Blessed Are The Meek? (The Beatitudes #2)
Psalm 37:7-11 & Matthew 5:5
Most of us, have a certain image that comes to mind when we hear the word “meek”, don’t we? Maybe the 90-pound weakling from comic strips… the broken eyeglass nerd who bumbles around, being bullied by those who are larger, stronger, more popular.
Meekness isn’t necessarily thought of as a positive attribute in our world today. Of course, “meek” isn’t even a word that we use a whole lot in every day conversation. The dictionary defines “meek” as being “patient or mild” or “to be submissive, or spiritless.” Is that second part of the definition that we often think of, isn’t it? Of course, the thesaurus is no better: it uses words like timid, compliant, subdued, docile… even cowardly, when offering alternatives to the word meek.
Of course, if you’ve ever studied the New Testament, and particularly the Beatitudes, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Jesus often goes against conventional wisdom. But the scripture for today even seems to stretch the limits even further. “Blessed are the meek.” I mean, think about that! The meek? Really? Taken at face value, it kinda sounds like Jesus is saying, “you’re blessed if you let people walk all over you. Bless-ed are the doormats! Happy are the spineless cowards of life.”
And then... Jesus had the audacity to say, “the meek (not the proud, not the loud, the boisterous) shall inherit the earth.”
Of course, I’ve said all of this (and we think in the ways I’ve described), because the meaning of the word “meek” has changed over the centuries, and the image that comes to mind when Jesus says “blessed are the meek” isn’t at all what would’ve come to mind in Jesus’ day.
The word Jesus used, that gets translated “meek” is a word that basically has three forms. And in its first form, meekness was understood to be the place between the extremes of excessive anger, and too little anger. Kinda like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears… “this one’s too hot… this one’s too cold… this one’s just right!” The “just right” (of course) is where biblical meekness is seen. Which helps us understand what Jesus was getting at: “blessed are those who become angry at the right time, for the right reasons.” Meek people become angry over the right things… they just don’t blow off the handle at every little thing comes along!
In other words, a meek person is not someone who never gets angry. A meek person is simply someone who has his or her anger under control… Someone who doesn’t lose it at the drop of a hat… Who doesn’t get angry easily… But does get disturbed at things like injustice, and hypocrisy, and the mistreatment of others. There are certainly things that require us to become a bit angry from time to time.
The second use of the word “meek” had to do with domesticated animals… Or animals that were trained to obey their master (not that Jesus is calling us dogs, don’t even go there!).
It’s always been very impressive to me, to watch an animal that’s been well trained… And that animal will sit on command or roll over on command. They hear their master’s voice and they respond to his commandments. And that’s the point, they hear, and obey, their master’s voice.
In the book of Acts, chapter 5, after Peter and some of the other disciples had been arrested for preaching about the resurrection of Christ! They miraculously escaped from prison… and immediately, they were right back on the street preaching again! Of course the authorities said, “didn’t we tell you not to do this!” But Peter and the other disciples replied, “we must obey God rather than man.” That’s a good definition and understanding of biblical “meekness.” We’re called to obey God rather than human authority.
Of course, the third usage of the word “meek” simply means to be gentle, humble. Not weak, but gentle.
It’s something that the modern protest movement – that specializes in burning down cities and destroying personal property - knows nothing about. Back in the 60s when the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, images of young men and women sitting at lunch counters being hauled away to jail; children facing water cannons and snarling dogs; Martin Luther King, Jr., insulted and spat upon, facing death threats… yet maintaining dignity and perseverance. Non-violent resistance.
This is meekness. To be committed to God‘s truth and righteousness and justice, without resorting to violence, or hate... trusting in God‘s power and God’s promises. You know, to me, such a meekness isn’t weakness at all… In fact, it’s incredibly powerful!
Add to that there are two people, at least, in the Bible who are specifically called “meek”. And to me they’re not the kind of people that I would necessarily describe as being meek! And I certainly would not call them weak!
Moses is the first one that comes to mind. Numbers 12:3 tells us, “now the man Moses was very meek, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.”
Now, try to remember, this is the very same Moses who quite literally stood up to the king… to the Pharaoh… saying, “let my people go!” It’s the same Moses who led the people of God out of Egypt. Yet Moses is called the meekest person on the face of the earth!
He showed no sign of fear or timid-ness… But Moses was humble before the Lord… And he was obedient to the commands of God. Of course, earlier in his life he had been undisciplined, out of control (he hadn’t yet learned to control his anger). But, later on... he learned to channel his energy, his talents, his grace… for God’s purposes in service and obedience to God. He was meek.
Of course, the other person that I think of, is Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel the 11th chapter the 29th verse, Jesus 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.” The word often translated “gentle” is the very same word Jesus uses when he says “blessed are the meek.” Gentle and meek are the same word.
Was Jesus meek? Well, he got angry at the right times, for the right reasons… He drove out the money changers from the temple and had no patience with the self-righteous religious people who pointed out the sins of others while ignoring their own. Jesus certainly got angry... but only in light of injustice and self-righteousness, not because he was offended.
When a group of people got together with the idea of making Jesus an earthly king, he slipped away, to be alone and pray. He commended the use of richest to help the poor but he himself, never had much… Not even a Home to call his own. When he was preparing to leave his closest friends, he grabbed a bowl of water, a towel… He washed their feet, and told them they should do the same for one another… they should strive to serve not by seeking places of honor, and prestige, but by actually serving. When Jesus was crucified between two criminals… He could’ve said all kinds of things… but instead he spoke kindly, and he said to one, “today you will be with me in paradise.” He even forgave the very soldiers who knew not what they were doing…
Jesus didn’t have to do any of these things! He didn’t have to submit to mistreatment… He certainly didn’t have to humble himself to the cross. But he did… not for his own sake… but for ours. Christ was obedient to the will of God… He was meek.
And that kind of meekness is something sorely lacking in our world today. There’s nothing that we need more at this point in history. We need meek leaders, politicians... we need meek industrialist and business-people. We need meek preachers, and elders, and church members.
We need gentle, humble, loving (and Godly) obedient people... willing to give all for the sake of the Kingdom.
Gerald W. (Jerry) Ledbetter, Pastor
West Point Presbyterian Church
1002 5th Avenue
West Point, GA 31833