MOST OF US seek shortcuts to happiness. We search for the gold nuggets of spiritual satisfaction on the surface instead of in the depths, where they are found in abundance. It is only natural to follow the line of least resistance, forgetting all the while that heat and light are both products of resistance, a resistance which releases the latent forces of life.
Many of us are like the man out West who had a junkyard. He labored hard and long, buying and selling the old salvage he gathered from the back alleys of the city. But one day he discovered that his junkyard was located on an oil field. He hired a drilling crew, and soon the black gold flowed abundantly from the bosom of the earth. His junkyard was transformed into a veritable mine of wealth which knew no limits.
In these Beatitudes we have a mine of spiritual gold. To many it seems too good to be true, so they go their way, scratching around on the surface of life, picking up salvage in the form of gadgets, gold, and gimmicks. Because they ignore the challenge and the promise of these secrets of happiness, they miss the key to radiant living and remain spiritual paupers, submerged in a misery of their own making.
They forget that what happens within them is more important than what happens to them. Because they have built no inner fortifications, they fall prey to the Enemy. They become filled with resentments and are baffled by frustration and depressed by disillusionment.
Would God have bothered to send His Son to the world if we had been able to face life and eternity alone? Christ’s coming to the world proved that God was not happy with our unhappiness. He sent Him not only that we might have eternal life but that we might have life here and now, and that we might have it more abundantly—Life with a capital L!
Jesus’ teaching was unique and different. He took religion out of the theoretical realm and placed it in the practical. He used no qualifying statements or phrases in declaring His way of life. He didn’t use such phrases as “I venture to say” or “Perhaps it’s this way” or “It is my considered opinion.”
He spoke with authority! He spoke with finality! He spoke as though He knew . . . and He did! When the Sermon on the Mount was completed we read that “the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28–29).
His was not the soft, empty conjecture of the philosopher who professes to search for truth but readily admits he has never found it. It was more the confident voice of the mathematician who gives his answers unhesitatingly because the proof of the answer can be found within the problem.
He taught with authority because He was more than just another religious teacher—He was God Himself, who had come down in human flesh. His words are true, because He is God and God cannot lie. “God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1–2). And because He is God incarnate, we can depend totally and absolutely on the trustworthiness of Him and His Word.
In this third Beatitude we have the words “[Happy] are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Has it ever occurred to you that there is happiness in meekness?
Searching for the Meaning of Meekness
To most people today the word meek brings to mind a picture of someone who is a weak personality, someone who allows everyone to walk over him. Meekness, in fact, in the popular mind is not seen as a desirable personality trait. Our society says, “Get ahead by intimidation” or “Look out for Number One.” In the eyes of many people the only way to get ahead is to disregard other people and shove them out of the way. “I want to climb the ladder of success,” one woman was quoted as saying, “and I don’t care whose fingers I step on as I climb up the rungs.”
But what does Jesus mean when He speaks of meekness? Does He, for example, mean that we are to be cringing before God, fearful of Him and slavishly yielding to His will because of fear of what He might do to us if we fail?
Could it be that Christ wanted His followers to be like the subdued puppy that comes crawling into its master’s presence whipped and beaten? Is happiness the result of forced submission? Certainly not!
Jesus is not trying to convey the thought that God is an autocrat whose ego can be satisfied only by coerced yielding. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no happiness in being compelled to do what you do not wish to do. No employees are more miserable than those who constantly resent their position in life. It would be against God’s nature, as well as against man’s free moral agency, to demand an allegiance which is not freely offered.
God conducts Himself in keeping with His righteousness. He will never violate our freedom to choose between eternal life and spiritual death, good and evil, right and wrong. His ultimate goal is not only to glorify Himself but also to make a happy relationship with His crowning creation—man. Never will He make any demands which encroach upon our freedom to choose.
Or does the meekness to which Jesus refers mean weakness? Does it mean that a special blessing is to be given to the feeble, the frail, or the fragile?
Certainly God has a special concern for those who are weak and powerless in this world. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14). But this is not what Jesus means by meekness here. The disciples were to be meek, but not weak and vacillating. They were to be disciplined, but not subdued and harmless in the face of evil.
Or does Jesus refer to those who are by nature mild-tempered? Some people are born with nicer dispositions than others. Their mild manner is not so much the product of prayer and spiritual grace as it is a matter of heredity. They are mild because their mother or father or grandmother was mild-mannered. This is an admirable trait, but Jesus surely didn’t refer to these fortunate few who by nature have good dispositions. That would mean that many who have dispositions like buzz saws could never know this happiness to which He refers.
In His characteristic way, Jesus was saying something quite shocking and quite revolutionary to His listeners in these words: “Happy are the meek.” He was saying something quite the opposite to our modern concept of the way to happiness.
We say, “Happy are the clever, for these shall inherit the admiration of their friends”; “Happy are the aggressive, for they shall inherit prosperity”; “Happy are the talented, for they shall inherit a career”; “Happy are the rich, for they shall inherit a world of friends and a house full of modern gadgets.”
Billy Graham, The Secret of Happiness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).
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