“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Inheriting the earth sounds both amazing, for the recipients, and audacious, for everyone else. Jesus’ words presuppose a few things.
One, the world rightly belongs to someone, and that’s hard to swallow. Jesus’ original hearers would know that this someone was the fundamental Maker of all things, even if they did not see Jesus as that someone, yet.
Two, to state the obvious, the meek have not yet inherited the earth.
Three, though the world may “rightly” belongs to someone, it has not been fully possessed by that person.
We know that last statement is true by looking at several other recorded words of Jesus, and the way his early followers understood them:
“when all things are renewed, when the Son of man sits on his glorious throne…” Mt. 19:28
“you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel…” Lk. 22:28-30
“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be defeated is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:25-26
Jesus’ words are incredibly difficult to believe, impossible to translate into action, without believing those three underlying things.
Because, sometimes (many times?), it really doesn’t look like the earth belongs to God. So, how could he “pass-it-on-to” anyone, and never mind “the meek”? And who wants to be called meek? Replace it with its’ synonyms and it becomes even less attractive: yielding, humble, obedient, mild, gentle, unassuming. These are not the kinds of adjectives we think of as describing people who will “inherit the earth”. It’s the ambitious, the victors, the takers, the charismatic, the successful, who seemingly have possession of the earth. Yet, the same adjective is used to describe Jesus twice in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
That last passage is quoted by Matthew from the Hebrew Old Testament book of Zechariah, and the word translated as “meek” is actually more often translated as “oppressed” there. Sometimes it is simply translated as “poor” (Is. 32:7, Is. 3:14-15). And looking at those passages reinforces that being “oppressed” or “poor” is not going to help you get ahead, in any conventional sense. But it’s also clear that when the world is taken back by the one to whom it rightfully belongs, it will be the oppressed, the poor, the meek, who enjoy its’ recreation.
It used to be hard for me to accept that the earth belongs to someone, but it helps to know that this someone is no tyrant, but made himself meek. We’ve seen to what lengths he’ll go for us. It’s still hard for me to be meek, but it helps to know that the calls to be humble come from the most loving King.