One of the most important, but yet misunderstood and ignored words in the Bible is meekness. I often hear Christians boldly protest, “Meek does not mean weak.” Even if that sentiment is accurate, it still doesn’t tell us what it means to be meek. What is meekness? Why does Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)? Here are a few things I hope you will consider.

What is Meekness?

When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” he was actually alluding to Psalm 37. If you want to know what meekness is, then read that Psalm.

First, it is nearly impossible to be meek, or to display meekness, except in adversity. The Hebrew word “anaw” is often synonymous with poor, lowly, and afflicted. Moses’ meekness was only highlighted when he was being criticized by Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:1-3). In Psalm 37, meek is related to the words “righteous” and “blameless,” but also “poor” and “needy” (vs. 14).

Second, the meek “refrain from anger and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:8). They do not lose their temper about the evil that is done to them. They do not “fret because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1). In other words, they do their best to remain calm in the face of evil.

Third, the reason they can remain calm in the face of evil is that they “trust in the Lord” (Psalm 37:3). They believe God “will act” (vs. 5). They believe that “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more…But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (vs. 11). They believe that if they just wait, God will take care of the wicked and will bless His faithful people.

If we put those three elements together, we get a good picture of biblical meekness; and it might sound something like Peter’s description of Jesus: When the meek are reviled, they do not revile in return; when they suffer, they do not threaten, but continue entrusting themselves to Him who judges justly (see 1 Peter 2:21). That’s what it means to be meek, to be kind and gentle in the face of injustice, because we know God will reward the meek and punish the wicked.

Are Americans a Meek People?

Consider our American culture, all the way back to our Revolution. We don’t like the idea of enduring injustice quietly and gently. That seems like weakness to us, doesn’t it? We don’t like the idea of waiting on God or trusting Him to take care of the wicked in His own time. We think the right thing to do is fight and kill.

I think about the, “Don’t Tread on Me” Revolutionary War flag that I still see people flying. Is this meekness? Can you be meek and also say, “I will take up arms against my government if I feel like they are opressing me”? Isn’t meekness the exact opposite of that sentiment?

For an American, I know this sounds radical, but think about the things Jesus taught. He taught His followers to gently submit to mistreatement, humiliation, and oppression (Matthew 5:38-42). He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).

As Americans, we do not tend to be a meek people. We tend to be a people who fight (even violently) for our rights. We tend to see meekness as a sign weakness or cowardice. We think, “People who don’t stand up for themselves will always be run over and taken advantage of.” The zealots of Jesus’ day thought the same thing about the Romans.

The Meek will Inherit the Earth

The natural man says, “If you don’t stand up and protect your pride, your property, and your people against tyrants, you’ll lose everything you have.” Jesus disagrees. He essentially says, “If you fight for what’s yours, you’ll lose everything. If you wait meekly, you will eventually be given everything.”

This is taught all throughout the New Testament, you just have to open your eyes and see it. Listen to the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31-32:

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” 

Disciples of Jesus believe that because of the death, resurrection, and ascension of God’s Annointed One, we have nothing to fear from anyone in this world (Matthew 10:28). We do not even fear death, because we believe in the coming resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).

This is why we can bless those who persecute us (Romans 12:14). And why we feed and give drink to our enemies (Romans 12:20). This is why, so far as it depends on us, we live peaceably with everyone (Romans 12:18). We believe through goodness and self sacrfice, rather than violence and retaliation, evil will be overcome (Romans 12:21).

Someday there will be no evil and no tyranny. No matter how big their weapons get, no matter how many people they kill, no matter how much land they accumulate, their fate is sealed. They’ve been defeated already, they just don’t know it yet.

So, we will also wait patiently and meekly “for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), because we believe the promise of our Lord, the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams