Being Meek

Epiphany 4 Wednesday

Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

This verse corresponds to the one where he said, “Blessed are those who are spiritually poor,” etc. For as he there promises the kingdom of heaven and eternal possessions, so he adds here a promise concerning this temporal life and possessions here on earth. But how does this fit together, “being poor” and “inheriting the land”? It sounds as if the preacher forgot what he had said in the beginning. For if one is to possess land and goods, one cannot be poor. And here
“possessing the land” means having all kinds of goods here on earth. He does not mean that everyone will possess an entire country; otherwise, God would have to create more worlds. Rather, he means the goods God freely gives to each, giving them wife, children, animals, house, farm, and what belongs to these, so that he is able to be and remain in the land, that is, where he lives, and is the master of his possessions, as Scripture usually speaks about these things, and as it says in Psalm 37:9, 11, “those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land,” etc. And in Psalm 37:22, he says that “those blessed by him will inherit the land,” etc. This is why he provides the explanation for the previous verse: Being spiritually poor does not mean to be a beggar or to throw away one’s money and possessions. For here Christ wants that his Christians are to dwell and remain in the land and deal with earthly possessions, as we shall hear. Now, what does it mean to be “meek”? You must, first of all, know that Christ does not here speak about the political authorities and their office. For they ought not to be meek, for they use the sword whereby they must punish the evil and have a wrath and vengeance that is called God’s wrath and vengeance, Romans 12:17, 19, 21; 13:4. Rather, Christ here speaks only about individual persons, how each are to live for himself in relation to others, outside their office and government. E.g., he speaks about father and mother where they do not live as father and mother in relation to their children or exercise their paternal and maternal offices, that is, in relation to those who do not call them father or mother, e.g., neighbors and other people. For I have often said that you must clearly distinguish these two, the office and the person. The man called John or Martin is far different from the man called elector, or doctor and preacher. For there are, as it were, two different persons in one man. There is one in which we are created and born, according to which we are all equal, man, woman, child, young, old, etc. But once we are born, God clothes and adorns you into a different person: He turns you into a child and me into a father. He turns one person into a lord, another into a servant. He turns one person into a prince, another into a burgher, and so forth. This is called a divine person, since the person holds a divine office, walks about adorned in his glory, and is no longer simply John or Nicholas, but is called a prince of Saxony or father or lord. Christ does not talk about these offices here, but lets them carry on in their office and government, as he ordained it. Rather, he speaks here about the bare individual, natural person, about what everyone is for himself, how one man is to relate to another man. Therefore, where we hold an office and authority, we should and must act roughly and strictly, be angry and punish, etc. For here we must do what God gives us to do and commands us to do for his sake. But outside of the office, let each learn for himself to be meek toward everyone, that is, let him learn not to deal with the neighbor in an unreasonable manner out of hatred or vengeance, like those do who are self-willed, who never put up with anything or give in, but who turn the world upside down, do not want to listen to anybody, do not want to benefit anybody, but quickly tie down their possessions, and think nothing but how to get even with their neighbors…Therefore, choose how you wish to live: You can live among the people in meekness and patience and keep what you have. Or you can lose what you have by raging and raving while you have no rest.

St. Louis ed., 7:369-372.

This entry was posted in Daily Devotions From the Writings of Martin Luther. Bookmark the permalink.