Hebrews 1:1-3 give a revealing description of Jesus Christ: He is “upholding all things by the word of his power.” That is exceeding great power—power beyond our comprehension. Yet Christ completely controls that unlimited power always to use it as His Father desires.
As Christ said of His Father: “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).
How does Christ do that? What character trait in His perfect character enables Christ to so totally submit to the Father’s will?
That trait is Christ’s meekness. It enables Him to control and always properly use His great power. Since we are to let His mind be in us (Philippians 2:5), we must be striving to attain the same level of meekness. We must develop that character trait so we can qualify to rule forever with Christ.
Of the nine “beatitudes” Jesus listed in what is commonly referred to as His Sermon on the Mount, the third is meekness. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Here we learn that meekness is a quality or state of mind that results in bliss—in blessings.
But what did Jesus mean by the word “meek”? He certainly did not mean that we are to be weak, spineless, timid or cowardly, which is the world’s concept of a meek person. How could we do God’s Work if we had no strength, no courage?
Definition of Meekness
The Greek word translated “meek” is praus. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines it, “gentle, mild, meek; for its significance see the corresponding noun.” The noun is prautes, which “denotes meekness. In its use in Scripture … the exercises of it are first and chiefly toward God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”
That forcefully reminds us of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Do you and I fully believe that scripture? If so, we have the foundation on which to build meekness.
Continuing the quotation from Vine’s: “The meaning of prautes is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas prautes does nothing of the kind. … It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was ‘meek’ because he had the infinite resources of God at His command.”
New Testament Words, by William Barclay, states: “Now herein lies the secret of the meaning of praus [meek]. There is gentleness in prautes [meekness] but behind the gentleness there is the strength of steel, for the supreme characteristic of the man who is praus [meek] is that he is the man who is under perfect control. It is not a spineless gentleness, a sentimental fondness, a passive quietism. It is a strength under control. … He is perfectly God-controlled, for only God can give him that perfect mastery. … Prautes [meekness] is strength under control, but it would be wrong to say that the man who is praus is perfectly self-controlled. He is perfectly God-controlled ….”
In summary, the Greek word praus refers to one who is totally controlled by God, who has surrendered the self to do God’s will. A meek person accepts God’s dealings with him as good, and therefore does not dispute or resist.
Christ, Our Example
Matthew records the fulfillment of a prophecy by Zechariah about the Messiah coming to Jerusalem: “… thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass …” (Matthew 21:4-5).
Christ Himself confirmed that He was meek: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart …” (Matthew 11:29).
Christ manifested His meekness when He said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30) and “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).
We are to take on Christ’s yoke—to live by His standards, to imitate Him, to let Him use us to do His Work. We are to become meek as He is meek. As we do so, we will accept God’s dealings with us without disputing, without resisting. We will see our tests and trials from a new perspective; we will recognize that God is working with us, molding us into His character image. We will know that God will give us the strength and courage to bear all our burdens, because we know He is faithful and will never leave us nor forsake us.
Consider Christ’s example while He was in the flesh. The night before He was scourged and crucified, Judas led the multitude from the chief priests and elders to apprehend Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-53). When one of the disciples resorted to violence in defense of Jesus, Christ rebuked him: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (verse 53). Unger’s Bible Dictionary states that the Roman legion at the time of Christ was comprised of up to 6,000 men. Christ could have asked the Father for more than 72,000 resplendent, awesome, powerful angels to deliver Him. That was enormous power at Christ’s disposal, but He was meek; He accepted the Father’s dealings with Him. Jesus chose not to use the available power in any way that might indicate He was not totally relying on His Father.
A Fruit of the Spirit
The Apostle Paul lists nine fruits of the Spirit for us in Galatians 5:22-23, one of which is meekness. Therefore, meekness comes from God; it is available only from God. We cannot generate meekness on our own or accidentally acquire it. We must ask God for more of His Spirit and the fruit it produces.
Notice that meekness is listed here between faith and temperance. We must have faith that God’s dealings with us are for our good, for our benefit (Romans 8:28). Then, in meekness, we accept His direction without disputing or resisting. The result of meekness then is temperance or self-control: the right use of the power that God gives us. We are strengthened and guided by the Holy Spirit, so it really is God controlling us.
Wisdom From James
James offers wise exhortation in his book: “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). The Greek word translated “lay apart” means “to put off from one’s self” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). The phrase “superfluity of naughtiness” may not seem all that serious; the word naughty conjures images of a mischievous child. A better translation of the Greek is “overflowing of evil,” which gives more urgency to the admonition. We must put off from ourselves all filthiness and the overflowing of evil.
We are to “receive with meekness the engrafted [or implanted ] word.” The metaphor here is that of a seed rooting itself, growing and bearing fruit. God prepares our minds to receive the word, then the sower sows the seed. God grants us meekness to accept His dealings with us without disputing or resisting. The implication is that if we are not meek, we will not receive the implanted word, or the word will not bear fruit.
The parable of the sower in Matthew 13:18-23 helps us understand the danger in a lack of meekness. Like seed planted in stony places, a person may receive the word, but, having no root in himself, when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, he is offended and bears no fruit. Or, like seed planted among thorns, a person may receive the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But the meek person receives the word into good ground; he hears the word and understands it, and bears much fruit because he accepts God’s dealings with him.
