The Meek

The third beatitude is, “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherent the earth” (Matt. 5:5). The Greek word for meek (praus) may refer to someone who is afflicted, which is not merely from difficult circumstances but primarily because they choose to restrain their strength for a greater good or purpose. The meek are those who “do not throw their weight about” in relation with others.[1] When slapped, they turn the other cheek (5:39). When someone takes their tunic, they give away their cloak as well (5:40). When someone forces them to go one mile, they go two (5:41).

“Meekness” was not a celebrated virtue in first century Palestine, and it is certainly not a virtue celebrated in the twenty-first century United States. There is something in our nature that bristles at being offended, specifically when there is no recourse for that offence. When it comes to the slightest infringement upon our rights, our hearts demand the severest exactitude of justice. For this reason, this beatitude goes against the grain of the common attitude prevalent in our society today: We must get ours. We must get what is owed to us. We must not show deference to others lest we be taken advantage of. It is this fretting about our own personal rights that leads to clamoring, scheming, and bickering over the things of the earth that leads to full injustice and empty hearts.

And yet, Jesus shows us a better way. Jesus is the gentle and lowly king (Matt. 11:28–30; 21:5) who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8). Jesus is the meek king, who has all the power in the cosmos and chooses to lay down all of his heavenly rights, because of his devotion to the good of the people and his faithfulness to the glory of God the Father.

In the only passage in the Gospels that Jesus describes his own heart, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek (praus) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29).[2] Jesus offers true freedom for those who face difficulty, oppression, and suffering by trusting the Lord, delighting themselves in the Lord, and committing their way to the Lord (Ps. 37:3–4). And for such meekness, they will inherit the earth (Ps. 37:11), which is to experience the fullness of peace and presence of the Lord.

Graham Michael is an academic tutor for the BibleMesh Institute and chairs the history department at St. David’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 166.

[2] Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 17.