Do you consider yourself a proactive person who knows how to strategize and get things done? Or are you more laid back, waiting for something to work out, doing what is necessary, allowing God to work? In some cultures, proactivity is considered rude, while in others, it is required to accomplish anything. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the balance between waiting on God and stepping in. In developing countries, where the bureaucracies are young or unorganized, a person must be proactive to accomplish tasks such as finalizing a residency permit, getting a school registered or accredited, or a building approved during construction. In Africa, where I frequently had to plan for delays. If delays in government approvals hindered our work, I resorted to one particular strategy. I packed up my work, laptop, lunch, and water and set off for the government office. When I was received by a receptionist or administrator who assured me that the permit was in process, I informed them quietly, with a sincere smile, that I would wait in their office for as long as it took to receive the document I needed. Upon protest from them, I gently repeated my plan and took a seat, getting ready to do my work. The document was usually produced within an hour or two, with some embarrassment but smiles all around. There was no frustration or anger. It was only a matter of doing what was necessary in a culture where the loudest, most assertive person received the attention. Proactive Christians should look and behave differently, knowing that God has a plan and works on our behalf if we yield to him. For Christians, there is always a way to approach worldly challenges without being rough, mean, or oppressive. Jesus blesses and gives the world to those who quietly submit to God’s will. We can and should enjoy God’s blessings in this world through our Christ-like meekness.
Who Are the Meek?
In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). “I can read a corporate confession in church and it causes me no great problem; I can take it in stride. But let somebody else come up to me after church and call me a sinner, and I want to punch that person in the nose. I am not prepared to allow other people to think or speak of me what I have just acknowledged before God that I am. There is a basic hypocrisy here; there always is when meekness, the third quality Jesus emphasizes, is absent… ‘It is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in his sight,’ says commentator Martyn Lloyd-Jones. ‘But,’ he continues, ‘how much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me?’ (LLoyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)…We shrink from the image of Jesus as meek and mild because it conjures up a picture of him as weak and effeminate, yet he described himself as ‘gentle,’ using the Greek adjective found in verse 5, and ‘humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29). What sort of gentleness is this, on account of which those who have it are pronounced blessed?” (1) John Gill writes, “Blessed are the meek who are not easily provoked to anger; who patiently bear, and put up with injuries and affronts; carry themselves courteously, and affably to all; have the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; do not envy the gifts and graces of other men; are willing to be instructed and admonished, by the meanest of the saints; quietly submit to the will of God, in adverse dispensations of providence; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the grace of God.” (2)
The Meek are Blessed
“The meek are happy. The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. These meek ones are happy, even in this world. Meekness promotes wealth, comfort, and safety.” (3) We are meek when we realize that we can proactively pray for nations in conflict, but God will be the one to deal with the political leaders. We are meek when we initiate or participate in service to those in need, but know that God has a plan for their lives as he does for ours—so we serve with respect, not superiority. We are meek when we confess to our friends that we don’t know what to say about their troubles, but we will be with them and help in whatever way they can suggest. “Here meekness is to be considered, not as a moral virtue, but as a Christian grace, a fruit of the Spirit of God…and which is of great advantage and use to them, in hearing and receiving the word; in giving an account of the reason of the hope that is in them…and in the whole of their lives and conversations; and serves greatly to recommend religion to others: such who are possessed of it, and exercise it, are well pleasing to God; when disconsolate, he comforts them; when hungry, he satisfies them; when they want direction, he gives it to them; when wronged, he will do them right; he gives them more grace here, and glory hereafter.” (4) Jesus blesses us when we quietly submit to his will; that is when we will enjoy God’s blessings through our humility.
The Meekness of Jesus
Meekness was one of Jesus’s most notable characteristics. The prophet Isaiah predicted his humility: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Jesus proved his humility at his arrest and crucifixion. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). “It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isa. 53:7. He could do so because he continued entrusting both himself and those who mistreated him entirely to God, knowing that God is just and will make all things right in the end.” (5)
The Meek Will Inherit the Earth
Jesus used Psalm 37:11 in his beatitude: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” “The first eleven verses [of Psalm 37] are the most direct exposition we have of the third beatitude. They describe the quiet spirit of one who trusts in God and does not fret because of evil men.…We are to look ahead as well as looking up [but]…It is hard for most of us to take the long view, because we are consumed by the present. But we need to do it if we are to grow in grace and begin to understand something of what God is doing in this world. The world associates happiness with worldly possessions, and it believes that the way to gain them is through ability, strength, hard work, self-assurance, and at times, even through self-assertion and conquest…We seek [happiness] through homes and their contents, success and the praise of men for it, power and the stature it confers…Against all these outlooks on life and these ambitions Jesus teaches that meekness must be a characteristic of those who are to share his kingdom….meekness is a characteristic by which God promises to bring blessing in the lives of Christians and through them to others, and that it is not a natural characteristic in man but is the result of the supernatural working of God’s Spirit.” (6) God blesses and gives the world to those who quietly submit to his will. We enjoy his blessings in this world and the new earth through our Christ-like meekness. And when we need to act, the Lord will lead us to do so gently, with respect, grace, and humility. When my present apartment was under renovation for three times as long as the estimate, my neighbors were amazed that I was not frustrated. But the staff knew, from my private inquiries that I was following the work and not passive. Yet there was nothing anyone but God could do about the “supply chain” delay for the carpeting. Are you waiting for something? How will you handle it? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” (Isaiah 57:15)
Related Scripture: Numbers 12:3; Psalms 45:4; Isaiah 29:19; 32:17; 66:2; Luke 18:14; Romans 12:19; 2 Corinthians 10:1; James 3:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 3:15; Galatians 5:22-23; 6:1; 1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Col. 3:12
- John Stott, The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character, Chapter 3, Learning Gentleness, John Stott Bible Studies, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 5:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 5:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/matthew-5.html
- Gill, Ibid.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, (1 Peter 2:23), (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Baker Books, Psalm 37, Software version, 1998
March 10, 2022