“Gently,” my dad encouraged as I picked up one of the chirping balls of yellow fluff out of the box. The baby chicks had arrived earlier that day from the hatchery. They were so small, soft, and delicate that care had to be taken. We carefully lifted each chick out of the shipping box and placed it in a small pen prepared with special bedding and several heat lamps. Keep this picture in mind as we look at Jesus’ third observational promise of the beatitudes – “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NASB95)
Gentleness is that quality of meekness and humility that should be present in our hearts, our words, and our actions. Contrary to common sense, gentleness is not a position of weakness but of tempered and controlled strength. Gentleness is one of the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. Proverbs instructs that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, NASB95) Whenever Paul gives a list of desired character traits gentleness is there. For instance, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, NASB95) (see also Colossians 3:12, Philippians 4:5, 1 Timothy 3:3 and 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:24-25). The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote concerning the coming Messiah, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11, NASB95) And Jesus encourages all to “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.” (Matthew 11:29, NASB95) Like that baby chick in my hand, Jesus could crush us in an instant and we’d undoubtedly deserve it. But that’s not how He treats us nor how He expects us to treat each other or ourselves. Remember, gentleness is the exercise of controlled strength. Jesus meets us where we are, he carefully carries us in His arms or gently leads us. He doesn’t treat us like pigs which must be beaten and driven to obey but as lambs which are taught to hear and follow His voice. Paul encouraged, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, NASB95) The harsh, the brash, the loud, the pushy, the bully, the angry, may motivate others to get things done but they can not effectively lead others into God’s blessing and inheritance.
The promise is that the gentle will inherit the land. To unwrap the promise we need to consider Psalm 37. I am amazed at how appropriate and needful the message of Psalm 37 is for today. Please read it for yourself. The Psalm opens with these words, “Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (Psalm 37:1–3, NASB95) The entire Psalm is geared toward taking our eyes off of the success of the wicked and back towards the goodness and faithfulness of God. It reminds us to keep the main thing the main thing. The Psalm also talks about inheriting the land, “For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” (Psalm 37:9–11, NASB95) See verses 18, 22, 29, 34 which also speak of inheritance.
Wars are waged over ground and territory. Not only in the real sense of nations clashing against nations but also in many other areas of life (ie business, politics, and relationships). People can be territorial, cut-throat, doing anything to gain an edge, an advantage, greater territory, market share, or land. Many even bring this war-like attitude into the church. Granted, we are to be in a battle stance against Satan (Ephesians 6). The larger picture is, however, best understood through inheritance. The battle has already been waged, the land has already been conquered, the price has already been paid. Even when it looks like the whole world is against us, that the wicked are “gaining ground”, we have a greater truth. God’s love, justice, truth, peace, and faithfulness has prevailed through Jesus Christ. That’s why we can operate in gentleness and humility instead of fighting fire with fire. We aren’t taking or gaining ground, it is already ours by right of inheritance. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. Yes, it feels like it will never work. Yes, it runs counter to our human nature. But, it is the example of Jesus Christ.
I feel that it is appropriate to close this article with these words from Philippians where Paul strongly encourages us to have the same attitude as Jesus. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, NASB95)