What is the true meaning of being meek?

Jesus was meek and lowly of heart, yet He drove the money changers out of the temple with a zeal and righteous anger. So what does it actually mean to be meek?

Blessed are the meek: A study on the truth of what it means to be meek

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5.

The word meek can often come with negative connotations. It may be that people see being meek as being a doormat, for people to walk all over. In fact, one dictionary defines meekness as “overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.”

Yet Jesus described Himself as meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29), and we know that the Man who defied the Pharisees, overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, and never backed down from wielding the truth as a two-edged sword could never be described as spiritless or tame. So, if we want to inherit the earth, we need to learn to understand what it truly means to be meek.

In the following article, Elias Aslaksen points out the vast difference between being meek and being timid, and why one is a virtue, and one is a vice:

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Meekness and timidity are opposites

Being meek must never be confused with being timid. A timid spirit is the exact opposite of a meek spirit! The quietness which accompanies meekness is the result of one's trust in the Lord, whereas the quietness of timidity is the result of one's lack of trust.

Neither must we be led to think that a meek person is always quiet. He is quiet when he should be quiet: when he is reviled or treated unjustly; when others lose their temper; when they chatter about this and that; when they fight for their own gain and advantage, etc. But not when he is to press into God with vehement cries for help; not when he is to cry out to God both day and night, or when he is to raise his voice like a trumpet to declare to God's people their transgressions (Isaiah 58:1); or when he has to defend the truths of the gospel openly; or tear the lamb out of the lion's mouth.

Divine nature is two-sided. It is quiet when it is fitting to be quiet, and it can boom like the sound of thunder and lightning when it is fitting to do so. Sinful nature also has two sides. It is boisterous when it ought to be quiet, and it is quiet and timid when it ought to cry out with all its might.

Being meek leads to salvation

“Moses was very humble [meek], more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3. Yet when he saw the golden calf and the dancing he cast the tablets of the law out of his hands and broke them. (Exodus 32:19)

Jesus, who entreated us to learn meekness from Him, burned with such zeal that He overturned the tables of the money-changers and drove them out of the temple with a scourge. (John 2:13-17) Do not go looking for meekness in such situations. We can be sure that it is present in the lives of spiritual people; but on occasions like that, other divine attributes are more prominent for the simple reason that they are more fitting.

We are to receive with meekness the words implanted in us. (James 1:21) When the Word judges and chastens us; when it divides between soul and spirit, and joints and marrow; when it crushes and humbles us; when it takes away; when it lays us bare – then it is vital to be quiet and meek and admit that the Word is right. Then we need to keep our mouth closed instead of answering back, defending and excusing ourselves! Then we will be led further on the way of life; we will be increasingly beautified with salvation — step by step.

This article is translated from Norwegian, and was first published as part of the book “The Way of Life” in January 1935. It has been adapted to fit this format.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.