The Majesty of Meekness9 min read
The 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary defines meekness as “Softness of temper; mildness; gentleness; forbearance under injuries and provocations.” Interestingly Mr. Webster adds “Meekness is a grace which Jesus alone inculcated, and which no ancient philosopher seems to have understood or recommended.” (Imagine seeing a dictionary which says that today!). The main thought behind meekness is the foundation character of one who “turns the other cheek.” It connotes one who has the power to react, and perhaps the right to react, but resists in grace. It is a certain mildness of character which doesn’t act rashly. While temperance is the last spiritual fruit, meekness does involve a sense of self-control, for it teaches us to resist initial inclinations (thus it takes great strength to be meek). It is a very practical thing, but very difficult. That is why it is a fruit of the Spirit. We cannot work at it without our true source of strength.
The Comrades and Companions of Meekness
It is interesting to see the implications of what meekness is associated with, because we can easily do a concordance search and find several lists which include the word “meekness” as well as other related concepts. Ephesians 4 includes lowliness and longsuffering as being related. In Colossians 3 meekness is associated with bowels of mercy and humbleness of mind. In Titus 3:2, we get gentleness as a related concept to meekness. And in the context of the wife’s attitude toward her role, 1 Peter 3 gives “a quiet spirit” as a synonym for meekness. In reality, the kind of Christianity we see today – with political activism, health and wealth “gospels,” legalism as one extreme and compromise as the other, etc. – is incompatible with Scriptural principles. Meekness is reasonable when outspoken. Meekness is not self-seeking. Meekness does not respond to one extreme with another equally harmful one. Meek Christianity is certainly not flimsy (by any means!), but it is mild and spiritually controlled. The Lord said to pray for the persecutors. He said to give another cheek when one is beaten. Of course it doesn’t come naturally, but it doesn’t have to. Such is our obligation.
The Contrasts of Meekness
When defining something, it is always helpful to see what it is not, so that we may limit our thoughts as to defining it. When it comes to meekness, we see a few main “this as opposed to that” statements as it were, providing a backdrop of contrast upon which we can see the specifics of the subject more clearly.
One is in 1 Corinthians 4:21, where Paul says “What do ye desire? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” Now this is not to say that discipline is sinful. On the contrary, we will see later that meekness is in alignment with proper discipline and restoration. Here Paul provides a general principle for us, which occasionally has exceptions: meekness is more soft than it is stern. A Christian who is constantly battering others “as his duty” each time they have do some offense, whether small or big, is a Christian who is just looking for an excuse to be declared right. It’s not his duty; it’s really just pride. Meekness is very reserved in how it deals with another believer’s sin.
Secondly we see in 1 Timothy 6:11 “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow… meekness.” What was he to flee? Men and attributes like this: “He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” Thus, very simply we see that true meekness is not drawn to arguments, false doctrine, or greed. Actually, it stays away from these altogether, because mostly only an act of God can change such problems, not someone’s intervention.
Thirdly we see in Titus 3:2 the command “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” Admittedly, this is probably one of the hardest verses to apply, but that just means it might be the most necessary to apply. All government has been set up by God, whether it be nation-wise, assembly-wise, or family-wise. These all provide a means of obedience to our ultimate government: God Himself. Beware, dear believer, when you criticize your political leaders and when your elders become the subject of mocking. Such is not only pride, but contempt to the very character and authority of God. And even when authority isn’t the issue, “meekness unto all men” is our obligation.
The Command and Cause of Meekness
This section really deals with the basis of meekness, which includes three main things: Our Pattern: Christ; Our Personal Call; and Our Position’s Character.
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul begins his entreaty to the believers with this statement: “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” Now, whether we take this to be the basis of Paul’s meekness or the basis of the believer’s potential meekness, we must conclude that since believers are the subject either way, Christ is always our standard. After all, wasn’t He the very King identified as being “meek and sitting upon an ass”? Was He not the One Who could say “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek”? If the Lord of Glory chose meekness, why would creatures of the dust with a gracious Heavenly calling not be obligated to fulfill such a virtue? Let us consider our Lord.
Ephesians 4, however, relates our meekness to the call we have – our vocation. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord (a perfect background to talk about meekness), beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness.” What is this vocation? All of what Ephesians 1-3 lays out. It is a walk consistent with our Heavenly calling, our inheritance, our gracious redemption, and our identity with Christ. ,What is worthy of one identified with Christ except to imitate His Lord? So then, practically, a way to grow in meekness is to consider all our positional privileges which we have been brought into through salvation.
Lastly, Colossians 3 sheds light on the incentive for our meekness in pointing to the character of our salvation: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness…” In other words, meekness is to be assumed, considering our position before God. How on earth can we who are God’s elect, who have been made holy because of grace, who are recipients of love, be anything less than meek? Really, the question should not be “Why should I be meek?” but “What right could I possibly have not to be?”
The Circumstances of Meekness
There are certain circumstances in Scripture that are associated with meekness, because there will be a special demand in it at certain moments and occasions. Now this is not to exclude meekness as a walk of life, but to emphasize that since we are always to be ready for these circumstances we are always to be meek. This is actually more inclusive than exclusive. Consider the areas requiring special meekness.
- The Ministry of Teaching/Preaching requires special character, because an arrogant man on the platform will not be well received by God nor His people. The basis for this is 2 Timothy 2:25, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Moses in Numbers 12 is a good example of God’s choosing leaders who are meek.
- Contact to/with all men: “shewing all meekness unto all me” (Tit. 3:2). Why? The next verses tell us: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared…” Having been in the same position, ours is never a place to condescend.
- Restoration especially requires meekness, because if a soul under discipline of any sort sees arrogance in the person supposing to care for them, it more often than not pushes such away. Now, this is not by any means an excuse to leave God’s assembly. But, the question is left for us: “Do we show such people we still want them in the assembly?” Galatians 6:1 sums this up: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
- Learning Scripture without a meek mind will result in selective response, that is, obeying only the verses that appeal to the reader – one of the greatest mistakes in Bible study. James 1:21-22 “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” To be arrogant Christians is to be hearers only.
- Witnessing. Peter explains nicely, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
The Consequences of Meekness
Here we must end, yet on a glad note. Meekness is rewarded!
The first reward is seen in Psalm 25:9 – “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” In this way meekness is the foundation of all Christian living, because without it we cannot grow. We cannot hear God’s direction without listening, which actually requires a bowing before His will, not just what we select of His will. Let us be “guidable.” Otherwise, where can we go from here, but into ignorant Christianity?
But secondly we see that meek Christianity is the Christianity which God both trusts with stewardship and exalts to glorified positions. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Why? Because they have shown themselves trustworthy, humble, and controlled with responsibility; thus such a high position will not go to their heads when they get it. “The LORD lifteth up the meek.” Shall we be exalted? Or shall we be the Christianity that can’t be trusted with those things God holds precious? Of all votes of confidence, it would be nice to have God’s!