On a television series of British comedy, a rich widow is very used to getting her own way, much to the discomfort of the local pastor. So he says to her, “As I never cease to remind you, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Upon which, she says, “And as I never cease to remind you, rector, the meek don’t want it.” The old joke is that the meek will inherit the earth, if that’s okay with the rest of you. Now we laugh and find this funny precisely because we believe that meekness is weakness. First, we will explore what meekness is not, and then we will explore what it is.
Meakness is not weakness. It is not true that a truly meek person can be pushed over by a hard slap in the face from a wet noodle. Meekness is not spinelessness. The two best examples of meekness in the Bible are Moses and Jesus, neither of which could possibly be said to be spineless.
The world thinks of its hope as being in the strong men of the earth. The world thinks of meekness as being a doormat. The world thinks that it is okay to render evil for evil, as long as the other person started it. The world tells us to stick up for ourselves, because no one else will. Anyone who does not stick up for himself is automatically called a mouse. The world (and us, to a great extent) thinks that meekness means that the strong will get the best part of the pie, and the meek will get nothing at all. The world only has one problem with its way of thinking: they have left God out of the picture. If this is truly a dog-eat-dog kind of world, and there is no divine retribution waiting for the world at the end of time, then there is no reason to be meek. We should all claw our way to the top, stomping on everyone below us, and making sure that they cannot get up again, lest they do the same thing to us. We might as well see ourselves as the center of the universe. Never mind that 6 billion other people are suffering from the same delusion. That wouldn’t make communication difficult, now, would it? “One center of the universe calling another center of the universe…” This is a fairly complete description of what meekness is not. It is not what the world thinks it is.
Meekness can be defined as seeing ourselves truly and seeing God truly, and behaving in the light of that knowledge. If we saw ourselves truly, what would we see? We would see sinners. We would know who we truly are because we would see ourselves in the light of God’s Word. We were originally created to be like God, knowing good and evil. But we threw away that knowledge when we ate of the tree. We are wicked people now. Truly meek people know that they are far more wicked in their hearts than they ever dared to imagine. For instance, we would much rather hear God’s name taken in vain than our own. We might even say of ourselves that we are not perfect. But if someone else were to come along and say that, we would punch them in the nose! But if we saw ourselves truly, we would be on our knees. As John Bunyan says, “He who is already down does not need to be afraid of falling down.” The meek person can therefore accept criticism without getting defensive. I know that I especially have a problem with this. Anytime someone criticizes me, I am instantly on the defensive. But I should not be like that. A meek person knows that he deserves far more criticism than he ever gets. A truly meek person will then take what is true in such criticism and even thank the person who criticized him. A meek person sees himself truly.
The reason a truly meek person sees himself truly is that he sees God truly. What does he see? A God who is infinitely holy. A God who executes punishment on all those who disobey God’s law. A God who is angry with sinners. Some people think that God is only angry with sin, not with sinners. That may be a good way for us to act, but God does not send sin to hell, but sinners. It is with sinners that God is righteously angry. But a meek person will also see God’s grace. God had mercy on the world, when He sent His Son to be born of a woman. Jesus was the very meekest person on earth. When reviled, He did not revile in turn. When insulted, He did not respond in kind. Instead, Jesus loved His enemies by dying for them. The meek person realizes that Jesus is the answer for the wrath of God. God the Father loved us so much that He sent His meek Son. Truly meek people know that they are far more wicked in their hearts than they ever dared to imagine, but also they know that they are far more loved than they ever dared to hope. Meekness sees ourselves truly, because meekness sees God truly. This is a good place to read Psalm 37:1-13. Notice here that God is in the habit of vindicated the meek. The meek person realizes that this life is not the end. There is a salvation from the very presence of sin awaiting him at the end. Therefore, he does not fret himself over the evildoer. What a remarkable comfort that is to us. We cannot retaliate, because God is in the business of revenge. That is right, God will revenge us.
If we know this truth, then we will not need to be angry in our own defense ever again. If we are irritated at every little thing that bugs us, if we explode at every little injury done to us, then we will be at everyone’s mercy who wants to turn our crank. As someone said, “Anger is not the strongest thing there is. What controls anger; that is stronger.” If that is true, then we can receive criticism without getting defensive. Matthew Henry says that the person is truly meek who would rather forgive twenty injuries than revenge a single one. Meekness then implies a teachable spirit. We are to be led by the Holy Spirit into all truth. Meekness is a jewel polished by grace.
Meekness certainly does not come to us by nature. But as Thomas Watson says, “to render evil for evil is like the animals, to render evil for good is devilish, but to render good for evil is Christian.” This is not possible for fallen man to do. Even if we forgive some offences, there are just a few that we want to hang onto. We can forgive our brother some things, but not all. That is just like nature, too, isn’t it. We even justify holding onto some grudges, since we have forgiven all the other ones. That is a half-way forgiveness. Is that how you want God to remember your sin? Do you want God to say, “Well, I will forgive your greed most of the time, but when you stole that bubble gum, I will remember that.” You might think to yourself, “That wouldn’t be so bad. At least only my little sins would be remembered.” The problem is that the least little sin can land us in hell, because God is infinitely holy and cannot tolerate the presence of the smallest sin in heaven. We are not safe from hell unless every last one of our sins has been forgiven, and our sinful nature changed. So do you want God to forgive you half-way? Then forgive your brother all the way.
The hidden fear we all have about being meek is that the meek will lose at the last. We saw that fear dealt with in Psalm 37. But Jesus, the meekest man who ever lived, says that the meek will win in the end. They will inherit the earth. The problem for us that we have no faith. We don’t believe that God will reverse the decision that the world made. The world decided that might was right. God will decide that blessed are the meek, for they, and only they, will inherit the earth.
What does it mean to inherit the earth? It means that the meek will not take it by force, will not invade the land, and will not earn it by their own efforts. They will inherit the land. The land will be deeded to them. God will give it to them. It means that we have to put off our expectation that God will reward us now. We have to be patient and kind to all. It does not mean that we will never be angry. There is such a thing as righteous anger.
Interestingly, the world denounces such anger as misplaced. For instance, if we protest the killing of innocent children in the womb, we are called fanatics. But if they needed to stick up for themselves, they will do it. See how inconsistent the world is? For the world, anger is only rightly placed when it for oneself. But for Jesus, we are only rightly to be angry when someone else’s right is at stake. It is a sad fact that most of the babies that we have tried to save since 1973 would have grown up to be worldly minded. We are trying to save the world’s babies. That is labeled fanaticism. But we call it righteous anger. The secret here is always to be angry at the right moment, and never to be angry at the wrong moment. What is the wrong moment? It is disciplining the children while you are angry. That should never happen. We need to ask the Lord to give us meekness to deal with that situation as it comes up.
The promise for us is that God will take vengeance on the world. God will reverse the world’s decision about meekness. Jesus, the meekest man who ever lived is also the world’s judge. It is for that reason that we can forbear to punish others. Before you let that snappy comment come out of your lips, consider whether you are being meek. What will that snappy comment gain you, except a guilty satisfaction? Forbear. It is much better to forgive twenty offenses against you, than to take revenge for a single one. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
That means the rights of the first-born. The only people who get to inherit the entire land of their fathers are those who are first-born. Jesus was the first-born from the dead. He, the meekest man who ever lived, inherits the nations. But somehow, we will all have that right as well, because we are united to Jesus Christ, the first-born, and so we will share in what Jesus has. That means the entire heavens and earth will be ours. Think of that the next time you are tempted to lash out in anger at someone. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.