Blessed are the meek,Matthew 5:5
for they will inherit the earth.
Many years ago I found myself on the management training programme of a major company. It proved to be an interesting experience. I found that I naturally have a fairly quiet and gentle management style, which was not to the taste of my bosses. They sent me on a week-long residential course called ‘Developing Management Skills’, which they told me would ‘break me down’ and mould me into the kind of manager that they expected me to be. Actually, completely the reverse was true. I came away convinced that my way of managing people was not just effective, but potentially more effective than the style favoured by my bosses – the bombastic, borderline bullying approach. The course did, however, teach me that I should not always accept at face value what people tell me, but must be willing to fight my corner when necessary.
Time and time again the world tells us that in order to get on in life we have to be forceful, strident and not afraid to trample over people in order to succeed. That is not the impression we get from this beatitude, though. Whilst the world might be surprised to hear that it is the ‘meek’ who ‘will inherit the earth’, those of us who follow Christ should not be. Here once again we see the counter-cultural message that Jesus brings to his followers. Jesus was not afraid to exert himself on occasions, but the overriding image we get of him in the gospels is of someone who was gentle and humble in the face of others. Since, as Christ’s followers, we are striving to make ourselves more like him, we should follow his example and aspire to meekness.
Where will this get us, though? Is it possible to progress in our careers if we strive to be meek? Maybe not – but then we have a far higher calling as Christians than to a senior leadership role in our business. Equally, though, it could be said that any company that expects its staff to trample over each other and stab their colleagues in the back for promotion is one in which we should not be happy to work; perhaps we’re better off seeking other employment. The ultimate calling of Christians is to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven – God’s kingdom both here on earth right now, and after our bodies have died. If we follow Christ, the Bible describes us as ‘co-heirs with Christ’ (Romans 8:17). Since the earth and everything in it belongs to Christ, we will ultimately inherit the earth – just as Jesus tells us we will in this beatitude. What better reason could we have for working to live lives that are meek?
I personally find this beatitude very tricky. It’s very tricky to be meek in the western world today. We are conditioned to be pushy, to stand up for ourselves, to push ourselves forward, and to strive for success. Trying to do one’s best in the career in which we have been placed whilst also being gentle and humble is incredibly difficult. That is how we are called to live, though. I will be praying in the coming days that the Holy Spirit will work within me to make me meek like Christ. Will you join me in this prayer?