Meekness and Mourning

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (vv. 4–5).  

- Matthew 5:4–5

Some translators render the Greek term for blessing (makarios) as “happy,” but this is not entirely accurate. Of course, happiness is often linked to blessing, but God’s favor brings far more than mere happiness. To be blessed by our Creator is to find His approval. God claims us as His child when He blesses us.

Jesus has said our Father approves of the poor in spirit — those who know their need for divine forgiveness (Matt. 5:3). This makes sense, for we are God’s people only if we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Him alone for salvation (Isa. 66:1–2; Luke 18:9–14; 1 John 1:8–9). In today’s passage, our Savior declares “blessed” those who mourn and those who are meek (Matt. 5:4–5).

Many think verse 4 refers to any mourner, but the context renders this view impossible. As the note in The Reformation Study Bible indicates, the second beatitude develops the first. Jesus describes here mourning over sin and its effect on the world. Believers feel sorrow for the ways they have offended God (Ps. 51:4) and for the ruin that mankind’s evil has brought to this earth (Dan. 9:1–19). Even Jesus weeps for Jerusalem because of what her sin brings upon her (Luke 19:41–44). Mourning is not constant despair or low self-esteem; these manifest a preoccupation with the self. True mourning over sin is focused Godward and finds comfort there, since the holiness of the Lord that reveals our desperation is joined with His grace, which offers forgiveness in the Gospel. 

Christ also tells us God’s blessing, or approval, comes to the meek (Matt. 5:5). John Calvin offers the best description of meek people in his commentary. They are “persons of mild and gentle dispositions, who are not easily provoked by injuries, who are not ready to take offense, but are prepared to endure anything rather than do the like actions to wicked men.” Meek people do not lack assertiveness, nor are they wishy-washy. Moses was meek (Num. 12:3), but he was not weak or cowardly. Being meek means being aware of our limitations, enabling us to be gentle and good to others (James 3:13–18). When we are meek we understand that we are just as guilty before God as the next person, and we therefore find it difficult to hold grudges against those who offend us. 

Coram Deo

Meekness rejects any thought of self-sufficiency. It is antithetical to our aggressive, dog-eat-dog world that teaches people never to be satisfied with what they have and therefore to pursue more and more “stuff,” even if it means they lack the time to enjoy it. The meek inherit the earth because they have not seized their inheritance; they are content with God’s provision. What does your attitude towards your “stuff” say about your meekness?

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 37
Lamentations 1
2 Cor. 7:2–16
Colossians 3:12–13

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