Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
In the third beatitude, we must again overcome the hindrance of the English language to understand what Jesus is really saying. Meekness is neither weakness nor grovelling. It is about voluntary powerlessness in our relationships with other people. It is about controlled strength. At the same time it is about gentleness, teachability and deep humility. It is something like that greatly undervalued fruit of the Spirit, self-control (Galatians 5:23) but even better, for the meek person is not so much self-controlled as God-controlled.
The Greek word is praus, which is also used for domesticated animals or for breaking in a horse. A meek believer is like the young donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-7). Although the colt had never been ridden before and could have been expected to try to throw off anyone seated on it, it chose to submit to Jesus’s control. A meek person wants to take Jesus’s yoke, like an ox, and learn from Him (Matthew 11:29).
Meekness does not exclude righteous anger. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle defined praotes (meekness) as the happy medium between too much anger and too little anger. A meek person does not react with anger about insults or injuries done to himself or herself but may be rightly angry about what others are suffering or about an insult to the Lord.
Moses is described as the meekest person on earth (Numbers 12:3, sometimes translated as the most humble) but we know that he was on occasion very angry (Exodus 11:8; 32:19). Jesus drove the money-changers and merchants out of the Temple courts with a whip (John 2:13-16).
The promise for the meek is that they will inherit the earth. This is the very last thing to be expected, humanly speaking, for those who are not assertive on their own behalf, who do not claim their rights, who make themselves the servants of all. Such a person would be expected to succumb as prey to the power-play and plotting of others. Yet it is a promise that goes back to one of David’s psalms:
For yet a little while, and the wicked shall
not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider
his place, and it shall not be. But the
meek shall inherit the earth; and shall
delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
(Psalm 37:10-11 AV)
A person who is truly meek is always satisfied and content, as if they owned the whole world. Paul told the Corinthians he had nothing yet possessed everything (2 Corinthians 6:10). He also told them that “all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21-22) and that one day they would judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2).