Meek, not weak

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Unbroken_AFRemember, these are the teachings of Jesus that will make us His disciples, and set us free as we come to know their truth. And this is one of the hardest to figure out. It’s hard to understand because it runs counter to our culture.

“Go for the gusto.” “Just do it.” “You deserve a break today” (point being what you “deserve.”) These are the phrases that capture the spirit of our age. We are always seeking how to get a leg up on the next guy. This is the way success is measured: how high up on the ladder one can climb (and who you can pass on the way).

To say that the guys at the bottom are going to win it all does not sit well with us. In fact, it doesn’t even compute. This is about as popular as new math.

Even Bible commentators have a hard time with this one. They point out that meek doesn’t mean weak. They point to Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the temple as a sort of non-meek thing to do, and therefore His “meek” must not mean what  we think of as meek.

But, as far as I can tell, it is what it is. Meek means meek, submissive, humble, unresisting, quiet, gentle, compliant, unprotesting, mild-mannered, unassuming, and self-effacing.

However, I think I agree with the commentators that meek doesn’t mean weak. Jesus, and His apostles after Him, displayed incredible strength against adversity and opposition, but that strength came from a whole different place than what Nike, Schlitz, and McDonalds are talking about in their commercials.

All of the qualities listed above as synonyms of meek are qualities one adopts by choice. We’re not talking about types of people, but about ways of aligning ourselves in the world and ways of going about getting things. These are voluntary positions of servanthood. These are all attitudes of choice that put us in a position to inherit things rather than “gaining” or “deserving” them. This is the submissive servant attitude that God rewards. Jesus said over and over that He came not to be served, but to serve. He washed his disciples’ feet. He always took the lower position. And when he was reviled and persecuted, he didn’t resist. He took it. He endured the abuse and the shame. He did not retaliate; He left that entirely up to God the Father.

Indeed, this kind of restraint amidst unjust treatment takes more strength than retaliation. Jesus showed the greatest amount of strength in shutting His mouth and setting aside His power in dying an unjust death for the sins of the world. That was the ultimate of meek, but certainly not weak.

So the meek who are blessed are those who are going through life identifying with the “least of these,” choosing to lower themselves before others, serving, submitting to authority and not retaliating, seeking justice for others, but leaving repayment for their own injustice up to God. These are the people who will inherit the earth because God will give it to them. He will make sure they get it.

I am reading a novel about an American World War II POW in Japan who endured unimaginable violence and abuse from a deranged Japanese officer who singled him out for particular punishment. Fearing that retaliation would make his punishment worse, he chose not to retaliate, and yet refused to be broken by this man, and in the end, showed the greater strength, knowing justice would one day judge the officer for his war crimes. Indeed, that man’s violence came to represent cowardice, amidst the American’s refusal to be broken. That POW was meek, but far from weak.

Our meekness is another way of showing our reliance on the new covenant in our lives, where we trust not in our own adequacy, but in the fact that God has made us adequate in and through His Spirit. In choosing to serve, we discover God’s power available to us.

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6 Responses to Meek, not weak

  1. mark s says:

    Very good Catch Pastor John – thx 4 it too… 🙂

  2. Gomer Lesch says:

    Does the word humble come into play here?

  3. Marc says:

    When I heard discussion of “meek,” this verse comes up:

    Numbers 12:3English Standard Version (ESV)

    3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

    Not the person we think of when we think of the word “meek.” But it illustrates what you said in your catch.

  4. Markus says:

    The way how “meek” is used in this context creates a contrast to “aggressive and self centred ambition” here, I think. I know that Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience here, but the Romans cultivated a form of aggressive ambition that combined most extreme work ethics with a similarly extreme cut-throat mentality. I wouldn’t be surprised if that mentality had rubbed off on the Jews. This mentality is still around though.

    Ambition as such though, frankly I don’t see how that alone goes against the Holy Spirit. I still believe that ambition is a risky emotion, but isn’t that true for all emotions?

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