Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.”
As we continue our series on Virtuous Living, today we move to the third beatitude, Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth. Jesus is loosely quoting from Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight in abundant prosperity.” But does meek mean the same thing as humble? Let’s look for other clues.
The first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” is a restating of the promise in Isaiah 61:1 “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken- hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners” The Hebrew word used in Isaiah for “oppressed” עֲנָוִ†ים† o(nuim) is the same Hebrew word used in Psalm 37:11 to describe “meek” וַעֲנָוִ†ים† (u·onuim). Therefore we could translate blessed are the poor in spirit and blessed are the humble the same way.
How does it change the beatitude we are looking at today? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth.” Or “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Or “Blessed are the oppressed, for they shall inherit the earth.” I want each of us at Royston Baptist Church to live a virtuous life, but I fear sometime we forget we were and may still be poor in spirit, meek, op-pressed and humbled. We are blessed because God through Jesus Christ has delivered us from our oppression, our humility of being bent down by sin and guilt, from our depravity of spirit before we knew him. Donald Hagner says it this way, “In view are not persons who are submissive, mild, and unassertive, but those who are humble in the sense of being oppressed (hence ‘have been humbled’), bent over by the injustice of the ungodly, but who are soon” to be delivered.
Clarence Jordan thinks a better translation of humble in this beatitude is the word tame. “Blessed are the tame, for they shall inherit the earth.” In this under-standing, God has come and tamed the sinful way, tamed the worldly unrighteousness, tamed the onslaught of oppression the world has brought to bear on the one receiving the blessing; receiving the beatitude.
Virtuous living requires we tame, we oppress, we humble our way to the way of God. In doing so, we live the virtuous life. Are you living in the tameness of God’s love, in the humility of God’s love, and in the oppression of God’s love? If so, are you inheriting the earth? Are you reclaiming the violence, the anger, the poverty spiritually and physically, the disease of sin and sickness, and the pain of disappointment this world offers every single day? Are you bringing about the virtuous life here on earth? After all, we are called to bring heaven down to earth, and we are the ones who will inherit this place.
For the Kingdom,
Rev. Jonathan Barlo
Note- Much of the research for this article is found in Kingdom Ethics by Stassen and Gushee.