“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” - Jesus, Matthew 5:5
“But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” - Psalm 37:11
What does “meek” actually mean? It rhymes with weak and seems to fit in the sentence all right, if “weak” were substituted for “meek”. But the meaning is very different. Meekness has no companionship with weakness, whatsoever.
Russian Orthodox author, Jim Forest, in his book titled The Ladder of the Beatitudes, provides the pre-Christian or Classical Greek meaning of “meek,” which sheds some light on the New Testament understanding, “The Greek word translated as “meek,” praus, was used to describe a wild animal who had been tamed and made gentle: a horse that would accept a rider, a dog that would tend sheep.” Clearly, a horse can overpower its rider and the dog could terrorize the sheep. In fact, the dog’s natural desire might be to attack and kill the sheep. Neither the trained horse nor the dog respond the way they do, because of weakness. A professor of Greek once defined “meekness” as “power under control.”
Jim Forest continues by describing the context of “meekness” for Jews, “meekness is the essential quality of the human being in relationship to God. The equivalent Hebrew word, anaw, is often used in the psalms to describe the stance of a man or woman aligned with God.”
Jesus uses the term “meek” to describe himself in Matthew chapter 11, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (praus) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” No one who knows even a brief account of the life of Jesus would make the mistake of thinking that Jesus was weak. What Jesus represents to us through his humility, is one who is subject to the will of the Father. In the Gospel of John (6:38), Jesus specifically said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but the will of him who sent me.”
Jesus’ strength is in his relationship with the Father and with understanding God’s will and purposefully submitting to that Will. Paul told the Philippians (2:1-8) that they should, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only unto your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Likewise, we are told that our “attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus . . . [who] humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Our Shepherd was so meek –so strong in his obedience, that he was not even distracted by death.
Meekness is not a desirable quality from an earthly perspective but “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:4-7