Meek has always been a bit of a slippery word for me. I’ve never been quite able to get a handle on it. And yet, here it is, at such a crucial point in Jesus’ teachings, just as he is highlighting the qualities that most characterize those who live in the kingdom of God. I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty significant to me. Oddly enough, even as significant as it seems, the word is used only three times in the entire New Testament. Once here in Matthew 5:5, once in Matthew 21:5 when it describes Jesus coming into Jerusalem “gentle and riding on a donkey,” and once in 1 Peter 3:4 describing how God desires a wife’s spirit to possess “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
So exactly what is meekness? Well, maybe the best way to begin is by talking about what it is not. It is not aggressive, it is not demanding, and it is not prideful. It is not arrogant, it is not pushy, and it is not showy. It is not needy, it is not fearful, and it is not insecure. It is not rash, it is not harsh, and it is not reactive. It is neither possessive, nor obsessive. It does not seek to impose or impress. It does not try to control or manipulate. It does not seek its own way or work its own agenda. It is not opinionated, not argumentative, and does not need to be right.
But what is meekness? Is it humility? Is it gentleness? Or is it something else altogether? Maybe the reason it’s so hard to define is that it’s all of those things, and more. It is a quality of being, a spirit, and an attitude that displays itself in a peaceful, calm, and contented demeanor. It is a state of heart and mind. It is not being full of yourself or thinking too much of yourself. The Greek word for meek is praÿs, which means mild, humble, and gentleness of spirit. The dictionary defines the word meek as humbly patient and overly submissive; gentle and kind. J. B. Phillips says that the meek are “those who claim nothing.” And Eugene Peterson says they are those “who are content to be just who they are—no more, no less.”
Meekness is the quality of being at home with your true self, comfortable in your own skin. It is an ability to be yourself in a way that allows others to fully be themselves. It is the quality of being content and at peace, whole and free. Thus, the meek are described as blessed. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, if you are meek, then there is no need for jockeying or posturing or performing. The pressure is off. You are free to love and to be loved. Free to be gentle with yourself and with others.
I suppose that’s why the meek will inherit the earth, because they don’t need it to make them worthwhile. They have no need to try and take it by force or by storm. The world will always resist those who try to take it, but will always be open to those who gently and kindly and meekly love it and serve it. And that blesses everyone.