Some of the most beloved teaching from the Scripture is found in the first 12 verses of Matthew 5, which are commonly called the Beatitudes. These Kingdom proclamations, straight from the mouth of Jesus, are so powerful primarily because of the paradox contained in them. Paradox is something that seems to go against common experience or common sense. Jesus is taking the wisdom and values of the world and flipping it on its head. In other words, Jesus says the opposite of what the world would say.
The world would say:
- Blessed are the rich in spirit
- Blessed are those who laugh
- Blessed are the aggressive
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the lusts of the world
- Blessed are the vengeful
- Blessed are those who do whatever their heart wants to do
- Blessed are the warmongers
- Blessed are those who have avoided persecution
But Jesus says that it’s the opposite in the kingdom of God, which is very striking to our hearts and minds.
Let’s zoom in for a minute and focus on the third Beatitude found in Matthew 5:5, Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth (NASB). First, we’ll look at the proclamation.
Blessed Are the Gentle
Other translations say, “Blessed are the meek.” The Greek word behind gentle/meek is praus. It basically means “to be mild or soft” and was sometimes used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze. It was also used of colts and other animals whose naturally wild spirits were broken by a trainer so that they could do useful work. As a human trait, it meant being gentle of spirit, meek, submissive, humble, quiet, and tenderhearted. In my opinion, meek is probably the better translation since it points more toward the inward disposition whereas gentle points more toward the outward action.
It’s important to note that this beatitude is merely a repetition of what’s found in Psalm 37:11, But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Again, other translations employ the word meek instead of the word humble here. Therefore, gentle/meek/humble are synonymous. The entirety of Psalm 37 provides us with a great description of what gentleness/meekness/humility actually looks like. When Jesus says that the meek are blessed, He has this Psalm 37 person in mind.
Notice the parallel between Psalm 37:11 and Psalm 37:9, those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. The psalmist is equating meekness to waiting upon God. We get a further sketch of what it means to be meek in Psalm 37:5-8, Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
First, the meek commit their way to God (v5). The Hebrew word for commit means literally to roll onto. Therefore, meek people have discovered that God is trustworthy, and so they roll their “way”—their business, their problems, their relationships, their health, their fears, their frustrations—onto the Lord. They admit that they are insufficient to cope with the complexities and pressures and obstacles of life and trust that God is able and willing to sustain them and guide them and protect them.
Second, the meek trust in God (v5). They believe that He will work for them and vindicate them when others oppose them. Biblical meekness is rooted in the deep confidence that God is for you and not against you.
Third, the meek rest in God (v7). This doesn’t mean they become lazy. It means that they’re free of frenzy. They have a kind of steady calm that comes from knowing that God is omnipotent, that he has their affairs under his control, and that he is gracious and will work things out for the best. Meek people have a quiet steadiness about their lives in the midst of upheaval. They’re satisfied and quiet before their God because they know that God has given them all that they need and will never forsake them. They can be still and cease from striving because they know that God is God (Psalm 46:10).
Fourth, the meek wait patiently for God (v7). They know that God has a perfect plan that He is working out in His own timing. God is always right on time and will bring victory.
Fifth, the meek do not fret about evildoers (v7). They have an eternal perspective. The wicked are like the chaff and will be blown away on the Day of Judgment. Even though it looks like the wicked are prospering and overtaking the earth, that’s just not the case in the long run because the Lord will judge and vindicate.
Finally, the meek cease from anger and wrath (v8). Their family and work and life are in God’s sovereign hands. They trust God and wait patiently and quietly to see how his power and goodness will work things out. Because of this, the setbacks and obstacles and opponents of life do not produce the kind of bitterness and anger and fretfulness that is so common among men.
So, a meek person is one who commits his way to God, trusts in God, rests in God, waits for God, doesn’t fret over the wicked, and refrains from anger and wrath. In looking at the list, it’s important to keep two things in mind.
- These traits are a fruit of the Spirit. These are what God works in us as He’s conforming us to the image of Christ. In a sense, God blesses His own work in us!
- Keep in mind that biblical meekness is a direct result of seeing God as the sovereign Lord of the universe. This isn’t just some personality trait. There are people who just seem to be naturally meek and mild. Maybe they were beat down as a child or that’s just their constitution. But what the Bible is talking about is something that comes about because we get the right perspective on God and history.
Now back to Matthew 5. The key question to understand this beatitude is: on whom are you dependent? Are you dependent upon you, or are you dependent upon God? A man dependent upon himself will either take matters into his own hands with powerfulness to will an outcome, or he will be paralyzed on the sideline in powerlessness. His ability and potency begins and ends with himself. He can go only as far as he can take himself. He’s dependent upon his own limited, weak vision and wisdom. But the man who is dependent upon God will give matters to God, who is the omnipotent, omniscient, omni-wise God of the universe. No one or no thing can stay His hand. No one or no thing can hide from His gaze. He always does what is best and in the best way. In order to be meek and gentle, a person must be dependent upon God.
How are you doing in this area? I read this week a striking quote from my pastor friend, Brandon Porter at his blog, “We only know His strength, favor and power through faith when we turn away from our self-sufficiency and live dependently upon Him. It is a strange concept. When children grow up we mark their maturity by their independence. When Christians grow in the faith the Bible marks their maturity by their dependence upon God. We are never supposed to aim at self-sufficiency. That is not a flaw in humanity; it is God’s design.” Are you growing in dependence upon God? Your growth in dependence will directly affect your gentleness.
Let’s briefly look at the reason behind Jesus’ proclamation.
For They Shall Inherit the Earth
Jesus says that the gentle/meek are blessed because they shall inherit the earth. In this age, your meekness might cause you to never set foot on a piece of ground that’s deeded to you, but in the age to come, the meek are awarded the entire earth. What a blessing! Paradise lost by us will be paradise restored to us when Jesus returns. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
May your gentleness abound and your reward be great!