell us that the purpose of life is to satisfy our own selfish desires. They tell us to put ourselves at the center of the universe, to seek power over others, to push others down in order to push ourselves up. They tell us impressions are everything, that money can buy anything, and that happiness is found in things. They tell us to look out for number one.

 

The heavenly voices, however, tell us just the opposite. They tell us to be meek. They tell us to put the needs and desires of others before our own. They tell us things like to forgive our enemies, that if someone wants your coat give them your shirt as well. They tell us that if someone slaps on on the cheek, to turn and give them the other one to slap as well. They tell us the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and that the greatest among us will be a servant.

 

Jesus, a heavenly voice, turns what the world says upside down. He provides, through the scriptures, an opposite voice to the world’s shouting.

 

And one of those things is that the meek will inherit the earth.

 

It doesn’t make logical sense. But then again, much of what Jesus does (and teaches us to do) doesn’t make sense from a worldly perspective.

 

Remember when you were a kid and you got an allowance? You learned that you could take that allowance and spend it right then on something you wanted (even though it wouldn’t buy much),  or you could save it and subsequent allowances and then get something much more valuable.

 

That’s kind of the way it is with meekness. If you are not meek, if you are the opposite of meek, if you are aggressive and self-serving and looking out only for yourself, then you may actually get some rewards in this world, things such as money, power, prestige, etc., but when your earthly life is over all those things will be gone and you’ll get to stand before Jesus to explain your actions.

 

However, if you are upside-down from that, if you are meek, if you focus on God more than on the world, if you love and care about others, if you turn the other cheek and love your neighbors and give your shirt as well as your coat, then you probably won’t receive any accolades, money, power, prestige, etc. But it will be easier to stand before Jesus on judgement day.

 

Matthew 16:26 (as well as Mark 8:36) phrases it this way: “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” Or as the singer Toby Mac puts it, “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul.”

 

One more illustration of meekness vs. non-meekness.

 

The late Cajun Humorist Justin Wilson (who my dad loved, by the way) told about a friend of his in Louisiana who (with Cajun accent) raised prize winning-Santa Gertrudis cattle.

 

One day this man is at home on his ranch eating lunch when he hears someone knocking loudly on his front door. Boom, boom, boom, boom! He goes to the door and opens it and there is a man who–szchoooom–holds a bidnezz card right up to his eye. The man say, “You see dis card here?”

 

My friend say “Yep, I can’t hep but see it. You almos got it stickin in my eye!”

 

The gubment man say “Dis here card sez I am with the US of DA department of agicuture. Dis here card sez I can go anywhere on your ranch, look at whatever I want to, do whatever I want to do, and you can did nothing about that. You understand dat?

 

My friend say, “Das fine! Go ahead on. Knock youself out wif both hands.” And went back in to finish his lunch.

 

After a few minutes he started to hear something. It sounded like a voice crying out for help. “Hep! Please hep me! Won’t ya hep me!”

 

Well he go about back and look in dat pen where he keep dat big ol Santa Gertrudis bull and he see dat gubment man has done crawled in that pen with date bull and dat bull is chasing him round and round.

 

My frien walk up to da side o dat pen and watch. “Hep! Please hep me! Won’t ya hep me!” Zoom! He watch him go by.

 

“Hep! Please hep me! Won’t ya hep me!” He watch him go by one more once, dat bull inchin ever closer.

 

“Hep! Please hep me! Won’t ya hep me!”

 

My friend say, “Show him dat card. Show dat bull your card!”

 

The rancher in that story exhibited meekness. He didn’t try to prohibit the government man from coming onto his farm and inspecting things.

 

The government man, on the other hand, did not exhibit meekness. He leveraged his power in an attempt to intimidate the rancher. He gained access to the ranch, an immediate reward, but found himself in trouble when he got in the pen with the bull.

 

So my challenge for you today is to be more like the rancher and less like the “gubment” man. During this season of Lent seek to be meek. Make a conscious effort to tune out the siren song of the world whose chorus is that the meek get crushed. Instead focus on things of heaven. Don’t seek the things of the world, but seek the things of heaven.

 

After all, the meek will inherit the earth. I garontee.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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