"The Who Shall Inherit the What?"
Rev. Denn Guptill, BCC, Sept. 29 1996
If you were to survey a select group of people in 38 countries asking them this question, "Taking all things together, would you say you are: 1) not at all happy, 2) not very happy or 3) quite happy or very happy" where do you think Canada would rank. First? Fifth? Tenth? How about twenty first? Iceland was first, the Netherlands were fifth and Britain was tenth. Only 78.4 percent of Canadians surveyed responded with number three. Compare that to 97 percent in Iceland, 93.1 percent in Northern Ireland, and 81.4 percent in Turkey. Now personally I would have thought it would have been easier to be happy in Canada say then in Northern Ireland where people blow up buildings or other people. Maybe it’s because we define happy in different terms.
However the quest for "Happy" isn’t necessarily a new thing, in the first twelve verses of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about this elusive quality of happiness. You say "that’s nice a sermon about being happy" and really for a lot of people that is their view of Jesus, someone who makes you happy. Almost sounds like Aladdin’s genie. And yet the views that Jesus is espousing here are anything but nice because they don’t line up at all with our concepts of happiness.
What is happy? Good question, In last May’s issue of "Psychological Science," David Myers of Michigan’s Hope College and Ed Diener of the University of Illinois both psychologists co-authored an article entitled "Who is Happy?" And this is some of what they discovered.
No time of life is notably happier or unhappier than any other.
There is little difference in happiness between black and white Americans
Wealthy Americans are only marginally happier then poor Americans
Lottery winners are initially elated but the feeling soon wears off
A "Psychology Today" article on happiness a number of years back was based on a survey of 5,200 readers and while they didn’t discover what happiness was they did come to some conclusions about unhappiness the biggest being that unhappiness was "Wanting what I don’t have but think that you do" It kind of reminds me of the story of the lady in California who wanted to be buried in her Rolls Royce. Well they were lowering the car into the grave with a crane one grave digger said to the other one, "now that’s living!"
The one thing that we discover in the Sermon on the Mount is that real happiness is a result not a goal, you find it when you are looking for something else and the something else that you need to be looking for is the Kingdom of God. Matthew 6:33 (NIV) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So if you are devoting your life to the pursuit of happiness you have as much chance as you would pursuing the Holy Grail, we know that it should be out there some where but we just can’t seem to find it. By the way the Holy Grail is supposedly the cup that Christ used in the last supper.
And so Christ begins by telling us Happy are those who are poor in spirit, and Happy are those who mourn. Not your average everyday concept of happiness is it? And now Christ adds to those thoughts these words Matthew 5:5 (NIV) Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Now that’s a radical concept isn’t it? Blessed are the meek. That statement is totally contradictory to our entire way of thinking. If we were to develop a western beatitude it would be "Happy are the aggressor" We are aggressive in everything we do, from business to sports to women’s lib to evangelism. And if you’re not aggressive then you can take aggressiveness training and learn to be aggressive, and you can let people know what you want, how you want it and when you want it and start getting your own way. We figure that if the meek are going to inherit the earth it’s only because nobody else will want it in the shape it’s in. For most of us, meek means weak and none of us wants to be thought of as weak. You probably won’t find a pile of people lined up for "Meekness Training"
And so when we hear that meekness is to be desired we say that’s rubbish or as Nietzsche said "I regard it as the most fatal and seductive lie that ever existed." To be frank a lot of people feel the words of Christ at this point are at the best a mistake and at the worst a deliberate lie. Our experience has shown us that the meek won’t inherit the earth. The multinational corporations, the slick politicians, the multi-married movie stars, the porno producers, the military dictators, they are the ones who will inherit the earth. There doesn’t seem to be much hope that we’ll hear let alone heed Christ’s third suggestion for happiness.
Aristotle defines a virtue as the means or the middle ground between two extremes. He goes on to define this particular virtue of meekness or Praus in the original language of the New Testament as the middle ground between excessive anger and excessive angerlessness. In other words the meek person is not a hot head, but he’s not a wimp either. What Christ is saying with this virtue is "happy is the man or woman who gets angry at the right time and doesn’t get angry at the wrong time."
If we see this in context with the rest of Christ’s teachings it would say that it is never right to be angry over a wrong done to ourselves but is often right to be angry at injury done to others. Selfish anger is always a sin, but selfless anger can be one of the great moral dynamics or our time. It is this type of anger that changes the world when it sees injustices done. And there is a lot out there to be angry about.
Another way to look at the original word for meek is to realize that it can also be translated, gentle and gentle is a relational term. It has to do with our relationships with ourselves and with others.
Often times our aggressiveness comes from not liking ourselves very much. Think about it? Insecurities push us to prove to others and most of all to ourselves that we are important. If only we could get ahead, if only we could get to the top of the ladder then surely we’d feel more worthwhile.
The meek are more gentle with themselves. It’s not that they forsake all efforts at self improvement., but their aspirations and achievements flow out of a relaxed centre. They basically accept who they are , and so they don’t have to prove themselves to anyone by coming out on top. We can be gentle with ourselves when we realize that we have been called and claimed by God Himself. We have worth therefore independent of what the world may thinks. It’s ours whether we win lose or draw. It’s ours whether we come out on top of the pile or if we are buried at the bottom.
It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer the pastor and theologian who died in a Nazi prison camp who said "the meek must renounce every right of their own and live for the sake of Jesus Christ. When reproached, they hold their peace: when treated with violence they endure it patiently, when men drive them from their presence, they yield their ground. . . they are determined to leave their rights to God alone. . .Their right is the will of their Lord---that and no more."
Consider Jesus about whom it was written in Matthew 21:5 (NIV) "Say to the Daughter of Zion, ’See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’" The word that is used here as gentle is the same word that is translated meek in the beatitudes.
The greatest meaning of meekness though is the fact that we are called to be meek toward the Lordship of Christ, when we allow our entire life to come under the rule of God. When our lives and loves and angers and fears are at the will of God, then you will find happiness.
Christ goes on to say "For they shall inherit the world." The world belongs to the saviours not to the conquerors. Remember who the holidays are usually for. The world continually honours those who have sought to make the world a better place to live. We honour Pasteur not Napoleon, Einstein not Hitler.
If you were to go to the Netherlands you would discover that they view Americans and Canadians in a totally different light, no offence to any Americans present. When the Netherlands was liberated in 1945 the U.S. troops arrived as conquerors and the Canadians arrived as liberators, and while both words have the same number of letters they are a world apart in attitude. And still half a century after the fact American tourists have discovered that while travelling in Holland it pays to display in a very prominent spot a maple leaf.
If we look beyond today, beyond the immediate we discover that the world doesn’t belong to the aggressor but to the meek.