Medicine in the right dosage is of great benefit; in the wrong dosage, it’s deadly. Wind under control brings a gentle breeze; out of control, it brings a devastating and deadly hurricane. A horse under control can be harnessed and used to accomplish great things; out of control, it can wreak havoc. The Greek word for this sort of controlled power is praos. And praos is the word used in what is perhaps the most famous of the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
We have seen so far that the blessed person is someone who is poor in spirit, recognizing their spiritual poverty, and who experiences godly grief over their sin. And this attitude flows over into the next characteristic: meekness.
What does it mean to be meek? If you look it up in an English dictionary, you might get the wrong idea. One dictionary I checked said that to be “meek” is to be deficient in spirit and courage. But that is not what praos means. This word, sometimes translated as “gentle” or “mild” or “soft,” basically describes an attitude of being unassertive.
The person who is broken over his own condition, who mourns over his own sin, is not about to assert himself. Instead, he will demonstrate a quiet, willing submission to God that stands in direct contrast to the stubborn, willful, rebellious self-centeredness of the natural man.
Meekness is a colt that has been broken and is now tame, meaning that his strength can be channeled for good. Meekness is not weakness, but power yielded to the will of another. In other words, meekness is the taming of the lion, not the killing of the lion.
A meek person is someone who gives over his power, agenda, goals, dreams and ambitions to divine control. Meekness is a disposition of heart which, through the keen perception of its own misery and the abounding mercy of God, has become so pliable, so flexible, so movable, that no traces of its original rugged, independent nature remain. This is the sort of person spoken of in Hebrews 10:34:
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
A meek person is willing to give up anything and everything in this world because he knows God has a better plan and a better world. This is, in a word, a person who has died to self. He never mulls over injuries received, never dwells on shattered ambitions and dreams, and bears no grudges. And this is far from a natural attitude; it is a gift from God.
Meekness should not be confused with cowardice, or indolence, or wishy-washiness, or mere human niceness. It is rather faith in the truest sense, which says, “In myself, nothing is possible; therefore, I yield to Him in whom everything is possible.” It says, “For me there is no defense, but I will come to the defense of my God.”
Jesus lived His life exactly this way. He said, “I only do what the Father tells me. I have yielded my life to Him. I only do what the Holy Spirit works through me.” He was no coward. He was not weak. But He was meek. He placed His power under the control of His Father. And in doing this, He set the example for everyone who would follow after Him.
And what is the reward for sharing in Christ’s meekness? He says that we will “inherit the earth.” The word “inherit” translates the Greek verb klēronomeō, which means to receive an allotted portion. The meek will receive an allotted portion when Christ Himself returns to rule the earth.
There is going to be a literal earthly kingdom in the future. God has promised this. And all who love Him, both Jew and Gentile, will be part of that kingdom. We know from Revelation that when Jesus returns to set up this kingdom, we will return with Him, riding out of heaven on white horses (Revelation 19:11-15). We will enter the kingdom with Him. And after the thousand years of that kingdom are finished, we will have the new heaven and the new earth — the eternal kingdom.
But only the meek have this inheritance. If you want an allotted place in the kingdom of the great King, the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll get one when you come into His kingdom broken, mourning and meek, realizing your sinfulness, grieving over it, and depending on God for everything.
This blog post is based on Dr. MacArthur’s sermon “The Only Way to Happiness: Be Meek,” originally preached in 1998.
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