Session #028 Me, Meek?
Scripture Matthew 5:5
Summary How do we understand meekness in a dog-eat-dog world? In this teaching, Henson takes time to define biblical meekness and how it affects believers across seven practical aspects of spiritual life and relationships. He also cautions against the extremes of Christian dominionism, bringing balance and perspective to how we are to see and understand our inheritance in Christ through eschatological hope.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
We often associate “meek” with “weak”, and this is an unfitting connotation in today’s world. Weak is an inaccurate translation of meek in the Bible. The word “meek” from its original Greek language means gentle, humble and friendly. Meekness is the condition of our hearts and minds that demonstrate gentleness, and that in itself is a strength of character.
This teaching in the Sermon of Mount is not new in the Bible. It is rooted in the Old Testament. The closest reference is found in Psalm 37:1-11.
Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace (Psalm 37:1–11).
What is the context for the above passage? The evil and wicked are prospering! Despite the unfairness, the psalmist chose to trust in the Lord and feed on His faithfulness. A person who is waiting upon the Lord is someone who is considered to be meek. Notice how the focus of meekness is God! A meek person knows his God, waits upon God and holds onto the King and the kingdom. To wait on the Lord is to hope and trust in the Lord! Every time we struggle in injustice and oppression, we need to be gentle and humble, possessing quiet confidence, delight and security in God. Once our eyes are fixed on God, we need no longer fret over the things around us. God alone vindicates us in the face of injustice and we no longer need to defend ourselves or fight for our own reputation. Indeed, we should check our alignment at each and every moment, until the day we receive our inheritance- the Great Day of the Lord!
There are many examples of meekness in the Bible. Let’s look at three of these examples:
Abram and Lot’s shepherds were fighting with one another over the land of Bethel. They decided to pick a lot and take their separate ways. It was meek of Abram, the senior between the two, to allow his nephew Lot to take the first pick. Right after this incident in Genesis 3:17, God declares that He will give the land to Abram.
Miriam and Aaron were speaking against Moses, as they were jealous that Moses was able to speak intimately with God. Moses chose not to retaliate or justify himself. Instead, God vindicated Moses, and Moses even interceded for Miriam and Aaron. Immediately after this incident, we read about God asking Moses to prepare to enter the land by sending out twelve spies!
2 Samuel 16:5-14
King David encountered Shimei who spoke ill of him. However, David chose to acknowledge this situation and continued to trust in God, even as his servant, Abishai, was upset on his behalf.
Let’s pause for a moment. Were these examples weak? Not at all! Abram, after parting ways with Lot, went to rescue Lot with 312 trained men! Moses stood up to Pharaoh, brought Israel through the Red Sea, and judged Israel in the wilderness. He even performed miracles and put up with complaints and rebellion! David was a mighty warrior who fought lions and bears and even defeated Goliath! These were not weak men! They were meek, humble, and gentle because of their relationship with God! Abram kept his belief that God would give him the promised land regardless of what happened. Moses spent 40 days and nights on the mountain of God, and he came out with glory on his face. David was a man after the heart of God.
How about our Lord Jesus Christ? He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:7)
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:21–23).
Jesus is not a weak man. In contrast, He was a no-nonsense guy when He rebuked His disciples. He called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and spoke readily against the system and establishment. He chased people out of the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. When it came to the things of God, Jesus was bold and zealous. However, He was always meek, mild and gentle. It is likely that Jesus’ meekness and gentleness were traits that attracted and endeared many to Him.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Jesus is calling us to rest by learning to be meek like Him and trust in the Father. Even up at the cross, Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” That was the gentleness displayed by Jesus, who was anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Seven Practical Exhortations and Applications about Meekness from Paul
In Acts 7, Stephen, a man filled with the Holy Spirit gave out a powerful sermon calling out the religious leaders. His sermon inevitably angered the leaders and he was ultimately stoned to death. Upon facing his death, Stephen cried out for the Father to forgive their sins, just like how Jesus has cried out at the cross. Such was the meekness and gentleness that Stephen displayed! This must have a great impact on Saul (later known as Paul), who was a young Pharisee witnessing the exact scene.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul called out the Church of Corinthians to imitate him, just as how he imitated Christ. To imitate is to mimic someone until we become him or her. A disciple follows hard after the Master. This is not playacting for that would be outward hypocrisy, but following until we become like Christ inwardly. We need to walk in step with the Holy Spirit until we are changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out.
These are seven practical applications on meekness written by Paul:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do (Colossians 3:12-13).
We have a strong identity in Christ as the elect of God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12). This knowledge should give us great confidence and authority and must be flowed out into our conduct and relationships with one another. This cannot be done if we are not humble and meek in the first place. Our identity should not be used to judge and condemn others, as we are all saved by grace!
Assignment or Call
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We have been called and made worthy by grace. We are called to participate in the works of the kingdom, and we are to walk worthy of our calling, not by being proud and haughty. May we learn to minister with meekness wherever we are placed, speaking the truth in love.
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
Being meek does not mean that we are wishy-washy or run away from challenges. There will always be disagreements, but meekness will help us to “pick the right fights”. Sadly, many of us do not understand the Word, but are ready to argue about it. Meekness ensures that we do not correct another from the posture of pride, but with the heart of bringing the truth and setting others free. Only God grants repentance, not us!
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
How are we supposed to restore another? In a spirit of gentleness! It is one thing to correct, but another to restore. If we are being led by the Spirit, we will be changed and restored by the Holy Spirit, and not by other means.
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:19–21).
The normal response in a difficult situation is to answer back, defend, get angry and fight.
However, if we truly understand how God originally intends to train righteously, we will respond differently. Even if trials may seem to have a way of breaking us, meekness becomes an outward product if we learn to respond correctly. It requires meekness to allow the word of God to have an impact on us. Is there any room for anger then? Yes, there is righteous anger that is administered by meekness and ruled by the Holy Spirit. However, we do not sin in our anger.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13-18).
True wisdom is gentle and humble and peaceable; earthly wisdom is envious, self-seeking, and prideful. The men of God share their hearts and experience passionately but are ready to acknowledge that they don’t know something. These men are truly meek and after God’s heart.
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13–17).
In this text, Peter was speaking about unjust suffering. We are blessed as we know where we stand. Our defence should start with acknowledging Christ as Lord. Meekness can only be expressed in honour of Christ, not with ourselves.
Do you find yourself fighting for survival in a highly competitive world? Do you find it hard to trust God and to stand on His Word? Have you been gentle and humble in your dealings with others? Even if you had to forego some or all of your own rights?
Let us remember that meekness starts with God and the inheritance we look upon rests in God! Meekness is developed from inside out by the Holy Spirit but is tested from outside in, in relationships with others. Although the going is tough, we need to mimic the meekness of the Messiah as disciples. May we look at the Pauls in our lives and communities: those who are mimicking the Messiah, and let us mimic them as they mimic the Messiah!