True biblical meekness is only possible in a person who has been broken, who has mourned, and who has been comforted by God. When we repent and mourn over our sinful departures from God, He meets us in our grief and gives us the blessing of His comforting presence. The process of being humbled and broken before a holy God which is described in Matthew 5:3 (Poor in Spirit) precedes repentance. Brokenness and repentance precedes mourning, and comforting comes after the mourning (Matthew 5:4). All this prepares us for living in meekness (Matthew 5:5). The eight blessings at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount are progressive. We do not have the option of jumping over verses 3 and 4.
As we saw in the previous studies on Matthew 5:4 (Mourn and be Comforted), the lusts of the eye, lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life will lead us into many different patterns of habitual self-comforting. These addictions will control and shape the quality of our lives until we ask God to help us overcome them. No one is exempt from the power of lust and the pride of life. No one is exempt from the idolatrous addictions that these powers build within us. When we flee from our lusts, we are also turning our backs on the sin of pride, the sin of idolatry, and the sin of rebellion against God. This prepares us for true meekness.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
This is the parallel passage from the Old Testament.
Ps 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
In order to understand biblical meekness, we must push aside modern day definitions of this word. In modern usage, meekness means being a doormat. A meek person is seen as someone without a backbone. This is a person who lies down and lets everyone walk over him or her, scraping off the mud from their boots as they go. In the modern world, saying that someone is meek is to make an insulting remark. It is seen as a character defect that needs to be fixed by modern psychology.
Many church organizations have feminized Jesus by equating him with a mild and meek pussy cat. They ignore his strong statements and reinterpret most everything He said from the perspective of a gentle spirit that would never hurt even a house fly. They characterize Jesus as being more like a woman than a man, and they encourage men to be more like the non-threatening feminine version of Jesus that they have created in their imaginations.
Jesus is Meek and Jesus is Power
The first point that we can never forget is that Jesus is power. Not just a little power, but He possesses all the power of God.
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Jesus has the power to heal and to forgive sins.
Matthew 9:2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
Jesus has the power to give eternal life.
John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
How did Jesus Manage the Power that He Possessed while on the Earth?
Key Verse for Understanding Meekness
Luke 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
Jesus could have called down fire from heaven in any of hundreds of situations during His time on the Earth when the Jews opposed Him, but He chose a higher path, a path of restraint, a path of meekness.
In the ancient Greek language that was used at the time of the apostles, the Greek word that is translated as “meek” in the KJB has a different meaning from the modern definition. Meekness is directly tied to the concept of control over power and anger.
Definition of Meek
G4236. praótēs; gen. praótētos, fem. noun from práos (4235), meek. Meekness, mildness, forbearance (1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2; Sept.: Ps. 45:6). Primarily it does not denote outward expression of feeling, but an inward grace of the soul, calmness toward God in particular. It is the acceptance of God’s dealings with us considering them as good in that they enhance the closeness of our relationship with Him. However, praótēs encompasses expressing wrath toward the sin of man as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus (who indeed was called meek but expressed His anger toward those who were chiding Him because He had done good on the Sabbath day [Mark 3:5]). This meekness does not blame God for the persecutions and evil doings of men. It is not the result of weakness, and in the third Beatitude it expresses not the passivity of the second Beatitude, but the activity of the blessedness that exists in one’s heart from being actively angry at evil. According to Aristotle, praótēs is that virtue that stands between two extremes, the orgilótēs (n.f.), uncontrolled and unjustified anger (see orgílos , quickly angry), and aorgisía (n.f.), not becoming angry at all no matter what takes place around you. In the UBS text of 1 Tim. 6:11 praótēs is praüpatheía, a disposition of meekness.
Syn.: tapeinophrosúnē (5012), humility; tapeínōsis (5014), the act of humiliation; epieíkeia (1932), mildness, clemency.
Ant.: orgḗ (3709), anger, mainly as a disposition; thumós (2372), wrath, outward anger; parorgismós (3950), anger, wrath; aganáktēsis (24), irritation, indignation.
[Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, electronic edition, Spiros Zodhiates, 2000.]
Meekness in Our Relationship to God
I want to highlight a few points from the preceding definition. First, there is a difference between being meek in our relationship with God and being meek in our relationships with people. Being meek in relationship to God is a quietness of soul that accepts God’s sovereignty and control over our lives. This brings us an inner experience of peace regarding our relationship with God.
“Primarily it does not denote outward expression of feeling, but an inward grace of the soul, calmness toward God in particular. It is the acceptance of God’s dealings with us considering them as good in that they enhance the closeness of our relationship with Him.” [Complete Word Study Dictionary]
Meekness in Our Relationships with People
In human relationships, meekness takes on a different quality. At the time the scriptures were written in Greek, the men who wrote them down would have understood the meaning of the word “meek” as it existed at that time. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (382 B.C. – 322 B.C.) wrote about meekness as a virtue.
“According to Aristotle, praótēs is that virtue that stands between two extremes, the orgilótēs (n.f.), uncontrolled and unjustified anger (see orgílos , quickly angry), and aorgisía (n.f.), not becoming angry at all no matter what takes place around you.” [Complete Word Study Dictionary]
In other words, meekness is anger under control. (This will be confirmed later in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus specifically discusses anger.) Jesus is not just anger under control, but also power under control. Jesus, as the second person of the trinity, possesses the power to create the universe and to destroy it. He has the power to create life and end it. He has the power to give people eternal life in heaven or to condemn them in the lake of fire. He has the power to send gentle rain and abundant sun to provide food, and he has the power to destroy the land through flood, famine, pestilence, and wind. He has the capacity to express Godly wrath and to restrain Himself from annihilating the source of His anger. God is slow to anger, but He eventually does get angry.
As Christian men and women, we are continually called to become more Christ-like. This means living more fully in the character of Christ. This means becoming meek as He is meek. This means learning how to place proper biblical restraint on anger and to distinguish between anger at sin and anger at people.
“This meekness does not blame God for the persecutions and evil doings of men. It is not the result of weakness, and in the third Beatitude it expresses not the passivity of the second Beatitude, but the activity of the blessedness that exists in one’s heart from being actively angry at evil.” [Complete Word Study Dictionary]
Meekness Includes Anger at Sin
As we will see in the next verse, Jesus grieved (mourned) over the hardness of the hearts of the Jews in the synagogue and was actively angry at their sin. He chose to heal rather than to kill with His anger. He chose a meek response.
Mark 3:1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
The following passage is often used to justify all manner of behaviors by Christians and their church organizations. Many people interpret the passage in terms of justifying violence between men, but perhaps it is more appropriately used as a teaching on meekness.
John 2:13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
People often look at the preceding verse and place many kinds of emotions on Jesus in the attempt to explain His behavior. Sometimes they turn Him into an angry out of control crazy man who was using violent aggression to serve God. Jesus was not out of control. We don’t even know that he struck anyone or any of the animals with the whip that He made. Maybe He only used it to make noise and to raise dust from the ground. We don’t know. But, we do know that as the Son of God, He could have brought down fire from heaven and could have cleansed the temple. Instead, He chose a meek response, which was to cleanse the temple through the power of His presence and His authority.
Meekness is not Silent
Meekness does not mean being silent about the sin around us. Jesus spoke directly to the Jews about their sins.
Matthew 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
God’s Character is Meek
God has always possessed meekness. In the Old Testament books, He could have destroyed every last stubborn stiff-necked person in the tribes of Israel with one quick blow, but He always restrained His anger. He kept in mind His ultimate plan for bringing a redeemer out from among the tribes of Israel and retained a meek attitude. The various lessons of hardship that He inflicted upon the Jews were meek responses representing anger under control.
Numbers 14:27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
Even when God set out to destroy all life from the face of the Earth, He exercised meekness. Despite the extreme intensity of His wrath against the people of the world, He still remembered Noah, and protected the ark.
