This post is the 4th in the series of posts on the Beatitudes—a section that spans from Matthew 5:3-12. In this section, the Lord Jesus describes 8 attitudes that should be present in the life of everyone who claims to be his follower. In this post, we will be looking at the third attitude—the attitude of meekness or gentleness or humility depending upon what translation one uses—as described in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” It is drawn from Psalm 37:11.
If there is one quality that the world prizes, it’s this: Power. The world says: Assert yourself. Jesus, however, says the exact opposite:
- Be gentle.
- Don’t assert yourself.
- Don’t push for glory.
- Don’t strive for recognition.
That’s the lifestyle he says receives God’s blessing, his approval, and his favor. And that’s the lifestyle that will get it all in the end—they and they alone, he says, will be the true inheritors of the entire earth.
So, 2 opposing views: World says, “Mighty are the strong.” Jesus, on the other hand, says, “Mighty are the meek.” Totally counterculture! Totally against what our natural flesh wants! Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to display a meek attitude. Let’s see how we can do it by first of all looking closely at this word, “meek.” What does it mean? How can we define it?
What Meekness Is.
Meekness or gentleness, first of all, is not weakness. Moses was described as “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” [Num 12:3]. Jesus—described himself in this manner “I am gentle [the same word translated meek in Matthew 5:5] and humble in heart” [Matt 11:29]. Would anyone in their right mind dare call Moses or Jesus weak or spineless individuals?
However, the question remains: What does the word meek mean? A little background of Psalm 37 from which Jesus draws this word “meek” [Psa 37:11] will help us answer this question. David wrote Psalm 37 to encourage God’s people who were going through oppression at the hands of their enemies [Psa 37:1]. He calls them to refrain from retaliating [Psa 37:8], entirely rely on God to bring justice at the right time, and at the same time continually do good [Psa 37:27].
So, who then are the meek? They are those who entirely rely on God when being oppressed. They don’t retaliate or take vengeance into their own hands. Instead, they continue to do good—even to those who hurt them!
Meek people are strong people. They have their strength under control. It’s not that a meek person never gets angry. They do. But for the right reasons. They get angry when God’s glory is at stake or when injustice is done to others, not when they face personal insults. People with gentle spirit care for the feelings and needs of others—including their enemies! They always strive to put the needs of others above their own. They don’t retaliate but keep on doing good because they rely on God to bring justice at the right time.
That’s how Jesus—the definition of meekness—lived, and that’s how we are to live as well! And just as Jesus will inherit the coming kingdom as King for displaying a gentle attitude, we can be assured we too will share in that inheritance if we pursue a life of meekness.
The reward for a Meek Lifestyle.
This verse that Jesus quotes in Matthew 5:5 is based on the Old Testament, particularly the first part of Psalm 37:11, “But the meek will inherit the land” with one exception. Jesus changed the word “land” to “earth” in this beatitude to indicate that his followers will not just inherit the land of Palestine but the entire earth due to displaying a meek attitude when he returns to set up his kingdom. That’s the reward for a meek lifestyle!
The Bible’s call for Meekness.
Not only in this beatitude but in several other places, the Bible stresses believers to pursue meekness as a lifestyle—especially in our relationships with one another. We are told in Colossians 3:12 to “clothe [ourselves] with…humility, gentleness [meekness] and patience.” In Ephesians 4:2, we are commanded to “Be completely humble and gentle [meek].” Even Christian wives living with non-Christian husbands are commanded to display a “gentle [meek] and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” [1 Pet 3:4].
And in the very same chapter, Peter later stresses this same non-retaliatory behavior as a requirement for all believers. 1 Peter 3:9 reads, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” [1 Pet 3:9]. Don’t retaliate—no tit for tat—but respond with kindness, goodness to those who act harshly toward you. And the assurance is that such people will experience God’s blessing in the end!
So, you see, meekness is not an option for those who claim to be Christians. Jesus makes it very clear: Only meek people will be in the coming kingdom, which he will be setting up. They and they alone will inherit the earth.
How, then, are we to cultivate this attitude of Meekness?
How can we grow in meekness? Only one way: By relying on the Holy Spirit to produce this in us. We are told in Galatians 5:22-23, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness [or meekness] and self-control.” Notice meekness is a characteristic that the Holy Spirit alone can produce in us [“fruit of the Spirit” or fruit produced by the Spirit]. We cannot display this beatitude or, for that matter, any other beatitudes on our own. We have to depend and submit to the Holy Spirit to grow in meekness.
