Blessed are the Meek

Meekness doesn’t resonate with a world stitched together with slogans such as Nike’s “Just Do it” or Microsoft’s “Your potential. Our passion.” The West equates self-effacement, a lack of bravado, and an unwillingness to play the system with a specific kind of weakness that always leads to failure. In other words, we are completely unfamiliar with the term “meekness.”

Yet, Jesus prizes the word in his famed Sermon on the Mount, declaring, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).” Those who hope to follow Jesus into the new heavens and the new earth, most both understand and embrace meekness. So what is it and why does it matter? Let’s take a look.

What is Meekness?

To begin with, we must state what meekness is not. It is not a general disposition towards an unhealthy propensity towards submission and niceness that causes some souls to play dead every time a controversy or decision arises. Biblical meekness should not be equated with the guy who never speaks up in his group project, who never voices his opinion when picking a restaurant, or who simply shrugs his shoulders when his wife asks if they should send the kids to public or private school.

Rather, meekness relates to brokenness. The Greek word for meekness, praus, means the breaking of a wild horse. We could say it is an abandonment of self for the sake of others. Instead of standing upon its or her rights or privilege, the meek soul seeks the good of others irrespective of the personal cost. As the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, the meek “renounce every right of their own and live for Christ.” The meek have had their impulses towards selfishness, pride, and self-aggrandizement broken by the love of Christ.

We see this concept exemplified in the lives of both Moses and Jesus. In Numbers 12:3, the Scriptures report, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” The comment comes in the context of a power grab. Moses’s sister and brother, Miriam who was a prophetess and Aaron who was the chief priest, had just attacked Moses saying, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also (Nu. 12:2)?” God takes note of this family squabble and quickly settles it, declaring Moses to be his man and afflicting Miriam with leprosy. In this moment, Moses does the unthinkable. The text says, “And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her – please. (Nu. 12:13).” Instead of condemning his sister, rejoicing in his own vindication, or standing upon his rights as the prophet of God, Moses asks God to forgive his sister. He exemplifies the counsel of King David who encouraged the God’s people to and “refrain from anger,” and are “generous and give (Ps 37:8,21).”

As noted earlier, the concept of meekness does not come to an end in with the close of the Old Testament. Jesus described himself as meek or gentle in Matthew 11:29. The verse says, “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.” Jesus never stood upon principle, welcoming gentiles, children, prostitutes, taxes collectors, and lepers to his table. No man, woman, or child should stand aloof from Jesus because of their sin. If they will but come to the Messiah, the grand physician will make them well. He freely bestows rest on all who ask.

When the mob of temple guards came to arrest Jesus in Matthew 26 and the apostle Peter began to swinging his sword in Jesus’s defense, our savior said “Stop.” The Scriptures record:

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so (Mt 26:52-54)?

Jesus resisted those who attacked truth, readily calling a spade a spade. But he never claimed his rights or privileges as the Son of God. As the apostle Paul noted in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus died so that we might live. Those who know that Jesus’s humiliation led to their exaltation cannot help but be meek for they are nothing apart from Christ. We are saved because Jesus was meek.

Why Does Meekness Matter Part 1?

As noted in previous blogs, the beatitudes are sequential and connected. They exist as a whole with each beatitude resting upon those that proceeded it.
Consequently to achieve meekness, the soul must first be poor in spirit and mourn. Those who know Christ know that they possess nothing good in and of themselves. No one is righteous, no, not one (Rm 3:10). They grasp that negotiating with God amounts to a child negotiating with his Dad for a trip to Disney World with a twenty-dollar bill stolen from his Dad’s wallet. Those who are poor in spirit realize the insanity of their attempt to reach heaven apart from God mercy.

The soul’s realization of its spiritual poverty will inevitably lead the soul to sorrow. Psalm 119:136 states, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” Though tears can lack genuineness, the soul cannot reach heaven apart from the tears of repentance. To experience the comfort of Jesus, the soul must first mourn its spiritual poverty.

Those who understand their brokenness and God’s love will not stand upon rights tied to citizenship, one’s station in life, or church membership. They freely, willingly, and generously put the needs of others before their own. The meek know all they have comes from God’s merciful hand. Since God freely preferred them above himself, they cannot help but prefer others needs and wants before their own. The famous pastor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed up the sentiment of this beatitude well when he wrote:

Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in an attitude and conduct with respect to others.

Why Does Meekness Matter Part 2?

Meekness is the natural outgrowth of faith. And it is also an expression of hope. Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth. Some theologians have believed that Jesus is talking about the physical earth. Yet a quick scan of history has proved this not to be true. The meek have often been persecuted and murdered for their faith. Moreover, Jesus’s use of the future tense verb implies that the concept in Matthew 5 has yet to arrive. He is talking about the kingdom to come. In other words, Christians can prefer the interests of their neighbors to their own because this world is not their final hope. In Psalm 37:27-29, David defined it this way,

Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.

