How The Meek Inherit The Earth (Now)

girl meek at peace enjoying outside

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

—Matthew 5:5

We cannot see the world as God means it in the future, save as our souls are characterized by meekness. In meekness, we are its only inheritors. Meekness alone makes the spiritual retina pure to receive God’s things as they are, mingling with them neither imperfection nor impurity.  

—George MacDonald

What did Jesus mean when He promised that the meek would “inherit the land”?

It must include heaven: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells,” (2 Peter 3:13). But as I research the last chapters of the meekness book, I’m starting to see that the inheritance starts here and now.

Here are three ways the meek may inherit this present earth.

1. The meek inherit the earth when they enjoy what they have. 

This side of heaven, we may have little. But it is still the abundant life that Jesus came to bring (John 10:10). Matthew Henry explained that the meek, “inherit the earth in that they are sure to have as much of it as is good for them: as much as will serve to bear them through this world to a better; and who would covet more? Enough is as good as a feast.” 

To the meek, everyday mercies appear as wonders. The sunset and the rain, the laughter of a child and the breeze on your face, good sleep and sweet tastes—to receive these with wonder is part of the inheriting promise of meekness. The meek have that “pure spiritual retina” that allows them “to receive God’s things as they are.” They are not blind to God’s gifts. Thus, as Matthew Henry wrote, they “have the most comfortable, undisturbed enjoyment of themselves, their friends, their God.” They trace the Father’s hand in the common grace that others take for granted. 

The meek man is thankful, happy, and content, and it is contentment that makes life enjoyable,” C.H. Spurgeon wrote that in a sermon on the meek. Then he told this story,

Here comes a man home to his dinner; he bows his head, and says, “Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful,” then opens his eyes, and grumbles, “What! Cold mutton again?” His spirit is very different from that of the good old Christian who, when he reached home, found two herrings and two or three potatoes on the table, and pronounced over them this blessing, ‘Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have ransacked both earth and sea to find us this food.’ His dinner was not as good as the other man’s, but he was content with it, and that made it better. 

The meek soul is pleased with whatever God is pleased to give. We inherit the earth as we learn to say, What pleases God must not displease me. The meek inherit the earth when they enjoy what they have.

The meek man is thankful, happy, and content, and it is contentment that makes life enjoyable.

C.H. Spurgeon

2. The meek inherit the earth when they enjoy even what they do not own. 

I enjoy gardens and pools and boats. But, apart from a few patches of shade-loving flowers, I don’t own any of them. Yet I relish summertime in my parents’ huge gardens, my friend’s ski boat, and another friend’s pool. I don’t own the garden, pool, or boat. But I enjoy them.

Izaak Walton lived in 16th-century England and wrote,  

I could sit there quietly, and look at the waters and see fishes leaping at flies of several shapes and colors. Looking down the meadows, I could see a boy gathering lilies and and a girl cropping columbines and cowslips […] As I thus sat, enjoying my own happy condition, I did remember what my Saviour said, that the meek inherit the earth.

This kind of enjoyment is not mooching. It is humble, thankful meekness. I borrow again from Spurgeon,

Even the possessions of other men make these people glad. They are like the man who met a mandarin in China covered with jewels, and, bowing to him, said, “Thank you for those jewels.” Doing this many times, at last the mandarin asked the cause of his gratitude. “Well,” said the poor but wise man, “I thank you that you have those jewels, for I have as good a sight of them as you have; but I have not the trouble of wearing them, putting them on in the morning, taking them off at night, and having a watchman keeping guard over them when I am asleep. I thank you for them; they are as much use to me as they are to you.

The meek inherit the earth when they freely enjoy what they don’t own. 

3. The meek inherit the earth when they not only enjoy whatever they have and what others have, but when they are glad that others have been given the gifts they have.

The meek take pleasure in God’s gifts to others. When we learn to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15a) we have a constant source of joy. Admittedly, to celebrate a friend’s marriage or pregnancy, when you’d love to be married or pregnant is supernatural. To rejoice with a friend who landed your dream job or the book contract you’ve worked for is meek. It is a gift of God. To celebrate like this is, in one word, to DIGLI

I’ll explain DIGLI in a minute. But first, do you remember the parable of the vineyard owner? He hired workers at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m. Then he gave them all the same exact pay. It’s in Matthew 20 verses 10 through 15, and here’s how it ends: 

Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

We read how the guys who worked twelve hours got the same amount as those who worked one hour, and naturally we’re stunned. Really, Jesus? That seems so unfair!

But wise parents and teachers tell their kids, Fair isn’t equal. It’s getting what you need. In His wisdom, God deemed that those vastly unequal hourly rates were exactly right, because, as author Lief Enger wrote, Fair is whatever God wants to do. 

Jesus Did Not Say, “The Envious Will Inherit The Earth”

The parable helps us understand what theologian and author Joe Rigney meant when he said, “God loves inequality…In terms of gifts, talents, abilities, opportunities, blessings, God is unequally lavish, at least according to our standards, and that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” 

Contrary to popular opinion, inequality of gifts does not need a fix. Author Dorothy Sayers wrote, “Envy is the great leveler.” It opposes meekness and it always levels down. Envy would have us lower the blessing bar to the lowest common denominator. If I can’t make a six-figure income, you shouldn’t either. If my kid can’t be a champ, yours shouldn’t be either. This is not meek. The envious will not inherit the earth. 

Which brings us back to the meek who inherit this present earth as they DIGLI. I coined the term in the midst of my own struggle to put on meekness and put off envy and discontent (Colossians 3:5-13). I needed a word to express that generous, free state of heart. Hence, DIGLI, an acronym for “delight in God’s lavish inequality.” Clearly this is not a natural dance or stance. Only the meek can DIGLI. 

Discontent spreads when we begrudge God’s generosity to others. But the meek trust that God is giving us exactly what we need to conform us to the image of Christ—even if it doesn’t make sense now. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). The meek believe this.

When her grandkids compare then complain, my mom will say, “Stay in your own lane.” The meek train themselves to run life’s race in their own lane. They learn to trust God to give whatever is good, even when it doesn’t seem fair. 

By grace, the meek train themselves to place all things in God’s hands and then find that God places all things back into their hands. And if we have eyes to see, that delightful exchange might just start now.

Christian meekness cools the heat of passion. Meekness of spirit not only fits us for communion with God—but for civil converse with men; and thus among all the graces it holds first place.  

—Thomas Watson

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