“Your Word Is Truth”
“Happy Are the Mild-tempered”
THE popular American author, Mark Twain, once quipped that the British Empire was mentioned in the Bible at Matthew 5:5. There we read, according to the Authorized Version, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” In his day it did seem that that Empire was inheriting the earth, for it had colonies on six continents and could boast that the sun never set on British dominions.
These words of Jesus have also elicited a flippant response in our day. A popular “rock” team of musicians sing in a very sarcastic vein about the blessedness of the meek who are sat upon, spat upon.
Apparently these words of Jesus do indeed pose a problem to some persons; in fact, they may seem to be paradoxical. The meek inherit the earth? Is it not the harsh, the ruthless, the fierce, the aggressive and the belligerent that have taken over the earth? By and large it has been such men as Napoleon, Hitler and other dictators. Were they meek? Hardly!
Nevertheless, the critics who question Jesus’ words err in several respects. For one thing, they misunderstand Jesus’ words. The Greek word praús rendered “meek” has the basic meaning of being mild-tempered, gentle. This does not mean something weak, easily dominated. But the Greek word has associated with it the thought of strength; ancient Greeks using it to describe a wild horse that had been tamed and was now mild, gentle, yet still strong.
Then, again, Jesus did not say the meek would seize the earth. No, he said that they would inherit it. From whom? From God, of course!
Further, those critical of Jesus’ words overlook the fact that he did not say when the mild-tempered would inherit the earth. Jehovah God has a time for every purpose of his. (Eccl. 3:1-8) Today this system of things has Satan the Devil as its ruler and god and so it is not to be expected that things would be done in line with Bible principles. But persons with faith in God and in his Word have confidence that in the near future God’s will shall be done on earth as in heaven, and then the mild-tempered will inherit the earth.—Matt. 6:10; 2 Cor. 4:4.
Who are the mild-tempered ones that will inherit the earth? Well, who was the mildest man that ever lived? Was it not Jesus Christ, the Son of God? When on earth he could say: “Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” Mild-tempered, gentle? Yes, but by no means weak. With what boldness he chased the money changers out of the temple! How fearlessly he hurled denunciations against the religious hypocrites of his time! What calmness he displayed when a mob came to arrest him!—Matt. 11:28, 29; 21:12, 13; 23:13-32; 26:48-56.
Jesus Christ himself is therefore the primary one to whom Matthew 5:5 applies. He, the one mild above all others, is the one to whom Jehovah said: “Ask of me, that I may give nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your own possession.” He, as king of the whole earth, “will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”—Ps. 2:8; 72:8.
However, Jesus will not be alone in inheriting the earth. He will have associated with him 144,000 others, even as we read at Revelation 14:1, that with him on heavenly Mount Zion there were “a hundred and forty-four thousand.” These had to qualify for that royal honor by cultivating the fruitage of God’s spirit, including mildness. (Gal. 5:22, 23) That Jesus will have joint heirs in his inheritance of the earth is made clear from the words: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16, 17) Concerning these we also read that “they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:4.
The fact that Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:5 have a primary application to him and to his 144,000 associates does not mean that they are of no import to others of his followers. They are, for they state a principle that also applies to his “other sheep.” These have the hope of enjoying Paradise on earth.—John 10:16; Luke 23:43.
Such earthly blessings will be the lot of the vast majority of the human race who have died and who will be resurrected by Jesus Christ. But legally speaking, they will not be owning the earth, inheriting it, but they will hold it in trust for the mild-tempered ones who will rule over them.—John 5:28, 29.
Since it is the Christian mild-tempered ones who will hold the earth in trust for the heavenly inheritors, what does that mean for Christians today? It means that all of them must seek to cultivate and possess the fruit of the spirit, mildness. Indeed, many are the Scriptural admonitions to be mild-tempered.
For example, at Ephesians 4:2 Christians are counseled to walk “with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love.” At Colossians 3:12, they are commanded: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” Christians are further admonished to give a reason for their hope “with a mild temper and deep respect.” And in particular are wives counseled to manifest the virtue of mildness. Rather than putting the emphasis on fine clothes, fine jewelry and cosmetics, they are to let their charm “be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Pet. 3:15, 4.
To be sure, the mild-tempered ones find great happiness in the prospects set before them by God. That happiness is not something that they do not even taste until the future; it sustains them even now. And there are other ways in which their being mild-tempered brings them happiness at the present time. They are spared a great deal of friction and strife, the frustrations and bitterness that plague the lives of the ruthlessly ambitious ones. Theirs is a godly devotion that, together with contentment, is great gain.—1 Tim. 6:6.
Truly, cultivating mildness of temper is the wise course for all Christians who would be happy now and who would be among those who either possess the earth or who will hold it in trust for the heavenly inheritors.
“Happy is anyone acting with consideration toward the lowly one; in the day of calamity Jehovah will provide escape for him. Jehovah himself will guard him and preserve him alive. He will be pronounced happy in the earth.”—Ps. 41:1, 2.