“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” Mth 5:5.
Meekness isn’t something I heard a lot about growing up. I knew it was in some teachings that Jesus gave on a mountain, but it’s one of those things that you skim over when you read the Bible, because it’s weird.
A bunch of meek people gaining control of the Earth? Sounds like a sci-fi movie about monks and global domination. It’s easy to write that off as something God can explain later in Heaven…And yet, Jesus took time in His limited earthly ministry to talk about it. He wanted us to know about it on this side of eternity. Obviously from the context we can see that meekness is something that God desires and shows favor on, but what does it mean to be meek?
The image of a smiling pushover comes to mind, like an inflatable punching bag I swung at as a kid, but that can’t be right. Jesus was the ultimate example of meek (Mth 11:29), and He’s the exact opposite of a pushover.
Moses, too, was described as incomparably meek. We read about it in Numbers 12. Moses is leading the nation of Israel and his older siblings launch a verbal attack against him, laced with envy, regarding his Cushite wife. During the encounter we see a stillness from Moses, in which he doesn’t defend himself.
Instead, God defends him with a mighty show of force. He calls out both siblings, Aaron and Miriam, and makes them answer for their words. First, he declares how faithful and above reproach Moses has been. How he alone was given the privilege to hear from God directly. Then He questions why they weren’t afraid to speak out against such a godly man who had done nothing wrong. Finally, God enacts a consequence and mutates Miriam’s flesh to the appearance of being chewed up and deformed. Yikes.
Is that not terrifying? Imagine standing nearby and witnessing that. How gut wrenching would that be for Aaron or Miriam? You can feel the shame and horror that would have settled after the sin. But instead of a smug grin on his face for being vindicated, Moses begs God to heal Miriam.
We see that Moses wasn’t concerned about defending himself let alone launching a counter attack on his siblings. He was slow to anger, leaning into a trust and deference of God. And rather than gloat about the justice that was eventually served, he cried out for the interest of another. Please heal her.
What it Means to be Meek
Meekness then is a controlled strength that puts everything in the hands of God. It’s founded on a trust of the Lord, and it always denies self. We see it grow alongside humility and wisdom in that it seeks another person’s interest at the expense of its own, and it’s pure, peaceable, gentle, and open to reason (James 3:13&17).
This should not, however, be confused with cowardice or weakness. It’s not being afraid to stand up to someone; rather it’s having the courage to trust God for justice. We see this in David’s life before he was made king. Several times he had the strength and power to take the throne for his own and yet he rejected self. He quieted the whisperings of flesh that say “Why should you tolerate this? He should pay for this!” and chose instead to trust the Lord his God with quiet submission (1 Sam 26:10-11). How counter cultural is that in today’s world? We have an entire online world that roars against that attitude.
A Spiritual Inheritance
Then there’s the bit about them inheriting the earth? Jesus has a habit of saying things that make you scratch your head. I have sympathy for the Apostles because I have the Spirit and years of studying His Word, and I’m still confused by what He says sometimes. My current understanding is this: there is a sense in which the meek have already inherited the earth. The Bible says that all things are ours in Christ, and Paul declared that he has nothing and yet he has everything. You take swipes at a meek man and he takes it in stride. You have no power over such a person. They are content and satisfied on this side of eternity. In that way they have inherited the earth.
But there are future expectations too. In the day when tears will be wiped away there will be a purification of the soul. Quite literally everyone in Heaven on the new earth will be meek. To be otherwise would be inconsistent with righteousness.
Where does that leave us? In a position of hope and certainty. One New Testament Scholar, D.A. Carson, says it this way, “With this eternal perspective in view he (a Christian) can afford to be meek”. Can you afford to be meek today? Do you trust God in a way that you know all things will be made right in the end? Are you free to suffer wrong and lean into the Lord?