What Does it Mean to Be Meek? [Beatitudes]

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. – Mat. 5:5

Meekness is one of those qualities we understand, but it can be difficult to articulate. So what does it mean to be meek? In general usage, we relate it to being humble, patient, gentle, and kind, but as with all of the beatitudes, there is a spiritual element that we must not miss or we could go astray. Even the natural man, apart from Christ, can display gentleness and kindness, and they will not inherit the earth. Jesus clearly meant more than that.

In Matthew chapter five, the first four beatitudes focus on our relationship to God and the last four, our relationship to man. We should not forget, however, when we live out the first four in relation to God, it will affect our relationship to man, but the relationship to God must be primary. With this in mind, meekness in the Sermon on the Mount should be understood in light of our relationship to the Lord.

The first beatitude, poor in spirit, means we understand our spiritual poverty apart from God, which leads to the second beatitude which mourns over our sinful condition. Following directly from this comes meekness. In this context, meekness involves a humility before God, a submission to His will, and an end of trying to justify ourselves before Him and submitting to His way of salvation.

As mentioned earlier, the primary focus of the first four beatitudes is our submission to God in our state of spiritual poverty, but if we are meek before God, we will also be meek before men. We see many examples of meekness in the pages of scripture. Abraham was meek in letting Lot have the first choice of land, even though he was the patriarch. Moses lived in Pharaoh’s palace but gave it all up to do the will of the Lord, and David, though he was anointed as king by God, humbled himself before Saul.

We also see meekness in Jesus. In fact, Jesus tells us the reason we should come to Him when we are heavy laden is that He is “gentle and lowly in heart.” It is here we will find our rest (Mat. 11:28-29). The God of all the universe takes on flesh and is meek. There is no greater example for us to follow. We should desire to be conformed to His image.

Are we meek?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his book on the Sermon on the Mount, gives us some great tests to examine ourselves to see if we are meek. Here are a few of his ideas reformatted to fit this context. Do these describe you?

  1. Meek people do not boast in themselves. They do not find glory in themselves and do not desire that others glory in them either.
  2. Meek people are not sensitive about themselves, and will not always need to defend themselves when people point out their flaws and weaknesses.
  3. Meek people have a teachable spirit. They are not gullible, but they are open to criticism and expect it because they know they have a lot to learn.
  4. Meek people love the word of God and submit to it. They do not chafe against it.
  5. Meek people tend to be satisfied because they do not always believe they are entitled to more.
  6. Meek people are not weak people. A meek person will stand immovable in God’s truth because they submit to God before they will submit to man.

The meek shall inherit the earth

The meek will inherit the earth even though they are not arrogant nor do they demand it. In one sense, they already have it because they are satisfied with what they have. They do not feel that they deserve more and find joy in the world that the Lord has already given them. Ultimately, however, it means, because they come to Christ on His terms for salvation, by faith alone, they will reign with Him as co-heirs.

May we all strive to grow in meekness.

-D. Eaton

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