1. Meekness: Fruit of the Holy Spirit. The concept of meekness is often considered only in terms of a person’s natural disposition. If someone is gentle and mild, neither self-assertive or hurriedly defensive we say that he or she is meek. In an aggressive, competitive society it is not a characteristic which is always highly valued. Often a meek person is regarded as “a soft touch”, without backbone. It is assumed that meekness and manliness are mutually exclusive. The term can become almost a slur: and if we are not careful this sort of thinking can creep into the Church. We need to be clear on the Biblical teaching about meekness. According to the word of God meekness is, primarily, something wrought in the soul by the grace of God. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23). It does not grow naturally.
2. Meekness Towards God. The exercise of this distinctive characteristic of the believer is, therefore, firstly towards God. Meekness is that attitude of soul in which we submit to God and receive His word. The epistle of James tells us that the way to receive the engrafted word is “with meekness” (James 1:21). Naturally we fight against God and His word. We reason, we resist. We try to pit our puny intelligences against the Almighty . But the heart made meek will dispute no longer. Something has happened within. There is an entirely new preference for the will of God, an acceptance of His dealings with us as just and good. When proud nature is humbled in this way we say with meekness: “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Meekness, then, is the mark of a man or woman, boy or girl who has been mastered by God. It is a grace that is first given and then nurtured. Closely connected with humility it is essential to Christian living. Categorically it is not an option for the Christian according to natural temperament.
3. Meekness Towards All Men. It must be obvious that a person who has had his heart so changed towards God must now change his attitude and demeanour towards his fellow men. The Apostle Paul, meekly accepting his pathway of suffering as a prisoner, writes to the Ephesians: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, WITH ALL LOWLINESS AND MEEKNESS, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:1,2). And again in his letter to the Colossians: “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, MEEKNESS, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). Meekness then becomes an essential part of a consistent and credible Christian testimony in
the world. Peter speaks of “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4) and shows that by such an adornment believing wives are to seek to win their unbelieving husbands to the faith. A little later in the same chapter he exhorts us: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). All this involves effort and striving: and the more our natural tendency is towards assertiveness and aggressiveness, the more effort and striving there must be. The exhortation of Paul in his letter to Titus is crystal clear: “to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, SHEWING ALL MEEKNESS UNTO ALL MEN” (Titus 3:2). If we are to be consistent Christians in this respect we shall undoubtedly need more grace. We shall need to keep “Looking unto Jesus . . . who . . . endured such contradiction of sinners against himself (Heb. 12:2,3).
4. Meekness Towards Believers. There is something particularly shameful and compromising about a lack of meekness in relationships between believers. Whenever it occurs it is an evidence of a lack of true spirituality whatever the other issues may be. Pastors and preachers have to search themselves in the light of 2 Tim. 2:24: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” (see also 1 Thess. 2:7). All believers will inevitably have many God-given opportunities to practise meekness, as this grace is put to the test, especially when others are at fault. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1,2).
5. Examples of Meekness. Although mention might be made of Abraham and Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul, the outstanding example of meekness among Bible characters is Moses. For it is God’s own testimony concerning him: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” [Num. 12:3). There are events, however, in the life of Moses which seem to suggest that he was not naturally meek. His killing of the Egyptian taskmaster, his breaking the tablets of stone, his angry smiting of the rock all show him to be a man of like passions. Yet God testifies to his meekness. God alone knew the degree of provocation and testing His servant constantly endured. He understood what burdens Moses had to carry. He knew how difficult it was to lead such a fractious and fickle multitude. Again, Moses was a man of extraordinary gifts, of tremendous spiritual
stature, of great authority in the camp of Israel. And it takes meekness to carry such blessings well. Many instances in the life of Moses reveal a man with a lowly conception of himself, a man ready to humble and abase himself. And it is the testimony of heaven that God worked in His servant Moses an extraordinary measure of the grace of meekness.
If we are to find meekness in perfection however, we must turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect Example. Matthew quotes the prophet: “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Mt. 21:5). Seldom did the Lord Jesus draw attention specifically to the qualities which shone in Himself so gloriously: but He did, in that wonderful gospel invitation, call our attention to His meekness: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30). Who bore sorrow and suffering and persecution and derision with such meekness as the Son of Man? Who was more approachable than the Friend of sinners? Who more tender than the One of whom it was said: “A bruised reed shall he not break”. (Mt. 12:20). The line of the children’s hymn does not present the whole truth concerning Christ, but it is certainly true: “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” And there is no doubt that the disciple should be as his Master.
6. Blessed are the Meek. In the Beatitudes the character of the truly godly man is described. It is a composite character which conflicts with worldly norms. A blessing is pronounced upon the meek. They do not assert themselves as some do, yet they shall inherit the earth. Like the Apostle Paul they know how to be abased and they know how to abound. Their meekness arises from genuine humility and contentment and has a future prospect. The real Christian knows in his heart that all things belong to him in Christ Jesus, and all has been freely given. True meekness is derived from a strong position, not a weak one. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” says Paul in 1 Cor. 6:2. It is the meek who shall inherit the earth. Surely then we can forego the pathetic, worldly, transient need to feed our ego by self-assertion either in the world or in the Church and rather seek to have the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Let Matthew Henry have the last word: “A lion in God’s cause must be a lamb in his own.”
P. G. Watts