The English language is one of, if not the most, complicated languages in the world, but not because there is a word for every emotion or feeling. Our language tends to do an injustice to words derived from other ancient or historic languages. We suffer from this repercussion at various points in the Bible. Due to imperfect substitutionary words, translating from the original languages of Scripture into English sometimes costs us the full meaning of the Hebrew and Greek.
One word that comes to mind is meek. What does it mean to say someone is meek? Some equate meekness with weakness. The Merriam-Webster defines meekness as a “deficient in spirit and courage . . . submissive . . . not violent or strong.” Even the dictionary’s example of the word used in a sentence reads, “a meek child dominated by his brothers.” Certainly we, in striving for biblical manhood, would never want to seen as weak men of God, weak husbands, or weak employees. We can’t even go to the gym or to a football game without being driven by the fear of seeming weak. There is a cultural and grammatical understanding of meekness to mean near-inability, the absence of strength, to have no backbone, or to lose your ground.
Others simply offer Jesus as an example of meekness without being able to point to why He fits the description. It’s not difficult to define the word according to a modern dictionary, but it can be a task to figure out what meek means in the Bible. Is it submission? Is it gentleness? Is it peacemaking? Is this an accurate depiction of what Jesus means in Matthew 5:5 when He said, “Blessed are the meek?” Blessed are the spineless men? Blessed are the men who are pushovers? Certainly not.
We have to redefine meekness, but we have to do it on Biblical terms. While the world may be unsettled on what the word means, the Bible is clear on it. Jesus is clear on it. We only have a precious few of Jesus’ words in the Bible, and the concept of meekness was important enough for Him to stress in His short earthly ministry, and important enough for God to have ordained its inclusion in the Gospels.
Jesus was the perfect picture of meekness, but He wasn’t the only meek man we find in the Word. Moses is referred to as “very meek” (Num. 12:3). Other Old Testament examples of meek men include David (2 Sam. 16:11-12), Job (Job 1:21), and Jeremiah (Jer. 11:19). Looking at these men, and looking what the Bible says in depth will help us not only define meekness, but why meekness is necessary and correct, and the promises from God for those who are meek.
So now we arrive at the million-dollar question: What is the Biblical definition of meekness? What does that mean for us in terms of Biblical manhood?
STRENGTH INSIDE AND OUT
Meekness is not only an inner disposition, but an outer behavior as well. A great example of this balance between inner nature and outer action is found in Matthew 11:29. Jesus says, “For I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Jesus expresses His lowliness by His temperance and nature, and expresses His gentleness by His behavior and actions. A close relative to meekness is humility. Being humble is a two-fold trait; it manifests itself in the heart, and in the hands. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of humility and meekness is 1 Peter 2:23. “Where [Jesus] was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” His humility is not only displayed by His physical restraint, but also His emotional, heart-felt compassion towards the revilers.
Why do I say meekness is strength? We must remember that Jesus being meek did not mean He was helpless. After all, we are talking about omnipotent Jesus, whose authority and dominion is infinite and everlasting (Matt. 28:18). He didn’t need help. He could be “lowly in heart” because He had the victory, because He had eternal power. When the soldiers chided Jesus to come down from the cross if He was truly Messiah, Jesus remained, but, as we know, it wasn’t because He couldn’t. It was because He was meek.
THE NECESSITY OF MEEKNESS FOR MANHOOD
So how do we practically exhibit a life of meekness as we strive to be better men? The answer is clear. We must try to live out the example laid out for us by men like Jesus, Moses, and the like. Paul, in his letter to his student Timothy, explains what this lifestyle looks like. To be a meek man of God is to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2). It is to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11). It’s subjecting ourselves to authority (Rom. 13:1-2), putting others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3), becoming reasonable (Phil. 4:5), and avoiding quarrels and showing courtesy (Titus 3:2).
We can see there are lots of ways to explain meekness in the Bible, but there’s no debate. It’s clear on the necessity of meekness for the Christian life, and there are wonderful promises from God to the meek. They are summed up in Psalm 37:11, “The meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
If you struggle to live meekly, it could be because your definition of meekness has been distorted by a poor understanding of what meekness means. That’s okay. It’s okay because the Bible has given us a robust definition of meekness. His name is Jesus “lying in a manger” (Lk. 2:12), “mounted on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9), and afflicted “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). Yet His meekness was His greatest strength and it can be yours, too.
ABOUT ZACH: Zach Barnhart is a college graduate from Middle Tennessee State University and lives in Knoxville, TN. He and his wife, Hannah, are currently serving at Fellowship Church Knoxville. He is an avid reader and blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @zachbarnhart_ and read more of his writings at his new blog on Medium.
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