February 29, 2020
The Blessing of a Meek Spirit
Matthew 5:5 — “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
This beatitude more than all the others seems totally out of touch with reality – at least as “reality” is conceived by the culture of the West. Looking around, we see that it is not the “meek” who get charge of things, benefit from being in charge, and exercise control over the things of “the earth.” The assertive, the strong, the well-connected, the brash, the egoistic, and/or those singularly focused on their own ambitions get ahead and have dominion in the real world. Yet, Jesus said this about meekness…so we need to take it seriously, if we take Him seriously.
To do that, we must grasp fully and clearly just what Jesus means by “meek.” First, Jesus does not mean being timid, shy, retiring, and an unimpressive person. Neither does he mean someone who life has simply beaten down and who lacks confidence. While this is often what we envision, the word “meek,” as the Lord uses it is so much more and is a strength not a liability. Next, neither does Jesus mean “blessed are the weak.” Being meek does not describe a person who lacks the strength, talent, or will-power to exert himself or herself in the world of relationships and society. While both the quietly timid and the weak are important to God, one could be timid and/or weak and not be meek in the sense that Jesus means.
The Greek word that Matthew utilizes to express Jesus’ teaching is a form of praus, which in classical Greek was used to describe animals who had been tamed, whose strength and power had been brought under the control of their owners. For example, a wild horse, once it was trained to the saddle and the bit, would have been described as “meek” – praus. Thus, one is “meek” when one’s all of the strengths of one’s life are under God’s control. A better translation of praus than our English word meek would be a long phrase – “those who are able to be gentle in their actions, words, passions, and attitudes because they are surrendered to, guided by, and filled with God’s presence and truth.” The meek are people who have the power to be, but simply refuse to be, self-seeking, domineering, reactive, aggressive, or in charge, because they are surrendered to God’s goodness and grace.
This virtue is a strength: and it is the natural expression of a life following the journey of Jesus’ spiritual logic in the Beatitudes. The “poor in spirit,” see their need for God’s goodness, purpose, and power in life, so the kingdom of heaven is theirs. When truly poor in spirit before the glory of God, a person cannot help but mourn that condition and confess and grieve it. Comfort follows, by the good and gracious God who loves them and has granted them His kingdom. Being “meek,” therefore, is the spiritually honest response to the God before whom we mourn even as He grants His kingdom: I will not seek control over my circumstances, because I trust you with my life.
The meek look like Jesus, then, who is the great example of meekness. He had all power, but did not react to others in self-assertion, because he was surrendered to do the will of His Father. For us to be “meek,” then is not a recognition of our powerlessness, but is a spiritual courage that trusts God with our lives and well-being.
But, how and why do they “inherit the earth?” First, in the deepest and most ultimate way, in Jesus, who submitted Himself to complete obedience and trust to God and has, been made the Lord, who will be recognized by all (Philippians 2). He “inherits” all the kingdoms of the earth. So, in Him those who are surrendered to God and meek before others will at the end of all things be in Christ the co-heirs of this great Lord. They do not live for themselves or in the moment only, but as Christ did and they “inherit the earth” as the children of God.
They experience this blessing in a very present tense manner, as well. Living by the confidence in Christ that he or she belongs to God and realizing that God’s kingdom will win, the meek see life right now in the light of that truth. So, when insults come or heartbreak arrives or challenges are before them, they can live with a sense of calm assurance that God, who is in control of their lives, will bring justice to them –God has their well-being in mind. They live gently and at peace in all circumstances. Such a person “inherits the earth” in the here and now, because there is very little that the things of earth can do to them.
Blessed are the meek, indeed!