Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the Meek
““Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5 NASB1995
My translation of choice these days for the Bible is usually the NASB1995 (New American Standard Bible - 1995 version). Interestingly, the word used for this Beatitude in this translation is “gentle” as opposed to “meek”, which is usually how people recall this verse. So that started my thought process on how these two words translate from the Greek. As might be expected, the Greek word is the same for both: praus. It means mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. According to the Blue Letter Bible definition, the word is further refined as noted:
Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Isa 41:17, Luk 18:1-8). Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God's goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will.
In our world today, meekness is the last attribute that most people seek. Offense is taken at every social media post, arguments erupt on-line or even in person with perfect strangers, and everyone wants to be “right” at the expense of putting others down. Meekness does not translate into being a door mat for others, however; it is real strength that is under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Turning to commentary, here is what David Guzik says about this Beatitude:
i. In the vocabulary of the ancient Greek language, the meek person was not passive or easily pushed around. The main idea behind the word “meek” was strength under control, like a strong stallion that was trained to do the job instead of running wild.
ii. “In general the Greeks considered meekness a vice because they failed to distinguish it from servility. To be meek towards others implies freedom from malice and a vengeful spirit.” (Carson)
iii. “The meek, who can be angry, but restrain their wrath in obedience to the will of God, and will not be angry unless they can be angry and not sin, nor will be easily provoked by others.” (Poole)
iv. “The men who suffer wrong without bitterness or desire for revenge.” (Bruce)
v. The first two beatitudes are mostly inward; the third deals with how one relates to one’s fellow man. The first two were mainly negative; the third is clearly positive.
And what does it mean to inherit the Earth? Brian Bill gives us a beautiful view of this inheritance:
This Beatitude contains a surprising promise. The meek shall “inherit the earth.” It’s those that have their spirits bridled by Christ who will land the land. I heard of a man who was sitting on a curb crying. When he was asked what was wrong, he said, “I just found out that Rockefeller, the richest man in the world has died.” The person then asked, “Why are you crying? You’re not a relative of his, are you?” To which the man replied, “No! That’s why I’m crying!”
Friend, if you know Christ, you are an heir of everything that He has. You’ll get some of it now and more of it later. There will be an inheritance for the meek in the sweet by and by and in the nasty now and now. The word, “inherit” means to “possess.” Right now it seems like the sinners reign and the meek take a back seat. But Jesus said that one day the meek will come marching in. Believers who live out this beatitude have nothing, yet possess everything. It’s only the meek that will seek the Savior. Are you ready to do that right now?
Gentleness (meekness) is one of the Fruits of the Spirit as identified by Paul in Galatians 5 and it can only be realized through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us to be poor in spirit (humble), mourn (feel compassion for others and the world), and emulate Him by being meek. Remember, the sheep vastly outnumber the wolves!
My next devotional will look at Matthew 5:6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.