Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
This verse, like so many others that Christ uttered over the course of his ministry, runs contrary to the way many of us in the West think. The wisdom of the Western world tell us to be self-confident and strong, self-esteeming and assertive, not meek, lowly, or humble.
But the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in an abundance of peace. (Psalm 36, LXX)
Meek — back in OT days, was Hebrew ענו (anav — afflicted, lowly: one who would rather bear injuries than return them), and in the days of the Greek NT, the word transliterated as “meek” was similar: πραΰς (pronounced, interestingly: “prays”: gentle, mild meek).
So here is a word that sounds like “praise” or “prays” and means gentle or mild, but connotes a characteristic of a person who knows, humbly enough, that God has permitted even the most evil actions that befell him on earth. Meekness then is a strong devotion to God, knowing that the wisdom thereof and submission thereto will serve him on this earth much better than aggression and pride would.
Meekness is a prescription for safety and makes good sense. The same Bible tells us to honor our parents “for so shalt live long upon the earth.” There are intensely practical reasons for honoring our parents. (#1: We’ll likely live longer!) He also reminds us that Jesus later in this sermon urged his followers to agree with their adversaries quickly or face steep consequences.
In other words, people who are less contentious, less aggressive, usually do not suffer the consequences of those who are. Someone who lets an aggressive driver cut him off on the highway instead of angrily gesturing at him is likely to reach their destination unharmed. Arguing and name-calling and pushing and shoving might be the ways of the world, but they are also a swift path to destruction.
Of course, strong and sinful people often persecute the meek severely, but our faith teaches us that the Lord has rewards for them as well.
O saints and martyrs who preached the Lamb of God and like lambs were slain, who now are translated to the eternal life that knows no age: pray fervently to Him, that He may grant us the forgiveness of our sins. Blessed are Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. All ye who in this life have trod the narrow way of sorrow, bearing the Cross as a yoke and following Me in faith: come and receive with joy the honours and the heavenly crowns that I have prepared for you.
— Lenten Saturday of the Dead service
But it is not just for future blessings only in a spiritual sense. The meek, saith the Lord, shall inherit ( from Greek κληρονομέω, to receive by lot) the earth. That means, that the Lord, by His own wisdom, has predestined those who are meek, by virtue of their meekness, to receive by lot (or by apportioning) the earth.
And which earth? Does it not seem that the un-meek have inherited quite a bit of the planet by now? Could the Lord be simply speaking of a metaphorical earth? No, the Lord means this very earth, writes St. John Chrysostom: “Tell me, what kind of earth? Some say a figurative earth, but it is not this, for nowhere in Scripture do we find any mention of an earth that is merely figurative.”