21st May 2011

Not Just An Attitude Platitude

The third in the series on The Beatitudes

“Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

I think that these eight verses of Scripture are rightly labelled “Beatitudes”, indicating divine blessing more than human attainment. So I won’t be telling you that one about “Beatitude” meaning “beautiful attitude”. It sound admirably self-helpy, and as a pun it very nearly works, but it misses whole dimensions of what the passage is about.

It depends whether you take the passage as a set of instructions or as a description. You could read Jesus as saying, “This is what I want you to do—suffer poverty, mourn, be persecuted, etc.—and if you manage it, I’ll make it up to you.” Or, if you take it descriptively, the focus is on what God will do: these are the sorts of blessing God gives.  This is different—those who do not fit in with the world’s status and value system can rejoice in how it works in God’s realm.

Looking at the Beatitudes as a whole, and at this one in particular, the descriptive reading makes more sense, because if virtues such as meekness, patience and humility were accomplishments then they would falsify themselves. Rather, they are things that grow within you during submission to God’s will; it happens when the focus is on what God is doing, including on his right to reward as he sees fit.

And God sees things quite contrary to normal human expectations. Meekness isn’t the first thing you’d think of to get you power and authority in this world or the next; but it is something God creates and values. The Amplified Bible puts “meek” as synonymous with “mild, patient, longsuffering”—all of which closely relate to the Galatians 5:22-23 description of the “fruit of the Spirit”. Another ingredient blended into the distinctly paradox-flavoured Beatitudes: It is the work of God’s Spirit in you that results in the reward from God.

I pray for your overturning of worldly power and authority in favour of those whose lives are truly submitted to you.

Study by Fiona Jones 

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