The first time I ever came across the term "meek" was this past summer when I was reading Matthew 5. For context, Matthew 5 verses 2-10 are known as the "beatitudes," or principles to live by. Beatitudes are not guidelines like "love your neighbor as yourself" or "do not sin in your anger", but are deeper daily callings that require us to live a counter-cultural lifestyle to then receive some of the sweetest of God's blessings.
After reading Matthew 5, the Holy Spirit called me to choose one beatitude to study and apply to my life. As you can tell, I chose to reflect on verse 5 that states, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Dealing with pride and self-righteousness, I thought this word would be perfect to meditate on. And the spirit was so right in leading me verse 5 as the main thing hindering our ability to become meek, is pride.
Researching meekness was no easy pursuit. Going to the Bible first, I found that the word is only mentioned three times, give or take depending on the version. But after prayerfully meditating on scripture, asking people’s experience, scanning bible hub interlinear, and applying it to my life, God showed me the depth and layers to meekness that I am oh so excited to share with you.
But before continuing to each attribute of meekness, I think it’s important to say that we cannot achieve any of the beatitudes without God. When Jesus introduced the idea of beatitudes in His sermon on the mount, He knew he was calling Christians onto a difficult, narrow path. Honor, strength, and wealth were all highly valued in society when Jesus taught this, and yet, He told people to live a life that opposed societal standards. Even today, we live in a world where "honor is currency," as one of my friends said recently. Being poor in spirit, merciful, pure in heart, and as I highlight here, meek, is contradictory to how the world says to live life. So it's hard because we first have to not conform to the world (Romans 12:2). Once we get past societal standards, there's the actual effort to incorporate the beatitudes into our lives. These characteristics require intentionality in prayer and practice until you're exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But that's where God meets our weariness with His strength and blessings. It's where being poor in spirit is met with the kingdom of heaven, our mercy is met with His mercy, and our purity in heart met with the opportunity to see Him face to face.
Let's look at meekness.
"Meekness is a spiritual temperament that says "yes" to God in joyful obedience. It is slow to give or take offense. It is teachable and rests upon the grace of humility." - Clift Richards, Prayers that Prevail.
Meekness is a humble posture that requires surrendering our will and joyfully taking up our cross. Because meekness has so many layers, I break up each attribute into the 1. definition and general idea, 2. example from Christ 3. encouragement from scripture.
The meekness mentioned in Matthew 5 originally used the Greek word praos which means mild, gentle, and kind. In this definition, among multiple conversations with my friends, a theme of humility was evident.
James 4:6-10 explains how humility can be achieved: “… Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you."
At first glance, we see the idea of complete surrender that marks humility. It's about seeing the sin in our lives for what it is. It’s about knowing our plan isn’t as good as God’s will for us. It’s knowing we aren’t strong enough, attractive enough, smart enough, accomplished enough. It's full of mourning and dying to ourselves. It requires kneeling at the cross and saying "I have nothing. Fill me, Lord." In Ecclesiastes 2:11, we get a picture of the author doing this as they reflect on how their daily pursuits and efforts were "vanity and striving after the wind" that "there is nothing to be gained under the sun."
Humility is knowing that we have nothing but God has everything. We know nothing, have done nothing, are nothing. But by his son, we can ask for Godly wisdom and delight in His will, we are invited to spread the Good News and bring glory to the Kingdom, and we are called a child of God, worthy, and fully known.
As mentioned above, the Greek word for meekness is praos and its cognate, práos, is defined as "the necessary balance of exercising power and avoiding harshness" or "displaying the right blend of force and reserve (gentleness)." Philippians 2:5-8 highlights this idea in Christ’s life saying, “… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. In His lifetime, there was always someone asking, “If you’re the Son of Man, why don’t you use God’s power?” Rather than demonstrating his strength, He remains humble and exercises self-control. And while humility looks differently in our lives, to see that Jesus surrendered in such a way as this, we can look to Him as an example to live by.
Continuing in Philippians 2:9-11, Paul writes, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Christ lowered himself to the lowest of low, being placed on a cross. The cross is a symbol of a criminal, it is the harshest punishment for the worst of people. It was a public place of rejection by society. Not only did Jesus become man, but placed himself in a position to receive the most humiliation. But by his death and resurrection, he was uplifted by his father to the highest of places. In the shaming of his life by man and the stripping of himself for our sins, he was crowned with glory and placed at the right hand of God. Proverbs 22:4 states, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” Humility requires us to lay our plans and abilities and attitudes at the cross. But whenever we empty ourselves, God promises to fill. And by our emptying and God’s filling, Christ becomes more apparent in us.