James provides more insight about meekness. “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation [conduct, behavior] his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). Wisdom without good behavior is as dead as faith without works. Great scholars may have much learning or knowledge, but if they are proud, haughty, overbearing, self-centered, with bitter envying, their works show that they have no true wisdom. “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthy, sensual [natural], devilish” (verse 15). Thus we learn from James that true wisdom is inseparable from meekness. For indeed, true wisdom is to accept God’s dealings with us without disputing or resisting.
Paul Stresses Meekness
The Apostle Paul in several scriptures also emphasizes the need for each of us to develop meekness in our character. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul was inspired to write, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” The word walk refers to our conduct, practices, and habitual and chosen actions, which reminds one of the familiar saying, “Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.” The Greek word for vocation means “calling” and contains the idea of invitation. This refers particularly to God’s invitation to accept the blessings and benefits of salvation.
The exhortation is to walk worthy of our calling, or invitation. But how are we to do that?
The answer is in verse 2: “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” We see that meekness is different from lowliness, which is defined as having a humble opinion of one’s self. The implication here is that meekness follows directly upon humility; a person must be humble, or he will not accept God’s dealings with him without disputing or resisting. Also required is longsuffering, or patience, endurance, perseverance; especially as shown in bearing troubles and ills. With these qualities, we can forbear, or endure, and tolerate the imperfections and weaknesses in one another in love.
In Colossians 3, having commanded us to “put off the old man with his deeds” (verse 9), and to “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge” (verse 10), Paul lists qualities of character that the new man must manifest. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (verse 12). The Greek word translated “put on” is defined as “to be furnished with anything, adorned with a virtue, as if clothed with a garment” (ibid). Being clothed with these qualities will cover our spiritual nakedness; this spiritual clothing will be what people see when observing us. Again we learn that meekness is essential if we are to manifest these necessary qualities.
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul describes qualities of human nature that include pride, envy, strife, perverse disputings and love of money. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (verse 11). This is a strong exhortation to Timothy and to us. The Greek word translated “follow after” is properly defined as “to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, as one in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal” (ibid). The word is used metaphorically in verse 11 meaning to seek after eagerly, to earnestly endeavor, to acquire. That definition gives us a sense of extreme urgency, of vital necessity. And notice that meekness is included on the same level of importance as righteousness, godliness, faith, love and patience. With these qualities, we can “[f]ight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life” (verse 12).
Meekness Toward Men
There is also another aspect of meekness that we must express toward men. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Here we find a brother overtaken, or taken unawares, by a fault. Adam Clarke’s Commentary states that “restore” is used as a metaphor of a doctor and his patient. It pictures a patient with a dislocated limb that is being brought back into place by a skilled and tender physician. We should have that tenderness and skill in our relationship with a “dislocated” member of the Church. Paul wrote that we must have “the spirit of meekness” in restoring our brother. Meekness has been defined as accepting God’s dealings with us without disputing and resisting. Here the same spirit is directed toward a needy brother in his troubles. Thereby we endure any provocations or irritations that the brother’s wrong attitude may impose on us. At the same time, you consider yourself, otherwise if you don’t accept and overlook any irritations, you may be offended yourself and trespass.
How Meekness Is Developed
Just how does God instill in us this quality, this character trait of meekness? We can read in 2 Corinthians 12 the example of how Christ worked with Paul. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (verse 7). Paul had been given abundant and inspiring revelation from God. Then God allowed Satan to inflict some handicapping health problem on Paul. Why? Without some humbling affliction, Paul might have become vain, proud, haughty, arrogant. That is human nature. But God’s servants must be humble, kind, patient and meek.
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me” (verse 8). Paul prayed to the Lord three times to heal him of his affliction. It is interesting that Christ prayed to the Father three times in Gethsemane, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). The answer to Paul and Christ in both cases was, No, just be meek and accept God’s dealings with you.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). My grace is sufficient for you. You are under my care; I am watching over you. Accept my dealings with you, then no adversity can conquer you; my favor is on you. My strength is made perfect, or complete, in weakness. Your weakness, your helplessness, will force you to cry out to me, then I will give you my strength to endure and conquer all trials. So all the credit and glory goes to God. The more we recognize our weakness, the more we cry out to God for strength and help, then the more God’s strength will be manifested in us. His strength will be made perfect, complete, in our weakness.
Paul gloried in his infirmities so that the power of Christ might rest upon him. The Greek word translated “rest” literally means to spread a tabernacle or tent. Paul wanted Christ to spread a figurative tent over him for shelter, protection, safety and rest.
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (verse 10). When Paul was weak, he cried out to God, and he received strength from Christ; he became strong. You see how Paul learned to accept God’s dealings with him without disputing and resisting; rather, Paul took pleasure in his infirmities, and he became meek. This is a vital lesson that God wants all of us to learn.
Accept God’s Dealings With You
We become meek when we accept God’s dealings with us as good, and stop opposing and resisting His will in our lives. Then we learn to use God’s power to control ourselves, and we use our present limited power to serve others. We need to ask God for more of His strength and the meekness to use that strength and power properly.
Prove to God that you will use properly the power and wealth you presently have, and He will give to you the power of the universe to use in the World Tomorrow. The meek shall inherit the Earth!