What Does Jesus Mean by "Blessed Are the Meek" in Matthew 5:5?
- Meg Bucher Writer and Author
- 2020 18 May
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” - Matthew 5:5
Jesus preached the Beatitudes to teach us what it means to have a truly repentant heart. Matthew 5:5 is included in the well-known Biblical text called the Beatitudes, “virtues that should characterize those who are ready for the kingdom and to assure them of blessing and reward when it comes” (Moody Bible Commentary). Meek isn’t a common word we use to describe someone. A deeper look at its true meaning explains why such a characteristic is a rare commodity. To be meek is to be kind and gentle, submissive or compliant, tame, and humbly patient or docile. God sees every part of our hearts, and His truth serves as a necessary guidepost to ensure we are living the way He has called us to live.
The Meaning of "Blessed Are the Meek"
Meekness is humility. And in the case of Christianity, it describes how we are to depend on God rather than ourselves or the world. In Matthew 5:5, Jesus referred to Psalm 37:11, which says, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” The meek “humbly acknowledge their dependence on the goodness and grace of God” (NIV Study Bible). King David addressed the seemingly unfair plight of good things happening to bad people and vice versa. With a heart after God’s very own, he put the temporary the happenings of the world in perspective. Ultimately, he points to a just and fair God, who is not unaware of our situation. “Prosperity is better translated ‘peace,’ for it refers to spiritual (inner) as well as material (outer) completeness” (Moody Bible Commentary).
“The word Jesus used here for meek is a Greek term that describes the breaking of a powerful stallion,” wrote Greg Laurie for Harvest Daily Devotions, “In the same way, when we surrender ourselves to God’s will, we exhibit meekness.”
Christians, through the power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, confess their sins to God. Jesus explained that repentance is a literal turning away from the sins we confess. When we decide to turn from sin, we mature in meekness. The Beatitudes show us how God shows up when we obediently decide to surrender to His will in our lives. Our Creator knows what’s best for our hearts, and Jesus explained the product of a repentant life in relatable terms. We are not naturally inclined to meekness because of the fallen world we live in and the sinful nature we are born with. In Christ, a repentant life and all of the fruitful changes of heart that come along with it will abound. “Meek is not so much an attitude toward people, but rather a disposition before God, namely, humility” (NIV Study Bible). It’s not something we can earn by what we do but, rather, what happens when we let go and turn our lives over to God.
Why Would Jesus Say Something That Sounds Backward?
During Jesus’ days on earth, and today, prideful achievements and self-motivations are applauded and encouraged by the world. Society grooms us to look out for ourselves, to keep ourselves happy, and to go after everything we supposedly deserve in this life. Jesus’ message was quite the opposite. The very Son of God came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28).
Christ chose to save us from sin that warrants punishment of death. What Jesus offers us, in Matthew 5:5 and beyond, is a chance to experience the life we were created to live, apart from the curse of sin we are born with and live under in this world. The ability to confess our sins, repent, and grow in our faith requires us to humbly admit, confess, and repent of our sin. That certainly isn’t the way of the world. We are much more inclined to justify our mistakes and argue in favor of our shortcomings. To gain something from humility and submissiveness seems backward. And by the world’s standards, it is. We don’t gain anything the world would consider a gain when we choose meekness. However, we gain something much more valuable than the world has to offer.
In Christ, we gain His kingdom for eternity. So, when all of the temporary things of this world pass away … its accomplishments, accolades, cliques, and possessions … we will live forever in perfect peace and harmony with Him. It takes great faith to stake our whole lives on something and someone we cannot see, which is why Jesus’ words are so important. “Anger arises from weakness of character,” wrote Scotty Smith for thegospelcoalition.org, “The meek man is able to conquer his fury.” The pursuit of God’s truth is vital to our faith because it allows us to gain a glimpse of His kingdom perspective. “Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount so that his Father would get the glory for the way the disciples lived,” preached John Piper, “His aim was to create a lifestyle in his disciples that would make people think about the value of God.”
Should We Pursue Meekness?
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” - 1 Peter 3:3-4
God calls us to follow Jesus in order to experience life to the full (John 10:10). The meek are content in this world, even though they are not striving according to its standards. “I think sometimes cultivating traits like meekness and humility are trickier than learning boldness because we can easily tip the scales too far and become passive,” wrote Sarah Phillips for crosswalk.com, “It’s a difficult balance, but a necessary one if we want to reflect Christ to a hurting world.”
