“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The first two Beatitudes amount to personal spiritual deconstruction. Emptying the Self and opening up to sorrow for wrongs committed and the nature that has made this inevitable—perhaps the most frustrating Christian dogmatic insight. Yet we can’t avoid the pressing truth of this teaching. The evidence is too glaring. We can avoid it by choosing not to care about our failures in justice or morality, but invariably we do care if not morally then at least rationally; as Socrates showed Thrasymachus, and then Glaucon1. Knowledge of Sin is the natural result of reason. We know what could be better, even best, but we are not always able to meet this. The very capacity we have for making valuations makes us asses ourselves as wanting. Even atheists feel guilty for wrongs done, and refer to themselves even as ‘a bad person’. The teaching of Original Sin doesn’t posit a maudlin delusion against an otherwise idyllic paradise as hedonists want. The fallen state is there whether we ignore or acknowledge it. It is unbearable either way. Hence the the need for the Incarnation and Atonement. But now we are getting too far down the path.
If the first two are practices in dissembling ourselves, the rest of the discipline in the Beatitudes is practice in rebuilding. They take us from some rather unhappy realizations to spiritual maturity. So if we have found the first two stages arduous in their piercing examination the remaining six show the discipline of our becoming a new creature. Looking at the Beatitudes in this way, after the initial disolution, we should expect the fist step in reconstruction to lay a foundation for further building. That is it should name a very basic disposition, a cornerstone in personal development. We will find that the virtue ‘meekness’ fits perfectly in this place. It is not only the logical result of the restorative comfort of the preceding beatitude, but is such a fundamental personality trait in spiritual growth, that without it all growth would be stunted or mangled.
As some of us are naturally more meek than others, it might be tempting at this stage to see the Beatitudes as a list of personality types and their various rewards. As though it were a catalog of ‘unity in diversity’. Some are humble, some mourn, some are meek, some righteous. Together we make a functioning body. But this is from the Egalitarian Fairness school of our age. All are not equally disposed to particular virtues. Some to more of them, and some to none. Some it will be thought are naturally meek, but may in truth have more to learn about true meekness than one who seems utterly void of the disposition. But we get ahead of ourselves, we have yet to fill the content of the virtue meekness.
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.
By Charles Wesley (1707–1788)
Is Jesus having us on? If the assumed meaning of meekness is a gentle unassuming disposition, how can such inherit the earth. Unless of course we resort to eschatology again. In this way we see the meek suffering in this age and being rewarded in a future one. In other words, meekness is ineffectual in the present. It is simply an endurance test for future reward, not a way of engaging or changing the world today. If this is so, we get pushed around today, but in the future. . . watch out!
Now Jesus could have applied any manner of blessing to the virtue of meekness. He could have said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall receive kindness”, or “for they will be contented” or anything relevant you can imagine. Instead Jesus sets up a seeming contradiction. But He is not inventing this paradox, as with other phrasing in the beatitudes, Jesus is drawing from the Psalms here:
Psalm 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
:10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (KJV)
The Hebrew word translated ‘inherit’ is often used to describe taking land in conquest in other parts of the OT. This is not our normal contemporary sense of of a meek person. We tend to think of an SJW, of a soft nu-male, of someone harmless, and physically weak. The idea of the meek taking possession of the earth by driving out its current inhabitants seems a greater contradiction than we started with. We will have to look for a more accurate intention for this word.
‘Quiet strength.’ In Sunday school this was the definition I was given, implying the meek show only part of their strength, that they have a good deal more in reserve, but use only what is needed to direct things wisely. Beloved St. James again comes to our aid in fleshing out this meaning:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21 (ESV)
We are beginning to see the image of a very desirable person. One who is calm and assuring in strength of spirit if not also in body. Contrasting this meek person to the less desirable traits that lay on either side will clarify. On one side we have a person who may be gentle, but not by choice. Such a person is merely fearful and weak; timid not meek. On the other side we have someone who is strong in will and body, but who has no discipline. This person is also weak, but is dangerous in their weakness. They can control others through threat, but can guide none in a worthy way. So on the one hand we have weakness which can unfortunately pose as virtue in our day of soft gooey men. On the other hand we have the erratic strongman. Such can assume leadership, but has no wisdom to direct his strength toward the good of the community.
This snippet from St. Paul will give us a fuller impression:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV)
In our sardonic age, where courage and spiritual strength is mocked we tend to hear these as feminine qualities. In a day where wisdom and courage are requisite for survival these are the true manly virtues. An uncontrolled strong man is of little more value than a weakling. We see in this image of meekness then the disposition of a medieval knight, or a master in martial arts. In our broader Identitarian, or NRx community these are the exact virtues we need. We have days ahead that will require calm courage, self control and patience with each other. Again we see Jesus speaking natural sense. The meek will inherit the earth. It is true that tyranny takes possession from time to time. But controlled strength can take it back, and on a surer basis:
“The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
Under the larger thesis we are working on, meekness, as elaborated by James and Paul, is the most natural fruit of the the first two stages of discipleship; poverty of spirit and sorrow for our condition. Having endured our dark night we emerge stronger, but wiser and more focused on what is good and true and holy. We are cautious not to return to the chaos of our earlier life. We have gained strength we did not know we could posess, but we are in no hurry to throw it around. We conserve it; we may need it some day.
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- Plato’s Republic Book II
Image: Detail from Knight by Konstantin Vasilyev