Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:5a “Blessed are the meek:. . .”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (5:4). How can we be sure our poverty of spirit and our mourning are genuine? We may think we are spiritually humble, and tears may fill our eyes, but we can be absolutely certain our poverty of spirit and our mourning are authentic only when meekness is present.
The first three beatitudes reveal an orderly development of God’s grace in the human heart. Sensing our poverty of spirit, our spiritual weakness, and then grieving over sin and its effects, releases in us God’s power to control our own selves.
The word “meek” was used to describe an animal which had become domesticated, having learned to submit to a master’s control. The “meek” are those who have a tamed spirit. Meekness is not self-control, but God-control, whereby Jesus, enthroned over the passions of our heart, exercises His power to moderate them.
Every instinct, every impulse, every passion, every motive under Jesus’ control–this is the proof one has embraced poverty of spirit and mourned for sin. The truly noble Christian gains God’s victory over self. Herein is true greatness of soul.
The most successful Christians best follow our Leader’s command, “Learn of me; for I am meek” (MT 11:29). Jesus did not ask us to learn from Him how to be smart, to organize political systems, to construct big buildings, to succeed financially and vocationally, but would have us learn from Him how to be meek. Ultimately, the battle of life begins and ends, is won or lost, within one’s own self. To control other aspects of life, we must first gain control over our own inner selves.
Let’s take extra care in defining meekness. It is not stoicism, a suppression of all emotion; trying to be like the Star Trek movie character, Mr. Spock, is no virtue. Nor is meekness an effort to achieve the Buddhist ideal of Nirvana, the absence of all desire. Our Lord, who was meek, had emotions and desires. He cried, became angry, felt pity and physical pain, knew how to enjoy Himself at a wedding feast. Jesus was a young single adult male who experienced the full gamut of feelings.
Emotions and urges are God-given and normal. Trouble develops when we let Satan hyper-extend our natural feelings and desires. The meek let God curtail them, cut them off at the right intensity. Any area of life out of control is a red flag, indicating God is not in control in that area. The meek do not skew their instincts out of control, but instead have each impulse and response curbed by King Jesus.
Yielding recklessly to our hyper-desires is easy. It is a swimming along with the tide of our old corrupt nature. Meekness, which is never automatic, requires bucking our own sinful selves, submitting to God, and complying with His desires.
Saying yes to God necessitates saying no to our old self in every area of life. I use “every” advisedly, and mean it literally. A few examples may help.
Meekness entails victory over our attitude toward our lot in life. Control self-pity. Avoid excess. At times we will be perplexed and disappointed, but must never despair. The meek refuse to respond with rebellion or sulking to God’s providence in their own personal lives. Beware the spirit of Jonah, who blurted out to God, “I do well to be angry, even unto death” (4:9). Out of control, Jonah rightfully received a divine rebuke. At some point we must come to grips with the difficulties and burdens we all face in life. For our own good, refuse to yield to bitterness, and with meekness accept God’s will for us. He chose our parents, determined our looks, shaped our personality, decided what talents we would or would not have. Learn to be like Jesus who, in Gethsemane, initially prayed for the cup to be removed, but then yielded, accepting “the cup which my Father hath given me” (JN 18:11).
Meekness entails victory over our attitude toward others. We must forgive our enemies and others who wrong us. A lady who lived long with hatred was asked on her death bed to forgive, but answered, “I cannot forgive though I go to hell.” Some would rather sacrifice their soul than their malice. I remember when Henry Rone came forward in church to be saved. His prayer for salvation was in vain until he was willing to forgive the man who had terribly wronged him.
Meekness entails victory over our anger. Like Jesus, we need to be angry at times, not for self, but for God and others. Once anger rouses us to the proper response in a given situation, quickly drop the passion. The meek will not let an inner storm blow them off the straight and narrow path. What we do in anger can usually be better done out of anger. Frederick, Duke of Saxony, and supporter of the Lutheran Reformation, when he became angry, would wisely shut himself in his closet and let none come near him till he had mastered his passion. Slow the lips. “I might as well say it as think it” is a lie of Satan. Leave angry thoughts unverbalized.
Meekness entails victory over our ambitions. Moderate aspirations. David knew he would someday reign, but when given opportunity to become king by killing Saul, refused to advance himself wrongly. David held in his ambitions. Jesus subdued His aspirations, not seeing equality with God as something to be clutched at all costs. He rather yielded to the Father’s will, took on Himself the role of a suffering servant, and accepted God’s timing for His re-enthronement at the Father’s right hand. Meekness demands neither rights, privileges, nor status, and holds ego under control. Many, driven by a lust to succeed, let their schedules run amok. He who has too many irons in the fire eventually gets his hand burned. Learn meekness. Get your ambitions under control, and a reasonable schedule will follow.
Meekness entails victory over our appetites: sex only in marriage, food only in reasonable portions, no extended credit card debt, cars and houses we can afford, clothes in style, but not exorbitant–the old maxim still applies, live on 80% of your income, give God 10%, and save 10%. Abraham subdued his desire to accumulate wealth. He let Lot have the first choice of land, and was content with what was left.
The sweetest victories of life are the times we overcome our own self. When we deny self, we know we truly do love the Lord. I know me, and the intense energy and awesome power needed to overcome me. My old man, my sin nature, is formidable. My greatest accomplishments are not my professional attainments. They, too, are due solely to God, but knowing the sheer might of my body of sin, I deem my victories over it my choicest triumphs. Subdued anger, overcoming depression, ending profanity, curbing my eating habits, squelching wrongful ambitions, etc. The battle continues to rage. My most common frustration is disgust at my own self, centered in my intense struggle to give greater God-control over me.
Jesus commanded, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (MK 8:34). A “cross” is a self-denial which one takes up voluntarily. Meekness proves one has truly chosen the path of self-denial. We need this evidence, for Jesus said, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (MT 10:38). The proof that Jesus lives and reigns in the heart is that the heart’s desires and impulses are controlled by Him.