The inheritance of the meek is not tied to maturing stocks, real estate investments, or family heirlooms. Christians can happily give all those things away and more, knowing that no one can take their heavenly inheritance.

For example, the famed politician William Wilberforce grew up a child of means and died poor He devoted his money to the building up of the church, to the abolishment of slavery, and to the wellbeing of his family. He gave away his earthly wealth because he had attained something far greater.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

If we were to reduce our needs to one word, I believe that word would be comfort. Discrepancies between sexuality, wealth, or one’s location on this grand planet do not alter the soul’s instinctive longing for rest which resides in the knowledge that everything is ok. The urge to find comfort resides deep in the human consciousness. But the path to comfort seems to be as fixed as the early morning dew on a hot summer’s day.

Where Do We Find Comfort?

In general, modern human beings believe comfort can be found when heeding the advice of that great philosopher, Baloo the Bear, who told his listeners to “forget about your worries and your strife.” Souls naturally seek out relief through work, alcohol, sexual activity, shoe collections, ripped abs, and a host of other means that promise to blunt their awareness of pain, sorrow, and hardships. Yet no distraction proves adequate or life sustaining, forcing scores of souls back to the counselor’s chair in search of more satisfying answers.

According to the gospel of Matthew, Jesus knows the answer. Instead of directing souls to the pleasure of forgetful laughter, he says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Mt 5:2).” The parallel passage in Luke 6:25 which restates the sentiments of Matthew puts the concept even more forcefully noting that Jesus also said, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” In other words, those who seek to escape the worries and their strife through laughter will ultimately drowned in a sea of worry.

To find comfort, the soul must embrace the mourning of Jesus.

What kind of Mourning?

The sorrow of Jesus proves to be far more profound than the disposition towards grumpiness and depression associated with Eeyore or Puddleglum. Jesus is not calling his disciples to walk around with a upside down smile for the remainder of their lives. A little later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns the aesthetic of sorrow, saying, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” Moreover, as Romans 12:12 reveals, the whole scope of Scripture portrays Christians as a joyful people. Paul writes, “Rejoice in hope, be patient, in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Jesus does not believe comfort can be found in a perpetual state of self-inflected misery. Rather as the famous Welsh Preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted,

The Christian is not superficial in any sense, but is fundamentally serious and fundamentally happy.


The sorrow Jesus details in Matthew 5:3 is a sorrow over sin. Paul describes humanity’s innate spiritual poverty as follows: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another (Tt 3:3).” They have no spiritual capital by which they can negotiate their salvation. Such an awareness cannot help but lead to mourning. As David confessed in Psalm 51:3-4, “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.” To find comfort, the soul must mourn its sin.

Why Mourning Works

When the soul confesses its rebellion like the prodigal Son in Luke 15:21, Jesus does not place us into the servants quarters. He runs to us, embraces us, and throws us a feast of epic proportions. He gives us eternity, the promise that all will be alright forever. We will be with God forever.

Our savior can assure us that all will be ok in eternity because he has been forsaken. On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Mt 27:46)?” Jesus endured the punishments for our sins so that we do not have to spend an eternity in sorrow. Indeed, the soul that has mourned its sin and that has embraced the salvation of the cross has nothing to fear, for death itself has been conquered. Jesus was forsaken so that we maybe forever comforted. If we will weep, Jesus will turn our mourning into dancing and will replace our sackcloth with gladness (Ps 30:11-12).

Why is Mourning So Hard?

Despite the promises of comfort, souls will always struggle to mourn. When people accumulate wealth, prestige, or relationships, they tend to assume their earthly comfort represents God’s favor. If all were not well and if mourning were needed, the markets would dive, they would get demoted, and their friends would leave. The soul that has gained the world is often slow to mourn sin. But it should not be. Jesus took issue with the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17 for its members had mistaken wealth for Jesus’s blessing. The text says, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Circumstances do not change, the soul’s need to mourn.

Others shy away from mourning because it appears to be harsh and unloving. Many pastors refuse to call their congregations to repent of their sin. They believe that addressing an inconsequential affair, a little tax fraud, or a touch of racism will prove more costly than ignoring the sin. They believe it is better to know the laughter of the world than the costly mourning of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 and 6 Paul takes issue with this line of reasoning. He writes, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you… Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” Those who refuse to mourn sin express neither spiritual maturity nor wisdom. Rather, they work against the commands of Christ. When Christians encounter sin, they should mourn it and call others to mourn it. Comfort and salvation come through tears.

Conclusion

Comfort cannot be found through laughter nor through somber asceticism for it is not located in this world. True comfort is tied not to marriages, good grades, or health. It is tied to eternity which can only be accessed through the salvation of Jesus. To find that comfort, the soul must embrace its own discomfort, mourning its poverty of spirit. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”