Genesis 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged; 2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;
Finally, God had every right to kill Adam and Eve at the moment when He confronted them about their sin, but He instead chose a meek response. He gave them many years to produce children before He brought their lives to an end. He passed on the consequence of their sin in the form of physical death to all of their descendants. However, He initiated a plan, which would eventually give the possibility of eternal life for those who repent for their sins and believe in Jesus. It was meekness that restrained the hand of God against Adam and Eve, which could have rightfully obliterated them in the garden, and it is meekness that restrains Him from obliterating the self-indulgent and rebellious people of the world today.
Genesis 2:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Jesus is Meek
Meekness is also humble.
Matthew 21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
Jesus is meek, and we can find rest in Him.
Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Jesus came for the meek. The meek have been made receptive to His presence by their brokenness over sin and by their acknowledgment of living in captivity to addictions.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Put on Meekness
We are to put on meekness. In other words, we are to deliberately make it a quality of our character along with the other qualities that bring glory to God. This must be an active process, because the flesh despises meekness and prefers us to either be out of control in sin and anger, or to be passive with regard to our progression toward becoming more like Christ. This should be part of the work of a Christian. This is a command.
Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
The process of sanctification requires meekness. We must be willing to let the power of scripture and the Holy Spirit, who speaks through scripture, refine our character. Unless we are meek, we will resist the many calls of scripture to live Godly lives consistent with the principles of righteousness, holiness, and purity that God desires for each of His children.
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
It is important to note that Paul makes a distinction between gentleness and meekness. Sometimes people think that being meek is the same as being gentle. Some Bible translations actually replace the word meek with the word gentle. As the preceding passage shows, these are two different words. Jesus was meek and He was also gentle, but these are two different qualities.
Paul urges us to be meek. It is through our meekness that we can keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace among the brethren.
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Let Us Pursue Meekness and Please God
1 Peter 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Meekness in Action
Meekness is a Fruit of the Spirit
A meek person has come to grips with the fact that the flesh always seeks to gain power and control over the life of a true Christian, and the sinful desires of the flesh must be brought under control through the power of the Holy Spirit. Meek Christians understand the source of true power and are not afraid to invite the Holy Spirit of God to be at work in us to crucify our flesh and to make us meek.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Be Meek, Receive the Word, and be Saved
James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
God Takes Pleasure in the Meek and Gives Salvation
Ps 149:4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.
God Protects the Meek
Ps 147:6 The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
Meekness makes Us Teachable
Ps 25:9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
The Meek shall have Joy
Isaiah 29:19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
God Blesses the Meek
The blessing that is given to the meek is given on the basis of an inner attitude of humility before God. It is given to those who put on Godly meekness. We remember that we are dust, and at the same time, we know that we are His redeemed children. He sends trials into our lives as He did with Noah, yet, He does not forget us. We have murmured against God’s sovereign will, and have worshipped idols of our own manufacturing, yet He makes a way of deliverance for us through the power of repentance. At the same time while He is warning us of the dangers of being hypocrites, He is extending His hand to pull us back into the flock. God is meek and gentle with us and He calls us to be the same. We are to put on meekness, because it is the same garment that our king wore while He walked among the people of the Earth. Meekness is one of the first fruits produced by those who live in the kingdom of God. It is the fruit that comes from a broken and contrite heart, which has mourned and been comforted by God. In Matthew 5:5, we are called to put on meekness and to be blessed.
Father, hear my cry! Listen to my prayer.
Sometimes I am tempted to release the unrestrained power of anger against those who sin and to take vengeance into my own hands, but You have told us in scripture that vengeance belongs to You.
Sometimes I am tempted to compromise the truth of scripture to gain popularity and friendship among the people of the world and even within the Body of Christ, but you have told us to expect to be persecuted as you were persecuted.
Sometimes I struggle with knowing how I should respond to the evil around me and to the hypocrisy that I observe in the Body of Christ, but you said that “Your word is truth.”
Search me through and through. Reveal my iniquity and grant me the strength to repent and mourn.
Meet me in my mourning and comfort me.
Teach me how to be a meek spokesperson for truth in your Body and in the world.