Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5
Do you remember the Casper Milquetoast comic strip? I don’t either. But you may have heard the name, because it has become part of the English language. When I looked up milquetoast in the dictionary, I found this definition: “a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated.”
Is that the image you get when you hear the word meek? Why would you want to be meek in that sense? Further, why would such a person be blessed? Doesn’t sound very inviting, does it?
But let’s back up just a bit. Remember that the Beatitudes are not individual characteristics, but rather build upon each other like rungs on a ladder. Arthur Pink says, “It must be steadily kept in mind that in these Beatitudes our Lord is describing the orderly development of God’s work of grace as it is experientially realized in the soul. First, there is poverty of spirit: a sense of my insufficiency and nothingness. Next, there is mourning over my lost condition and sorrowing over the awfulness of my sins against God. Following this, in order of spiritual experience, is humbleness of soul.”
Humbleness of soul. Now, that makes more sense. The Greek word translated meek, praus, is defined as “the positive moral quality of dealing with people in a kind manner, with humility and consideration.” Further, as Warren Wiersbe explains, “Meekness is not weakness or timidity. Meekness is power under control.”
Meekness in this sense does not come naturally to us. It goes against our nature to be humble before God and before others, especially those who mistreat us. Jesus recognized that, but He explained how we can develop meekness in Galatians 5:22-23—it’s a fruit of the Spirit, the result of the Spirit’s work in our lives: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [prautes] and self-control.”
And, of course, we do not have the Spirit working in us unless we have experienced the new birth—unless our nature has been radically changed as a result of giving ourselves into God’s hands.
But let’s talk about a couple of practical applications of meekness. First, in his commentary on Matthew, William Barclay explains how we should react when someone offends us. He says,
“Blessed are those who are always angry at the right time, and never angry at the wrong time. If we ask what the right time and the wrong time are, we may say as a general rule for life that it is never right to be angry for any insult or injury done to ourselves—that is something that no Christian must ever resent—but that it is often right to be angry at injuries done to other people. Selfish anger is always a sin; selfless anger can be one of the great moral dynamics of the world.”
Jesus expanded on this idea in Matthew 5:11: “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven” (emphasis added). Note carefully that this applies to those who are persecuted “because of me.” There is no reward at all for being “persecuted” for sins or crimes you have committed. Don’t dishonor your God by claiming otherwise. That type of attitude is the very opposite of the humbleness, the meekness, which God blesses.
There’s another side to meekness that we often neglect as well, and that is our attitude toward fellow Christians who have sinned.
Warren Wiersbe asks,
“Do I receive the news gleefully and start to spread it? Am I pleased that they have sinned because their fall makes my walk look better?… When a Christian has fallen into sin, I have the power to hurt him or her, but meekness is power under control. I also have the power to help. ‘Restore such an one.’ [Galatians 6:1] …When a Christian falls into sin, it affects the body of Christ the way a broken bone affects your physical body; it must be restored.”
How often we forget John Bradford’s insightful comment, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Remember who you are—a sinner saved by grace—and extend the same grace to a fallen brother or sister. The ones who do that are the ones who will “inherit the earth.” This is a quote taken from Psalm 37. There’s a wealth of encouragement in that psalm for those who are enduring hardship in this world because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Read and meditate on it sometime. You will be blessed!
Warren Wiersbe writes about Psalm 37, “What should the righteous do? Meekly submit to God’s will by trusting in the Lord (v. 3), delighting in the Lord (v. 4), committing their way unto the Lord (v. 5), and resting in the Lord (v. 7). The result is that they will inherit the earth, which simply means that they do not have to be afraid of anybody or anything because God is in control of them and their circumstances.”
What does it mean to be meek in practical everyday terms? “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). Or, to put it in modern vernacular: Let go, and let God!