Now, we must also remember the Holy Spirit uses means to produce this kind of lifestyle. And, in particular, he uses 2 means to help us grow in meekness.
The first means the Holy Spirit uses to produce meekness in us is the Word of God. The sword that the Spirit uses is the word of God [Eph 6:17]. James 1:21 says this: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly [meekly] accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” In other words, not only are we to humbly submit to God’s word at the time of salvation, but we must also have the same attitude towards God’s word throughout our Christian life. Real change comes only when we move from listening to acting upon God’s word [Lk 11:28]!
So, if we are to grow in meekness, we must allow the Holy Spirit to use God’s word to change us. That’s why we must personally read God’s word daily, hear it preached soundly, and immediately put into practice what we read and hear. That is the evidence a person seeks to be controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit! In such a person’s life, the Holy Spirit will produce the sweet characteristic of meekness or gentleness.
So, the first means the Holy Spirit uses to produce meekness in us is God’s word.
The second means the Holy Spirit uses to produce meekness in us is Trials. Interestingly, the Greek word that’s translated as “meek” in Matthew 5:5 was used in Jesus’s day to describe the taming of a wild and strong horse through the use of some pain to come under the complete control of its rider. An animal that successfully underwent that process of taming was described as having been “MEEKED.”
The Holy Spirit does the same thing with us. He uses trials to break us of our will, and in that way, force us to depend on God and not take matters into our hands. And through that process, the Holy Spirit starts producing more of this characteristic called meekness in us. That’s why we must not hate trials but see them as opportunities through which the Holy Spirit makes us more gentle.
People who have gone through trials are usually more patient toward others, more sensitive to the pains that others go through. Also, they are prone to actively seeking to do good to others. They don’t pursue their own interests but are always trying to put the interests of others above their own [Phil 2:4]!
Meek people don’t even care to defend themselves because they know they don’t deserve anything. They don’t get angry about what’s done to them. Since they are already bowed low, they don’t fear a fall! Their submissive spirits prevent them from seeking vengeance on others. Instead, they seek to be a blessing to others. And such a spirit is a result of being broken by trials. And it makes sense.
So, the Word of God and Trials—are the 2 means the Holy Spirit uses to make us grow in meekness.
Encouragement to let go of a retaliatory spirit and pursue Meekness.
You see, retaliation never brings peace to our souls. Hitting back to get our pound of flesh will never make us look like Christ. So many homes, so many relationships broken because of a retaliatory spirit. A retaliatory spirit causes nothing but significant damage to relationships in the home and outside. It brings grief to the Holy Spirit and ultimately shame to the name of Christ.
However, relying on God to bring justice in his time and, at the same time pursuing to do good to others (which is what meekness is all about) brings great glory to God and a blessing to us as well. To such people and such people only, Jesus promises, you will inherit the coming world.
Even in the present, meek people experience God’s guidance. Psalm 25:9 says, “He guides the humble [meek] in what is right and teaches them his way.” Do you want to know God’s will in your life? Be humble. Turn from your pride. Submit to God’s ways. He will show you the right decisions to make!
The world needs to see more of a gentle and non-retaliatory spirit within us. And when they see that, they will see Jesus. He is the one the world needs to see! We are simply his ambassadors called to represent him faithfully. We can never win someone to Christ by displaying an angry and hurtful spirit—be it in our homes or outside. But a gentle spirit has great power to move even hard hearts!
Examine your life. Are you a meek person? How do you respond when someone insults you? What’s your reaction when things don’t go your way—even in the smallest of matters? Are you an angry person always wanting things your way? If that’s your lifestyle, then you may need to see if you truly belong in God’s kingdom—no matter what you profess with your mouth. Remember, the entire sermon on the mount is a mirror that Jesus holds up to help one examine if they are indeed his followers. It’s never too late to repent.
And if you’ve never submitted to God by embracing his Son Jesus, I pray you will do that today. Acknowledge your sins. Acknowledge your total inability to meet God’s perfect standards. Cry over your sins, and in faith, turn to Christ, who died for all the sins you have committed and will ever commit! Accept his offer of forgiveness and surrender your life to him. Then you will not only come into God’s family but will also be able to pursue this attitude of meekness as empowered by the Holy Spirit. Blessed indeed are the meek, for they and they alone will inherit the earth!