When was going through the motions of applying meekness, I remember there was a point after I humbled myself where I thought, “What now?” The answer to that question can be found in Romans 12:1-2 and Proverbs 3:5-6.
Romans 12:1-3: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
These two verses start with humility; sacrificing our bodies, transforming our minds towards Christ, and leaning not on our understanding. With humility as the first step, we are then called to obedience. Obedience is not only knowing God’s will but putting it into action. God creates our paths, we test and discern. When we align our sights on Him, we are invited to live in his will for us.
Before Jesus died on the cross, he is seen in Luke 22:42-44 praying over God’s plan for him, saying “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Jesus faced a painful death and dealt with the weight of what his father was calling him into. Despite his hesitance, Jesus died on the cross for us, saving us all from our sin.
Jesus is the pinnacle representation of obedience. He is the perfect example of seeing God’s plan and doing what God asks, even to the point of dying on the cross. His joyful obedience is to a plan that is painful and full of struggle, but the goodness that comes can’t compare.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Walking in obedience is difficult. It requires us to give up comfort and give it up constantly for the glory of the Kingdom of God. But how cool we have a loving God that came down through his son to endure an uncomfortable life to be able to relate and set an example. We can take heart knowing that our God relates to our struggle and that he encourages us in every step we take.
As we’ve seen, being meek means being humble and taking up our cross daily. While we could end the conversation here, there is one more element at play. Teachability.
Teachability is a curious posture that is not hard-hearted but open to learning new things and actively and effectively applying lessons learned. As we walk in humility and obedience, being teachable is an attitude that invites God to work on our hearts.
In Matthew 11:29, Christ calls us into a teacher-student relationship when he says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Creating a cycle, Jesus tells us that by joining together with him, we can learn meekness but to be teachable, we have to humble ourselves and be obedient to God. Being able to learn things well is a challenge as it requires us to give up preconceptions and understandings and relearn things. Going throughout our lives, we live experiences that shape our perspectives and character. When we have attributes that aren’t reflective of Christ, God leads us through struggles and circumstances and into the uncomfortable. We then have a choice to simply get through it, or suffer well and be taught.
One of my friends recently shared the analogy that we are either stone or clay. God can work with both, but if our heart is a rock, chiseling occurs, whereas clay is more easily moldable and involves much less pain.
It may be hard to believe, but Jesus had to learn at one point too. In Luke 2:52, it says that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.” Jesus didn’t sin, but instead struggled well and learned obedience and wisdom. As trials approached, he saw them as opportunities to gain wisdom and grow in understanding. I think I can keep it simple here by stating that Christ is an example for us to follow, not necessarily that we can avoid sinning, but that we can sin less in our pursuit of becoming like him in his teachable heart.
Many verses come to mind concerning teachability and the blessings that come from having this characteristic. One that works well in the context of meekness is Romans 5:3-4.
Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Going through a season of uncertainty, dissatisfaction, chaos, or discomfort, we can have many different reactions. But as Christ-followers we are called to see trials as something to rejoice in. If it helps, we can ask God the question “What are you trying to teach me here?” to allow us to see trials as Jesus did- an opportunity to bring God glory in the process of learning something new.
Something that gets in the way
Pride holds us back from achieving meekness. It is a focus of self. It is deceptive and tells the lie that we can do life on our own. When we are prideful, the resources God has given us are used for our own glory and are therefore wasted. When we are prideful, we take our own path and use our own strength. Instead of loving others and extending the gospel, pride causes us to cling to what we have and pursue the desires of the world. Pride is tacked onto our identity and what we can do from that identity. In each part of meekness, it is important to consider pride and test the spirit to ensure that it isn’t hindering our ability to see things clearly, live wholeheartedly, and love others purely.
Be Meek and Inherit the Kingdom
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Meekness is multilayered. It’s about humbling ourselves, being obedient, and being teachable. Looking at meekness as a whole, it is a difficult pursuit. In its difficulty, it’s reasonable to question why it’s worth the struggle to become meek. At the end of Matthew 5:5, it says that those who are meek will inherit the earth. In humility, we lose ourselves so we can gain Christ. In obedience, we walk the narrow path to love others and recruit people for the Kingdom. In being teachable, we are constantly growing into people that represent Christ more, and in that transformation, we are pulled into a deeper union with God, to where one day we can place a crown of righteousness at Christ’s feet.
In being meek, we shout for joy God’s victory over the earth and receive the blessings that come with being a child of the victor.