Is meekness a compliment or an insult?
By Don Ruhl
If someone says that you are meek, will that be a compliment or an insult? Would you think that he is calling you weak or a geek? Is meekness something to acquire or become, or something to avoid?
If someone said to you that you are meek, would you say thank you or try to prove him wrong? Is meekness something to overcome? Is it a curse? Is it a derogatory remark? Is it spinelessness? Is it peace-at-any-price? Is it something to mock in others or to imitate? Do the meek get trampled on or do they influence others?
Meekness is gentle strength, spiritual poise and a mild spirit. Meekness is a mighty horse under the control of the bridle. Meekness is the ferocious lioness carrying her cubs in her teeth. Meekness is the fierce tigress cuddling her cub.
The anger of a meek man is like trying to get a spark out of hitting two pieces of steel together. It is hard to get the spark out, but once it happens it disappears quickly. Meekness is a yield sign at each end of a one-lane bridge.
“Meekness is imperfect if it be not both active and passive, leading us to subdue our own passions and resentments, as well as to bear patiently the passions and resentments of others” (Foster).
Proverbs 16 has a wise saying that shows meekness.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Now see this passage in the contrasting lives of Alexander the Great and Jesus Christ. Alexander the Great began conquering at 22 years of age. In 11 years, he had an empire. At 33 he died of a drinking bout. He was mighty and took cities, but he did not rule his spirit.
Jesus Christ began conquering at 30 years of age. In 3.5 years, He had done everything necessary to have an empire. Jesus also died at 33. He was not “mighty” in the worldly sense nor did He take cities. Yet He is imitated and exalted. He has taken the world, countries, cities and the hearts of men and women in ways that Alexander the so-called Great never imagined. Jesus was slow to anger and ruled His spirit in the face of great suffering and temptation. How did Jesus do these things, fulfilling Proverbs 16:32? Jesus was meek. He preached and practiced the third Beatitude, found in Matthew 5:5.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
The third Beatitude is built on the previous two. Those who are poor in spirit, mourn. Those who are poor in spirit, and mourn, become meek. These three point to an unselfish character.
The third Beatitude must have been a shocker to the Messianic expectations of the Jews. Although knowing the humble, nonviolent person of Jesus, most people still find meekness unacceptable. They do not see it as the way to conquer anything. Jesus said meekness, not violence or materialism conquers the earth.
Speaking of Woodside, California, where many CEOs of Silicon Valley live, David Kaplan of Newsweek said, “The meek didn’t inherit the earth—the geeks did” (June 14, 1999, p. 49), showing a typical misunderstanding of this blessed character trait.
Blessed Are The Meek? Yes!
Numbers chapter 12 makes a fascinating statement about Moses. As you read this verse, remember what you know about Moses, who boldly entered the presence of Pharaoh and asked for the release of the Israelites. Moses led at least three million complaining and discontented people through a wilderness for 40 years! Can that be done with a spineless, get-along-at-any-price mentality? “(Now the man Moses was very humble [“meek” in some translations, D.R.], more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)” (Num. 12:3).
This was said because Aaron and Miriam were not meek in verses one and two, for they did not submit to God’s spokesman. They challenged the authority of God’s man Moses.
Matthew chapter 11 shows why most of us are attracted to Jesus. If we took a survey, I would guess that we would come up with answers that show His meekness. We might even allude to passages such as the following: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [or meek] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mat. 11:29). Who is gentler than Jesus Christ and stood firmer for the truth? Did He ever become angry? Twice, He physically drove corrupt businessmen out of the temple. Once, a man with a withered hand was in a synagogue. Jesus asked the man to step forward. Jesus then asked the Pharisees whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. They were silent, hoping to find a reason to condemn Him. He looked at them with anger, and then healed the man. Did people walk all over Jesus, or did He overcome their evil with good?
It is this learned ability to bridle strength and use it gently for good things that brings on a global blessing. Shall the meek inherit the earth? Yes! The earth belongs to the meek. First Corinthians chapter six shows who will judge the world. We often think that God is the only Judge, but this verse reveals a certain group of people who will take part in the judging. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2a). We can judge in the end, because this world belongs to our Father.
Did you know that when Jesus gave the third Beatitude He was actually quoting from Psalm 37? Therefore, understanding Psalm 37 and the history of the Old Testament shows how the meek inherit the earth.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
The righteous always prevails, and wins in the end. The wicked never prevails and always loses in the end. Do you know who wrote Psalm 37? David wrote this psalm about meekness. Do you consider him a meek man? If not, why? Even as Jesus physically removed thieves in the temple, but was still meek, so David physically removed Goliath, but was still meek.
The meek inherit the things of Psalm 37 because they have part in all things, because their Father owns all.
Psalm 24 has something to say to people who say that a part of the earth is God’s country; as though other parts are not, or not as much as their favorite part.
The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
How the meek inherit the earth is seen in these passages. First Corinthians chapter three stakes a claim for us. Think about how this can be true. “Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21–23).
No good thing does He withhold from His people as they seek to do His will. The earth and its nations, lands, businesses and so on, exist for the church and the carrying out of God’s will.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
Whatever we need of this earth to accomplish God’s will, He makes available. “The dross of the earth the meek do not inherit; but all the true enjoyments, the wisdom, love, peace, and independence, which earth can bestow, are assured to the meek as inherent in their meekness” (Henry Taylor). Consequently, the meek are strong. Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is not geekness. The meek are so strong they own the earth. The meek are not influenced, but influence.
Be meek, that is, humble yourself; live the gentle life and God will exalt you. The Meek and Lowly One, who is Lord of heaven and of earth, knows what He is talking about when He says,
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
He has the ability to fulfill it for you. Therefore, submit unconditionally to His will by believing with all your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and through repentance and baptism become His disciple. When you begin your walk with Jesus, these things show that you are taking all your strength and are bringing it under the control of the Lord.
Don Ruhl is one of the preachers with the Savage Street Church of Christ in Grants Pass, Oregon. 220 NE Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon, 97526-1310, 541-476-3100, Rdruhl@aol.com