Blessed Are The Meek

Blessed Are The Meek


I believe that none of the Beatitudes are less appealing to our culture than the third in which Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

In 1989, Nike produced a print advertisement for their Air Force One shoe line featuring future NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. The caption on these ads said, “The meek may inherit the earth, but they won’t get the ball.” The underlying message of this advertisement was that if you want to be successful, you can’t be meek. In the eyes of Western civilization, meekness is considered a weakness. But I think that’s because our culture doesn’t understand meekness. So, let’s define what it means because it is one of those terms that has changed meaning over time.

Today, meekness is associated with timidity. defines meekness as being “overly submissive or compliant.”1 The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines meekness as being “deficient in spirit and courage.”2 So, when we hear the word “meek,” we tend to associate it with someone who is a pushover, someone who lacks courage, someone who does not know how to stand up for himself or herself, or someone who is a doormat.

Due to such modern definitions, the word “meek” seldom appears in English translations, except in the KJV. In fact, “meek” or “meekness” only appears ten times in the ESV, ten times in the NKJV, four times in the NIV, and three times in the NASB. But it appears thirty times in the KJV. The one passage where the term “meek” is consistently retained is in the third beatitude of Matthew 5:5, assumedly because the Beatitudes are so well known and respected that translators feel compelled to retain the language familiar to readers.

In Greek, “meekness” is a translation of the Greek term praus, which is defined as “mildness of disposition [or] gentleness of spirit.”3 When this term appears elsewhere in the New Testament, it is typically translated as “gentleness.” Such is the case in Galatians 5:23, where ‘gentleness” is identified as one of the fruits of the spirit, and in 1 Timothy 6:11, where Timothy is instructed to “pursue” certain characteristics, including “gentleness.”

In Jesus’ day, meekness was associated with surrender. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30. According to the KJV, Jesus said, 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

There are two things worth noticing about this passage. First, Jesus associated meekness with a yoke. The Greek word from which we get the term “meek” was used in the days of Jesus to refer to the taming of an animal. When you took a strong animal, like a horse or an ox, and you tamed it so that it would follow your orders, you would say that that animal is now meek. 

So, the original idea of the word “meek” was strength under control. Meekness did not refer to a person who is weak or spineless. It referred to a person who had yielded his strength to God’s control. In the words of one preacher, “Meekness is the abdication of self-rule.”

The second thing to notice about Matthew 11:28-30 is that Jesus identified Himself as meek. He said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” When you reflect on the character and nature of Jesus, do you think He was a pushover? A coward? A doormat?

Consider the time in John 2:12-17 when Jesus entered the Temple courts and discovered a bazaar where people should have been worshipping. He was so outraged at this blatant disregard for the sanctity of the Lord’s house that He made a whip, drove the livestock away, overturned the tables, and scattered the proceeds of the moneychangers. Such a story is a clear indication that Jesus was not a pushover. 

So, when Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek,” He was, in effect, saying, “Blessed are those who imitate Me because I am meek.” And based on the life of Jesus, we can easily conclude that meekness is not a synonym for spinelessness, fearfulness, or weakness. Therefore, the call to discipleship is not a call to be a spineless doormat that just gets trampled on by everybody. “The call to discipleship,” as one preacher said, “is a call to be tamed by the Master.”

The point is that meekness results from a deliberate decision to release the wheel, abandon the throne, or hand over the keys to God. Isn’t that what disciples are called to do in Luke 9:23 when Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”? So, this beatitude, which says “Blessed are the meek,” is not calling the timid blessed. Instead, it’s pronouncing a blessing on those who are willing to be yoked and guided by the Lord.

1; accessed August 2, 2018.

2 “Meek.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2018.