Of all the beautiful attitudes that Christ wanted us to embody I think the most difficult to understand would have to be that of meekness. Most people equate meekness with weakness and do not understand what relationship that these “weak” individuals could have with this earth. Others, in a state of perplexity, wonder why Jesus would offer something that is passing away (1 John 2:15-17) as a reward for desirable behavior. Perhaps we would benefit from an examination of the true meaning of meekness as well as its relationship to an earthly inheritance.
Meekness comes from the Greek word praus and carries with it three distinct ideas. First, there is the idea of moderation that can be associated with meekness. Praus (meek) or praotes (meekness) was commonly used by such Greek philosophers as Aristotle to describe a wonderful virtue that kept one between two extremes. In other words, if you were meek, then you would do the right thing in reference to the situation with which you were presented. Paul spoke also of this attitude as being one that we should show to all men (cf., Philippians 4:5).
Second, meekness was used to describe an animal that had been domesticated or had learned to accept control. But where does such control come from in connection with man? Man cannot control himself (cf., Jeremiah 10:23; Romans 7:15). Thus, this idea of domesticity being related by Christ is the result of one’s learning to be controlled by God. Jesus offered unto all that labored and were heavy laden not only rest but also a yoke (Matthew 11:28-29). Yokes were used on livestock so that they could be controlled by their masters to do such tasks as to plow fields. Essentially, Christ, in that passage, was offering to take control of our lives. Jesus truly understood this control because He was in complete submission to His Father the entire time He ministered upon the earth (cf., Luke 22:42).
Third, meekness was used as a contrast to pride. God resists the proud (cf., 1 Peter 5:5). So, a failure to be meek would mean that we invite God’s resistance. Why? Proud people consider themselves self-sufficient and, therefore, not needy of God. God will not exalt us unless we first humble ourselves under His mighty hand (cf., 1 Peter 5:6). We must be meek to gain God’s favor.
Meekness, then, carries with it the idea that one is moderate, humble, and under the control of God. How then does such a one inherit this earth? After all, it is usually the wicked that seem to prosper (cf., Job 21:7; Psalm 73:3; Jeremiah 12:1-2). The Lord, then, must be talking about a different type of inheritance. Besides, a literal inheritance of the earth would be empty because it would be an inheritance that is passing away (1 John 2:17). In truth, the meek are enjoying their inheritance of this earth right now!
The meek are now in control of this earth because their disposition makes them so. They understand what is proper in any given situation with which they are confronted. When provoked to violence, they know to turn the other cheek (Matthew 6:39). When presented with temptation, they instinctively look for the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). The meek understand that this temperance is needed to win the imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Indeed the meek are so because in their spiritual growth they did not neglect to add this wondrous virtue (2 Peter 1:6).
The meek are now in control of this earth because they have allowed the Lord to exalt them to that position. Too many today seek the praise of men rather than the praise of God (even in the church)! This attitude kept many from following after our Savior while He was on earth (John 12:42-43) and prevents many from following Him today. These are too afraid of what people might say or think because of their discipleship. They do not like to think that any door of alleged opportunity will be closed to them because of their association with the Lamb of God. The meek know how to deal with such prejudiced people, though. They declarer to them by their very lives the statement Peter presented to the Sanhedrin, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19b). They reject the exaltation of men for a spirit of humility before God. Because of this righteous attitude, the Lord has lifted them up (James 4:10).
The meek are now in control of this earth because the world does not control them. They are not owned by this world like the greedy businessman who things only of the accumulation of more wealth. You see, in reality, such a man does not possess his own possessions, but rather, his possessions have control of him! A meek individual has learned to be content in whatever state he may find himself (Philippians 4:11-12) because he understands that being under the control of God means also that God’s providence will see him through anything. Therefore, the meek do not worry about what they shall eat, what they shall drink or what they shall wear because they understand that their heavenly Father knows that they are in need of those things (Matthew 6:25ff). In their submission to God, they are free to better enjoy this earthly existence. Thus, the meek take the time to “stop and smell the roses,” listen to the wondrous sounds that God has enabled them to hear, look at the wonders of God’s creation, feel the soothing texture of silk, and taste the sweetness of honey.
I don’t know about you, but I want to possess my inheritance right now. I want to enjoy the blessings that Christ has promised us in heavenly places (cf., Ephesians 1:3). A lot of people take that passage to mean the blessings that we will have in heaven. Paul, however, is declaring that the Christian is able to have a taste of heaven on this earth. When we put off the old man of sin at baptism and were raised up in Christ’s likeness (cf., Ephesians 2:4-6; Romans 6:3-7), we were made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come (heaven, BP) He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7). In other words, we have blessings now in the church (a group of meek people whose assembly constitutes a heavenly place) and will have the exceeding riches (or blessings) of His grace poured out upon us in heaven.
So, have you received your inheritance? If not, then start down the path towards meekness today. After having put on Christ in baptism (cf., Galatians 3:27), live a life of moderation, humility, and submission to the will of God. In so doing , the world will be yours!
Featured in Volume 8, Number 11 (November 2002) of the Fayette Family Focus, a publication of the Fayette Church of Christ in Fayette, Alabama.
Originally published in the Fulton County Gospel News, a monthly publication of the Mammoth Springs Church of Christ in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.