Survival of the Meek

Tom Burke

April 2024
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Over 150 years ago, Charles Darwin published his now-famous book, On the Origin of Species. In it, he proposed a new concept: the theory of evolution (today most commonly called the law of evolution). Central to Darwin’s theory was a pattern which he saw in his studies of nature. Today it is referred to as “the survival of the fittest.”

In brief, Darwin observed that, in the animal kingdom, it is the strongest, smartest, and quickest animals who dominate. Thus, they have prime access to both food and a mate, and therefore are the most likely to survive and to procreate, passing on their qualities to following generations.

Whatever one might think of Darwin’s theory, we can’t help but acknowledge that the survival of the fittest is a principle commonly accepted as true in human culture. Winners are lauded, losers are shamed. Billions of dollars are spent annually on books, classes, and other programs that promise to make you a little stronger, a little smarter, and a little faster than the next guy.

In fact, this thinking prevailed long before Darwin wrote his book. A study of human history shows us that only those who dominate are remembered. And in our day, everyone seems to agree that, in academics, athletics, business, and all human endeavor, “winning is the only thing.”1 If only the fittest survive, then I must strive to be the fittest, whatever the cost.

Jesus, however, had a different message.

Matthew 5:1–12 (New International Version)Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

These don’t sound much like “winning” words, do they? In fact, some athletic coaches and business consultants might consider them to be blasphemous. But … could Jesus be right?

When we consider the “greatest” who are recorded in God’s Word, it seems that Jesus’ point might be worth considering. Noah, for example, may or may not have been the fittest, but he and his family were the only survivors due to his righteousness.2

Moses, who led millions for forty years, did have a privileged upbringing, and all of the advantages attached to it. But he was singled out by God for an entirely different reason.

Numbers 12:3 (New International Version)Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.3

Saul, a relatively unimportant man from an insignificant tribe, was chosen by God to be the first king of Israel when he was small in his own eyes.4 David, arguably the greatest king of Israel, was almost overlooked because of his lack of “kingly” qualities. But God saw the qualities that really mattered, in David’s heart.5

Excelling in scholarship, succeeding in business, and winning athletic contests are not, in and of themselves, bad things. But the question for God’s people is, do these things rank highest among my priorities? If so, then I may have my reward, but a higher award will elude me.6

1 Timothy 4:8  (New International Version)For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Even the casual reader of God’s Word can easily see that the standards of God are radically different than, and at times totally opposite from, the standards of the world around us. And it is difficult, if not impossible, to fully satisfy both standards.7 In writing to Corinth, one of the most worldly of cities, the Apostle Paul made this abundantly clear.

1 Corinthians 1:18–21, 25–29 (New International Version)For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, So that no one may boast before him.

There you have it – as a Christian, I have a choice: I can choose to strive to be the fittest, and possibly survive, or choose to be meek, and thus have access to God’s strength and God’s wisdom, in all situations, at all times.

Under the law of the jungle, the biggest, strongest lion may indeed receive the choicest meat and the prettiest mate. But that lion will not always be big and strong. And other lions are waiting for that day. However, God’s people are not lions, nor were we created to be like animals. We were created to be His companions. And He especially likes the company of the meek.

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



[1] “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”, a quote from football coach Vince Lombardi.

[2]  Genesis 7:1

[3]  The context of this verse is also very enlightening.

[4]  1 Samuel 15:17

[5]  1 Samuel 16:1–12

[6]  Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

[7]  The reader might consider verses such as Luke 18:25 and 1 Timothy 6:17