Meekness or gentleness isn’t often looked on as a positive attribute that one should long for. Yet God looked at Moses and declared he was the meekest of men. Jesus said about himself I am meek and lowly of heart in the great invitation. When Paul laid out the fruit of the Spirit one of the elements of the fruit was meekness or gentleness. In Philippians 4 he challenged Christians to allow their gentle spirit to be known by all. What do you think of or picture in your mind when you hear one described as meek or gentle? Is it the “meek and mild” of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? Is it looking at Jesus and seeing one who is somewhat soft? Peter said of the godly woman that was longing to win her non-Christian husband to the Lord that she needed to not put the emphasis in her life on outward beauty but on a gentle and quiet spirit that is very precious in God’s sight. So, what exactly is God saying to us when he challenges us to be meek or gentle of heart?
It should help us to look closely at Jesus during his ministry on earth. He was certainly one who was gentle in his dealings with many. He could lovingly take a child into his arms and bless them. He could reach out to the leper and lay his hand on him as he healed him of his skin disease. He could gently comfort the grieving widow whose only son had died as Jesus stopped the ones carrying his body and raised him from the dead. He dealt gently with the woman who had a bleeding problem that none of the doctors could heal and stopped the flow of blood and gave her peace. He could rebuke Martha for trying to make Mary into another Martha and tell her that she is worried about many things when only one is needed and even remind her that Mary had chosen the good part without being offensive to Martha. But, what about when he looked at the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees and declared them to be hypocrites and pronounced seven “Woe’s” upon them for their wrong attitudes and actions? Did he then act with meekness or gentleness? What about when he told Peter to “Get behind me Satan for you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of men”? Would that be an example of being meek? What about when James and John along with the other apostles told him about rebuking the man who was casting out demons in the name of the Lord and telling him to stop since he wasn’t one of them? Jesus told them they were wrong. Don’t tell him to stop. He that is not against us is on our side. Was that a form of meekness or gentleness?
The word here translated meekness or gentleness literally means to be tame or under control. It is the same word we use when we speak of a horse that has been trained well saying that it is all right for a child to get close to him since it is a gentle animal. We certainly don’t mean by such a statement that the horse is weak or mild. We mean the horse has been tamed. It has been trained and has its strength under control. Meekness or gentleness has nothing to do with a lack of strength. It has everything to do with one having their emotions, their tongue, their temper and their thoughts under control. When we lose control of our temper and say or do things that we will soon wish we hadn’t and often hurt the very people that we love the most it is a demonstration of a lack of meekness or gentleness. When we lose control of our tongue and say things that are hurtful to others, tearing them down and building a wall between them and us, it is a demonstration of a void of meekness or gentleness. When we have no control over our thinking or our passions and allow desires to go where they shouldn’t ever go, it shows a lack of meekness or gentleness. When we use drugs or alcohol that causes us to lose all our abilities to control the emotions or actions it demonstrates the lack of meekness or gentleness in our life.
What is the difference then between “self-control” and “meekness”? Self-control is important and is also a fruit of the Spirit but it is all about our own ability to control our feelings and actions. Meekness or gentleness takes a step beyond that and yields the control to the Lord. Jesus was demonstrating his meekness when he said, “I didn’t come to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” It was the highest demonstration of such meekness when in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed to the Father that if it was possible for him to take this cup of suffering on the cross away from him, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” He dreaded the cross, the pain, suffering and most of all the taking of the sins of all the world upon him to die for the sins of all so that anyone might through him be saved. Yet he yielded total control over to the Father and went to the cross without hesitation. Even though he could have called down twelve legions of angels to deliver him from the cruel death of calvary, he chose to submit to the Father to save us.
Jesus looked out at the crowd that day and pronounced the blessing on those who are meek, yielded to God, and the blessing is, “they shall inherit the earth.” If there has ever been a strange promise from the Lord, this is it. If he had said the meek would inherit heaven it would have made sense to us. But inherit the earth! How will the meek inherit the earth? It may refer to the reality that when this life is over and this world is destroyed by the fire that God will give us as his children a new heaven and new earth where righteousness will dwell. But I think it is more about the here and now than the ultimate rewards in glory. The meek or gentle inherit the earth in that they are the ones who get the blessings and benefits of the earth. They aren’t constantly burning down the relationships that matter with being out of control. They can live life with love, compassion, and forgiveness that doesn’t burn their bridges but builds bridges to others continually. The meek make the very best use of their time on this earth now so they can enjoy the ultimate rewards of the new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells.