MONOPOLY™ is that all-American game where the sole objective is to be the first person to buy up all available property, plot by plot, and then to charge such exorbitant rent that you drive each and every friend or family member into utter financial ruin, until finally you have acquired all the money and all the property possible. Created at the height of the American Depression, it’s easily one of the world’s all-time most popular board games.
How do we account for the fact that the theme of personal domination makes for such well-loved games? Could it be that one of our primal human instincts is titillated when we obtain utter mastery over others, even if it leads to their ruination? MONOPOLY™ has outsold all other board games of its kind with estimated sales of over 250 million copies. We all apparently love to rule over others. This would be just a curious observation but for the fact that a real-life MONOPOLY™ game is going on in most of the world. Much of the property in cities of the developing world is either wholly owned by or under the control of powerful families (or the corporations the families own). Other property is under the control of the “government,” which in some cases amounts to little more than a family-run business. For the world’s poor, the MONOPOLY™ board has been set and the property has been doled out to others. They will live their entire lives paying rent to the few who own everything.
The government of Cambodia, for instance, is parceling up the land on which the poor live and selling it to the highest bidder. Developers are betting that the tourist industry in Cambodia will grow. As of April 2008, 45 percent of the land mass of Cambodia had been sold. The poor (and the middle class, for that matter) have no real chance to purchase this land. Wealthy individuals and developers are not only able to come up with the cash required to purchase the property, they’re also willing to pay for the prostitutes needed to “service” the government officials and throw the parties that will enable the sales to go through.
Economists like Hernado De Soto believe that without the ability to legally own a piece of property, the landless poor are destined to live in perpetual desperation. They are locked out of MONOPOLY™ and serve only as income generators—“rent payers”—for those who own the board, until it becomes more convenient to kick them out.
If the property of billions of people is in the hands of a few game-winners intoxicated by the idea of winning at all costs, where is the hope for those who have been born losers?
The hope for the world lies in meekness. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). The reason that the meek will inherit the earth is that they are naturally disposed to use power in the way it was designed by God to be used—as a guard for the weak and to preserve the common good—in contrast to those possessing MONOPOLY™ power, who consolidate wealth and status in a single set of hands at the expense of everyone else. Notice that the Beatitude from Matthew 5 does not say that the meek will conquer the earth or take over the earth. They will inherit it. It’s a trust given to them by their Father.
Wielding power with meekness is part of the design for humanity. It is the means by which the cosmos can operate most effectively. And for the person at peace with themselves and with God, meekness is a natural impulse, a quality which emerges because the ego is not hungry. But when we’re insecure, when we fear the slippage of our position, our deeply engrained broken desires come to life, clamoring for money, status and power even if it means crushing those around us. As the apostle Paul said, “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Meekness is the state of the healthy human freed from those “senseless and harmful desires,” freed from the fear of losing. The meek are able, like Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen, to leave their jobs at the height of their careers to care for severely developmentally disabled adults. The meek will gravitate to those whom the world discards—whether the poor, the disabled, the homeless or the socially leprous—not simply out of compassion, but because they know there is much to learn from the broken. The meek are magnets for children because they are like children in some ways; they have that remarkable ability to embrace innocence without becoming ignorant of evil.
Meekness comes when the soul is at rest, and when given power to rule the earth, the meek will create a dominion that will subvert the self-oriented MONOPOLY™ world. But becoming meek requires dying, which is why so few of us actively pursue meekness.