August 14, 2014 Broadcast

Blessed Are The Meek

A Message by R.C. Sproul

What comes to mind when you hear a person described as “meek”? Probably someone timid, shy, and faint-hearted. That is how the word is commonly used today. But when Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek,” He did not mean that we should be weak, subservient, or afraid. The quality Jesus was speaking of requires a great deal of strength, courage, and character. In this lesson, Dr. Sproul teaches us how to manifest a vibrant Christian meekness in our lives.

From the series: The Beatitudes

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Meekness and Self-Control

  2. devotional

    Meekness and Mourning

  3. devotional

    Blessed are the Meek

Meekness and Self-Control

For most people, meekness means weakness. When we think of Moses, however, we don’t think of a person who was meek, at least not in the modern sense of meekness. There was nothing weak about Moses. He exhibited extraordinary leadership and strength in the face of great difficulties and tests.

There was one man, though, who was even meeker than Moses, and that was Jesus Himself. Remember that He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble [meek and lowly] in heart” (Matthew 11:29). Yet consider how Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. There was certainly nothing weak about it. On another occasion Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Here we see an association of meekness with leadership.

What is this meekness, that it is so powerful? One alternative translation for meekness is “gentleness.” It requires great strength to be gentle. Gentleness is the opposite of abrasiveness, and it flows from that kind of confident strength that is the opposite of arrogance. The man who is secure in his love for God does not need to intimidate but can be kind and humble in his leadership roles.

The man who is meek before God and has that inner strength that enables him to be gentle before men will not be a violent man. This quietness of spirit will enable him to be temperate. A self-controlled or temperate person is not given to binges of excess, but lives within restraints.

Thus the long-term benefit of the fruit of the Spirit is stability. Honoring God through love for Him causes us to rejoice in Christ’s victory, and that provides us with inner peace. Such peace enables us to endure hard times with patience, and this works into our personalities a spirit of kindness. As this happens, our lives become more beautiful in the sense that goodness is beautiful, and we become more faithful and trustworthy. Such trustworthy people are acquiring the meekness and temperance that indicate stability and a fitness for leadership. When God sees this kind of stability in His people, He will graciously give them positions of responsibility in society.

Meekness and Mourning

Some translators render the Greek term for blessing (makarios) as “happy,” but this is not entirely accurate. Of course, happiness is often linked to blessing, but God’s favor brings far more than mere happiness. To be blessed by our Creator is to find His approval. God claims us as His child when He blesses us.

Jesus has said our Father approves of the poor in spirit — those who know their need for divine forgiveness (Matt. 5:3). This makes sense, for we are God’s people only if we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Him alone for salvation (Isa. 66:1–2; Luke 18:9–14; 1 John 1:8–9). In today’s passage, our Savior declares “blessed” those who mourn and those who are meek (Matt. 5:4–5).

Many think verse 4 refers to any mourner, but the context renders this view impossible. As the note in The Reformation Study Bible indicates, the second beatitude develops the first. Jesus describes here mourning over sin and its effect on the world. Believers feel sorrow for the ways they have offended God (Ps. 51:4) and for the ruin that mankind’s evil has brought to this earth (Dan. 9:1–19). Even Jesus weeps for Jerusalem because of what her sin brings upon her (Luke 19:41–44). Mourning is not constant despair or low self-esteem; these manifest a preoccupation with the self. True mourning over sin is focused Godward and finds comfort there, since the holiness of the Lord that reveals our desperation is joined with His grace, which offers forgiveness in the Gospel. 

Christ also tells us God’s blessing, or approval, comes to the meek (Matt. 5:5). John Calvin offers the best description of meek people in his commentary. They are “persons of mild and gentle dispositions, who are not easily provoked by injuries, who are not ready to take offense, but are prepared to endure anything rather than do the like actions to wicked men.” Meek people do not lack assertiveness, nor are they wishy-washy. Moses was meek (Num. 12:3), but he was not weak or cowardly. Being meek means being aware of our limitations, enabling us to be gentle and good to others (James 3:13–18). When we are meek we understand that we are just as guilty before God as the next person, and we therefore find it difficult to hold grudges against those who offend us. 

Blessed are the Meek

Consequences inevitably flow from every worldview, and few worldviews have had an influence as negative as the nihilism found in Friedrich Nietzsche’s thought. His concept of the Übermensch, the superman who creates his own values and lives by his own rules in the exercise of his “will to power,” was a driving force behind Nazism’s rise in Germany and the attempted eradication of “unfit” individuals in Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps. Even today, postmodernism’s tendency to see everything as driven by a desire for power reflects Nietzsche’s shadow.

Nietzsche was especially critical of Christianity because he believed that it inhibits the emergence of the Übermensch and prevents the full evolution of humanity. He saw Christ’s emphasis on meekness as crippling to the human heart and mind. Yet, if we are not careful, we can adopt a similar understanding. In fact, many of us are likely to see meekness as weakness, as a quality that produces men and women who have no backbone and courage. This represents a false view of meekness, however, for the two individuals most associated with meekness in Scripture were anything but weak or cowardly. We are referring, of course, to Moses and Jesus, both of whom are called meek but whose strength of leadership and courage are plainly evident in the Bible (Num. 12:3; 16; Matt. 11:29; 21:12–17, KJV).

Actually, the concept of meekness has no meaning unless we remember that it takes strength to display meekness and humility. The cowardly, insecure person is not really meek if he defers to others or is consistently self-deprecating, for it is in his nature to avoid conflict and remain a background player. On the other hand, the more power and courage that one has, the greater the need for that person to temper these qualities with grace and humility. We see this par excellence in the Son of God, who, though being in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be grasped for His own advantage at the expense of others. Instead, He walked the earth with meekness, exercising His power with sensitivity (Phil 2:5–11). Thus, He was invested with all authority on heaven and earth, an authority by which He promises that His meek followers will likewise inherit the earth and reign with Him over creation (Matt. 5:5; 28:18; 2 Tim. 2:12).

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