Happy are the Humble

Years ago in seminary, a friend and I were discussing characteristics we needed in pastoral ministry. He confidently confessed: “Well, I am just not the humble type.” I knew he was partially joking, but also realized pride would be a problem in a ministry aimed at serving others. Besides that, a lack of humility would hinder anyone from receiving the promise of the third beatitude: “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5).  

In the greatest sermon of all time, the Lord Jesus promised blessings to believers who practiced particular characteristics. He meant them to be aims for His followers. Those who acknowledged their spiritual poverty would receive His Kingdom (Matt. 5:3)—Everyone who endured sadness and loss would be comforted (Matt. 5:4)—Then He says everyone who is humble, not assertive, demanding or pushy, will inherit the whole earth (Matt. 5:5). Each of these goals is just the opposite of our natural inclination. The Beatitudes confront the proud, arrogant and self-righteous—But pronounce blessing on the meek, unpretentious and humble.

It must have shocked His hearers when Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). A person who was meek showed gentleness, humility and consideration of others. Meek people were never pushy or demanding, but easy going and kind. Some, including the Romans and Greeks of Jesus’ day, considered meekness a weakness to be avoided, but Jesus said it was a virtue to be desired. Meekness is not weakness; in fact it is just the opposite. People who humble themselves before God and others—who seek ways to elevate those around them—who are gentle in response to harshness—show the greater strength. In this verse Jesus quotes from Psalm 37:11, “But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.”

The meek are not inheriting the earth in our day. But when Jesus returns in the future, sets up His kingdom and reigns on this earth, the meek and gentle, humble and kind, will be the ones who inherit the earth, and lead in His monarchy. Someone rightly called this the upside-down kingdom.

In our world, mostly the ruthless are the leaders. In many occupations, the demanding tyrant usually gets his way, assertively climbing the corporate ladder. But Jesus said it would not be so in the future. The Lord rewards meekness and humility. Jesus said, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). In His kingdom, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). This is true because “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

This concept of blessing on the meek was not new. The characteristic of humility with strength is prevalent among Bible heroes. The great leader, Moses, was “very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). King David wrote, “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Psalm 25:9). Paul included the characteristic of meekness, in those qualities that were to define the Christian life: “Walk worthy of the Lord with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). He urged the Colossians to “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

If you doubt the great value of humility, just listen to the Lord’s call: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus, our Master calls himself “meek and lowly in heart.”

Meekness is so important they are included in the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in your life, as you follow Him. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The rewards of meekness are both present and future. Jesus said, the meek shall inherit the earth. Humility and gentleness are not always rewarded here, but sometimes are mocked and ignored. Matthew Henry wrote “Meekness, however ridiculed and run down, has a real tendency to promote our health, wealth, comfort, and safety, even in this world. The meek and quiet are observed to live the easiest lives, compared with the forward and turbulent. All the blessedness of heaven above, and all the blessings of earth beneath, is the portion of the meek.” There is great promise in the command to “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).

If these things are true, and they are, then…happy are the humble! God’s will for each of us is: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). With this in mind, he continues: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (verse 6).

These Beatitudes present goals for every child of God. We must recognize our spiritual poverty, admit we need God’s comfort in our loss, and humble ourselves before Him as we seek to serve Him and others. None can be achieved on our own. It is only as we seek Him, receive Him, love and follow Him, that we will enjoy His wonderful blessings. But when we do, what promise He gives! “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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