Christ’s preaching was radical, considering the Messiah was expected by most to be a powerful king by earthly standards. To further understand the benefits of a meek countenance, Matthew Henry wrote of meekness:
“The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to god, to his word and to his rod, who follow his directions, and comply with his designs, and are gentle towards all men (Titus 3:2); who can show their displeasure when there is occasion for it, without being transported into any indecencies; who can be cool when others are hot; and in their patience keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of any thing else. They are the meek, who are rarely and hardly provoked, but quickly and easily pacified; and who would rather forgive twenty injuries than revenge one, having the rule of their own spirits. These meek ones are here represented as happy, even in this world. They are blessed, for they are like the blessed God himself, who is Lord of his anger, and in whole fury is not. They are blessed, for they have the most comfortable, undisturbed enjoyment of themselves, their friends, their God; they are fit for any relation, and condition, any company; fit to live, and fit to die.” (Biblestudytools.com)
Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” When we pursue Christ, He challenges us to replace our pride with meekness. We cannot stronghold our way through this world, but the choice to be meek shouldn’t be confused with weakness. “You can be blessed if you’re a meek person,” wrote Greg Laurie, “It means that you are no longer inflated with pride.” We will sacrifice our pride for meekness, with a quiet and godly confidence in our promised inheritance. Scotty Smith wrote, “Meekness is the way to be like Jesus. (Mat 11:29). It is not the profession which makes us like Jesus- but imitation” (thegospelcoalition.org).
How Christians Should Interpret "Blessed Are the Meek”
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - Matthew 11:29
Jesus came to show us the way. “Learn from me,” He says in the verse above. He gave us a glimpse into the very character of our Creator and modeled a life in honor and glory to His Father in heaven. We can look and learn from Jesus in Scripture, especially in passages like the Beatitudes. In Christ. we are led to the feet of our Heavenly Father.
“The gentle rely on God to reverse their fortunes” (Moody Bible Commentary), while “The meek,” preached John Piper, “are people who wait on the Lord.” Instead of running toward other solutions and consolation, we run straight to God the Father. Great faith has deep roots, and those with deep roots are not easily shaken. As Christians, we can operate in humility because we trust God.
Much is unfair and suffering abounds, but we choose to trade our ability to reason with His wisdom. Biblestudytools.com explains, “Meekness toward God is that disposition of the spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting” (New Testament Greek Lexicon). As Christians, we interpret “blessed are the meek,” as an assurance it’s safe to trust God with the outcome and purpose of our lives. He is trustworthy. It is who He is. Our choice to remain rooted in our trust of God produces meekness. Characteristics like these become the fruit of our faith as we daily seek God through prayer and the study of His Word.
When we have developed a proper trust in God, we do not worry about or compare ourselves with the world because we know it, and all of its ways will pass away. Jesus is the Truth and the Life. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people,” says Colossians 3:12, “holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
The Beatitudes are radical and difficult to apply to our lives. God never promised that following Jesus would be easy, but we are assured a full life and an eternal inheritance when we pursue Christ. Like anything worth pursuing, meekness will cost us. But as we work for the glory of the Lord, He grows and matures our hearts. For the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7) when we seek to imitate our Savior.
A Prayer to Be Meek
Meekness is not applauded in this world. It’s often associated with weakness, and no-one wants to be weak. Give us a greater understanding of the characteristic of meekness and allow us to be strengthened in our faith as we pursue Jesus. Grant us Your peace, which surpasses all understanding. Following Christ can often feel like swimming up-stream. The current of the world is strong, and we face much resistance. Help us to see it as strength training. Sustain us when the waters threaten to sweep us up and steal our focus. Fix our eyes on You, Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Open our ears to hear, our eyes to see, and soften our hearts and minds to be malleable enough to bring You glory in all we set out to do.
In Jesus’ powerful name we pray, Amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/TinnakornJorruang
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as a freelance writer, blogger at Sunny&80, and author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” and “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” and “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ.” She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her passion to write. A member of Faith Church in Sandusky, OH, she serves as Communications Director, and leads Bible studies for women and teen girls. Meg is a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, living by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters and golden doodle.