Examining the Beatitudes, Part 3: The Most Misunderstood Beatitude

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Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

In our testosterone poisoned culture, meek is a four-letter word. Can you think of any ad campaign that uses the word meek? Meek draws up images of weakness and cowed submissiveness. How would such people ever inherit the whole earth? What the heck was Jesus talking about here?

What Jesus was talking about got lost in translation, not only from Greek to English, but also from Aramaic to Greek. Remember Jesus spoke these words in Aramaic. They originally got written down in Greek.

The Greek word that as translated as meek, praus, can mean restrained use of power. It also expresses the Greek ideal of find the happy medium between emotional extremes. The general idea is having power or great energy, but not letting run rampant.

The Aramaic word, l’makikhe, can be translated gentle or humble and carries the connotation of softening that which is hard within. It is the idea of finding the right balance of tension in the body. When the body is very relaxed, it doesn’t move. When the body is very tense, it also doesn’t move. Athletes know that they need to find the right level of tension and relaxation to be able to move quickly or respond accurately to their opponent’s moves.

Tai chi practitioners also seek the right level of relaxation and centeredness in order to open to flow of chi or life force in their bodies.

Spiritually this means softening within, opening to what is, not being rigid, anal or oh so PC (politically correct) about, well, fill in the blank.

Doing this though will not make you the landlord of the Earth! In our American minds, inherit the earth brings up pictures of world domination. That of course, does not flow from the Greek and Aramaic words translated as meek.

The Aramaic instead has the sense of receiving from the earth strength and energy, receiving the life force of the earth. From my own experience, when I relax, center down and connect to my breath, I can sense the energy of the earth around and within me. Deeper still, I sense God presences, in and as this energy.

For me, this experience is subtle, not overwhelming, and not easy to stay with. My mind, my ego wants to get back to whatever was fascinating it a moment before. The practice is to return to center, to return to my intention to be open to God giving Herself to me; returning to this sacred space of openness again and again and again and again… in compassion and love, softening when I harden, opening when I close down.

There is a lesson here for the LBGT community. There is oh so much anger, vilification, emotional, spiritual and physical violence coming at us everyday. Of course we stiffen and harden ourselves to brace ourselves against this onslaught of evil. This natural stiffening is only meant to be a momentary, protective response to be followed with moving into a more balanced state. From that place of balance we can respond with wisdom, skill and compassion to what is coming at us.

When I first came out, I was shocked when I learned of the term, PC. Like you have to be a certain way to be a lesbian. What is this, I thought to myself. We have just thrown off the bondage the straight world put on us about being gay, only to make another form of bondage for ourselves? I’m not talking S & M folks. I’m talking PC is BS. It’s a very human thing to fall into, but its rigidity and narrowness does nothing for any community.

There is another lesson here. When you read the Bible, don’t take it at face value. All of Scripture has many, many layers of meaning. The interpretation I have given for the third beatitude is only one possible meaning. This doesn’t mean anything goes in biblical interpretation. You need to do your homework. Do not force the text to say something it doesn’t. That’s what the fundamentalists do to us. It is not good form to do it back to them.

The Bible is a treasure trove of deep wisdom. It takes work to get at that wisdom. When wisdom is found it is energizing, even fun. Really. The Bible is not our enemy. Ignorance is. Rigidity is. The antidote is wisdom, openness, softening and ultimately, compassion.

Read Debbie Graham’s series from the beginning: