In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:5 – Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
As soon as I read the text you know what the trouble is –don’t you?
It is the word meek.
What do a lot of people think of when they hear the word meek?
They hear the word weak – and when they do – they totally miss the point. They think, gentle Jesus – weak, meek, and mild; it seems to suggest that a Christian is to be a passive, weak, doormat to the world- one who stands is a pushover.
But that can’t be right – can it? Well no actually – and when we think that – we’ve missed the point of what Jesus is saying entirely.
Remember, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ training guide to his disciples. If you flip back to Matthew 5:1&2 – you’ll note that He’s gathered his disciples on a mountainside; they are away from the crowds and he’s teaching them how to be a follower of Christ. And he starts with the beatitudes – the essential qualities, characteristics of being Christian. And Jesus uses the word “blessed,” which we know means more than happy. Blessed – here – means approved – approved by God.
So in Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus is telling his disciples the attributes – the essential qualities of a Christian – and after having already been told that an attribute of a Christian is that they are poor in spirit – meaning that we affirm our spiritual bankruptcy – and that we are people who mourn – meaning we grieve over sin and the sin of the world – Jesus says, “approved by God or blessed are the meek.”
It is also important to remember that the beatitudes are not singular qualities. They build on one another. In other words, we don’t get to simply select which ones we like and cast the others aside. All of them are essential qualities of a Christian. Since that’s the case – we may want to find out what it means to be meek – right?
Unfortunately, Matthew 5 offers little in the way of understanding what Jesus means. He simply says, “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” We don’t have a lot to go on from that text – so – in order to understand it we need to do a bit of Bible study work. One way to explore the meaning of a text is to look for other texts in the Bible that speak to the same thing. That’s where a cross reference comes in real handy.
In fact, if you open a Bible to Matthew 5 – and if that Bible that you open has cross-references in the margin or at the bottom of the page – and if you locate Matthew 5:5 in that cross-reference – you will find Psalm 37:11. The reason for that is – it seems pretty clear – at least to a lot of folks – that Jesus is referring to Psalm 37 when he tells His disciples that a Christian is meek.
So – Psalm 37 – according to John Piper and others – is a key to understanding what Jesus means about being meek.
Psalm 37 is a Psalm of David. We don’t know the context of Psalm 37 – but we do know the message. David – like us – lived in a world that was prone to violence. There were ambitious people – warring factions – there were wicked and evil folks who tried to deceive in order to get ahead. They took advantage of the weak and powerless – the poor. David’s world – like ours – was turbulent, anxiety-causing.
But David had also seen God’s hand at work in his life – so much so that he reminds us to “ Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.  Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.  In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.  But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (ESV)
Doesn’t that last bit sound familiar? Doesn’t it sound like, “blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth?” Earth and land – by the way – are more or less interchangeable here.
Jesus’ world – the world of the disciples – our world – is no less volatile than David’s world. In fact, Jesus told his disciples that in this world you will have trouble. Some of that trouble is going to be caused by evil – by wicked people and some of that trouble is going to come from the dark places of our hearts. How is a person of faith going to live? Well – they are going to be meek and the qualities of meekness are right here in Psalm 37.
If you look over Psalm 37, you’ll notice that it applies to the way a person looks out at the world and all that’s happening in the world. But it can also apply as a warning about our hearts as well.
From what this text brings out – the meek are people who don’t “fret over evildoers – or envy those who do wrong – or prosper from doing evil. Instead, the meek are those who trust the Lord – and they do good. They delight themselves in the Lord and in the ways of the Lord. The meek commit their way to the Lord and trust him. They are still before the Lord. They wait patiently for the Lord to act on their behalf. They don’t fret. They refrain from anger and forsake wrath – because they know that “evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” They know that one day soon and for all eternity, “the wicked will be no more.” But the meek people – well “the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
From Psalm 37 – we know that meekness has to do with trusting that God will take care of His people – so it begins with trust. John Piper notes, “Meekness begins when we put our trust in God. Then, because we trust him, we commit our way to him. We roll onto him our anxieties, our frustrations, our plans, our relationships, our jobs, our health. And then we wait patiently for the Lord. We trust his timing and his power and his grace to work things out in the best way for his glory and for our good.”
Far from weak, meek starts with trusting in God in the face of evil. Meekness requires an inner resolve that no matter what evil or wicked thing comes my way, I will trust in God.
Meekness – then – isn’t focused on what others think of us at all. Our meekness is God-focused, which, frankly, is humbling. To think that God – the creator of the ends of the universe – is watching out for me – is humbling. The wicked – the evildoer – can do all they want to do – but eventually – they will cease to exist – they will be wiped up – and all their efforts to dominate and take over the earth – will be for nothing – they will be gone.
But the meek will inherit the earth because their trust is not in themselves but in God.
You see when we think of meekness as weakness, we miss the point. The point of meekness isn’t about our strength it is about God’s strength. That’s what David is pointing out. The meek person is the person who doesn’t rely on their strength to make it through but on God’s strength.
Meekness means to walk humbly with God – trusting in His strength – we have nothing to fear – we do not need to fear the evil or the wicked things in the world because our trust is in God.
So – Blessed or approved by God are the meek – or basically, those who put their trust in God…and this essential quality goes hand in hand with the first two beatitudes – right? Remember, these things build on one another.
Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit – which means that we recognize that we are spiritually bankrupt – by nature, we are sinners – prone to be a bit wicked ourselves. We have no merit on our own.
Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn – which means we are people who mourn/grieve – who are brokenhearted over our sin and sin in the world. We are brokenhearted how our lack of conformity to God’s plans and purposes have caused havoc in our lives and in the lives of others.
Then Jesus said, blessed are the meek – which means blessed are the people who humbly put their trust in God – because he overcomes and vanquishes evil in the world and in us.
Sometimes the darkness of our hearts can be discouraging – especially when we really want to have a better walk with Jesus – when we want to be better people for the cause of Christ. But meekness reminds us to put our trust in God’s ability to vanquish evil and darkness – even in our hearts. Meekness isn’t about looking at others; it is about focusing our attention on God and His strength to overcome wicked in the world – and the darkness of our own hearts.
Yes – Christians are to be meek which means we humbly put our trust in God. Jesus is inviting his followers to trust in God to overcome the mess of the world and the mess of their own lives. Far from being weak – the meek are revolved to trust in God no matter what is going on around them.