Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
If Jesus delivered any Beatitude with a laugh, it was this one. It kicks sand back in the bully’s face. It anticipates Cinderella. It’s the banana peel under the pompous step.
Yet, this comic beatitude addresses a serious question: Where is God when the wicked prosper and nice guys finish last? Psalm 37 answers, “The meek will inherit the land” (v.11), to which God splits a gut (v.13).
This irony pervades scripture. Ever notice how barren women like Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah end up giving birth to the patriarchs and prophets? Moreover, runts of the litter like Jacob and David all too often ends up wearing the crown. God has a thing for underdogs.
Who doesn’t? But God takes the story to higher level than athletic upsets. God chooses the meek and lowly to reveal ultimate power, the only real hope, the truth that sets us free. Cackles fall silent. Wonder rises.
Yet, we return to headline grabbers to deliver the jackpot. Meanwhile, the janitor slips through the back door, delivers it, and slips away. We watch celebrities and politicians unaware that we sit on a bag of gold. We walk away, clueless.
Nobody got this comic beatitude better than Paul the Apostle. Whatever gaffes and self-contradictions he may or may not have offered, he was consistent about this: Strength is made perfect in weakness.[i] God delivers treasure in earthen vessels, clay jars, usually cracked, folks like you and me with our nervous tics, mood swings, and bounced checks.[ii]
Paul deemed even the Almighty meek: God’s weakness is stronger than the strong, God’s foolishness wiser than the wise. The cross reveals it once and for all, a stumbling block to the best religion mortals muster and scandal to the best education money can buy.[iii]
Paul got this because he read scripture and knew Christ. He also did so in self-defense. According to the noncanonical Acts of Paul and Thecla, Paul “was a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long.”[iv] So in the face of competitors who ridiculed his homely presence, he offered that God chooses such modest packaging to accentuate the brilliance of glory and reduce the most jaded cynic to speechless wonder.
In my youth, this mischievous method of epiphany tickled me so that I wrote a book seasoned with it called, The Ancient Laugh of God (see right side of this page). The chapters offer a sense of God’s playfulness. Later amid many hard knocks, this irony offered a basis for hope not just for quirky Bible characters but for me as I muddle through a life of love and purpose in Jesus’ name. Despite much pain on that road, I still hear laughter around the bend.
[i] 2 Corinthians 12:9
[ii] 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
[iii] 1 Corinthians 1:18-25