Can you explain what it means to be meek or to have meekness?


One of the most famous passages where the word “meek” is used is found in the Beatitudes in the book of Matthew. In this section of Scripture, His so-called Sermon on the Mount, Christ is starting to define what it means to be a Christian, and even, in part, what it will be like when we are in the Kingdom of God.

Christ’s sermon describes qualities to give us a picture of the character of the true people of God—those who are and will be a part of His Family and have the full blessings of the Kingdom to look forward to.

We are told in the Beatitudes that meekness is a requirement. In Matthew. 5:5 we read: “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”  It refers to those who will be in the Kingdom of God, ruling this earth. But what exactly does the Bible mean by meekness?

Miriam Webster’s Dictionary defines being meek as:

“1: enduring injury with patience and without resentment;

“2: deficient in spirit and courage;

“3: not violent or strong.”

According to this definition, while meekness in some respects has good attributes such as patience and humility and non-violent conduct, there are also some connotations that are not so good.  But as we will see, that definition of meekness is unbiblical and wrong. It describes the world’s view which calls the attitude of meekness weakness. But the Bible does not describe meekness as “weak” or “deficient in spirit and courage.”

Notice Revelation 21:7-8: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of what the worldly definition of meekness conveys.

The Greek word for cowardly in Revelation 21:7 here is “delios.” According to Strong’s #1169, it means “Cowardly, timid, fearful. From deos; timid, i.e. faithless.” We can see that those who are cowardly won’t be in God’s Kingdom, so this then is not what it means to be meek. Obviously, meek doesn’t mean to be cowardly, a pushover.

Are we to be people that are easy to push around and over? Should we be cowering in a corner and hiding? Just keeping our heads low for the sake of not getting noticed—for the sake of keeping the peace while injustice happens?

Christ uses a similar same Greek word to “delios” in Mark 4:40-41, where we read, “But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’”

When the word “fearful” is used, it is translated from a different Greek word “delios,” but it is related. The word is “phobos,” and Strong’s has this to say: “… it means panic flight, fear, the causing of fear, terror. It is commonly used in Scripture sometimes positively (in relation to God) but more often negatively meaning to be withdrawing from the Lord (His will). Phóbos meant withdrawal, fleeing because of feeling inadequate (without sufficient resources), remove oneself and hence to avoid because of dread (fright).”

In Mark 4:40-41, Christ was asking His disciples, in effect: “Why are you fearful, why are you allowing fear to drive you, allowing fear to be gripping you? Why are you not instead faithful?” The disciples exuded this “phobos” or “delios”  fear, wanting to possibly even flee away from Christ because of His power over the weather. They were wanting to withdraw—to remove themselves from danger and perhaps even from someone (Christ) whose actions they could not understand.

Christ was not impressed with their fear; He wanted them to exercise more faith! Biblical godly meekness is NOT meaning for us to be fearful.

Using Strong’s Concordance and looking at the word meek, as used in the Bible, under #4236, we find some interesting qualities: “… praotés: meekness. HELPS Word-studies notes that this word can mean the following: 4236 praótēs– properly, temperate, displaying the right blend of force and reserve (gentleness), (‘strength in gentleness’) avoids unnecessary harshness, yet without compromising or being too slow to use necessary force. And from HELPS Word-studies the root word: Cognate: 4235 práos – meek, i.e. the necessary balance of exercising power and avoiding harshness.”

The word for praótēs (“meekness”) is part of the fruit (product) of God’s Holy Spirit, as we read in Galatians 5:23: “… gentleness (or “meekness,” compare margin of the New King James Bible), self-control. Against such there is no law.” It is never something which can be humanly accomplished. It takes the active use of God’s Holy Spirit through our actions and reactions to learn how to properly display this right type of meekness. This also shows that the worldly definition of “meekness,” i.e., “deficient in spirit,” is terribly wrong. In fact, we are told to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Notice some biblical examples of godly meekness:

In Matthew 21:5, we read that Christ came “lowly” or with meekness (compare Authorized Version). We know Christ was also powerful and spoke boldly and with great strength. Yet His demeanor was not one of a physical warrior, but it was a perfect blend of strength with gentleness.

In Matthew 11:29, we read that Christ was “gentle” or “meek” (see Margin of New King James Bible). We are told that we are to learn to take on Christ, His ways and His attributes, and one of which is godly meekness.

1 Peter 3:4 tells women that they should have a gentle and quiet spirit. The Authorized Version says “meek spirit.” The Greek word for “gentle” here is “praeos” and the word for “quiet” is “hésuchios,” meaning tranquil. HELPS Word-studies says that this word in the Greek is an “adjective derived from hēsyxos, ‘quiet, stillness’) – properly, quiet (still), i.e. steady (settled) due to a divinely-inspired inner calmness. It describes being ‘appropriately tranquil’ by not misusing (or overusing) words that would stir up needless friction (destructive commotion).”

The three Scriptures quoted above, and the one in Matthew 5:5, referring to meekness, all have the Greek root word praus in them. This word is further defined by HELPS Word-studies (Strong’s) #4239, where they say: “This difficult-to-translate root (pra-) means more than ‘meek.’ Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God’s strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness. The English term ‘meek’ often lacks this blend – i.e. of gentleness (reserve) and strength.”

This definition helps us to understand what it means to be meek. Having the wisdom of God to show gentleness and strength is truly what it takes to be a Christian – especially during these last days. Christ very poignantly points this out in Matthew 10:16-39 where He shows that persecutions are coming – but that we have God on our side and we need to act in a godly manner. We must not have a semblance of fear in our lives; rather, we have to have confidence, faith, boldness and wisdom in how to preach, live and operate in this web of lies, trickery and craftiness that this world is masterfully weaving.

When Christ was here on the earth, He lived with proper meekness, while always having the proper reaction, holding back and being silent, when necessary, but then also speaking the right things at the right times. It is quite amazing to see how masterfully He walked through life.

He did so with power and strength. People were astonished at His teaching. And then there were times where He also hid from crowds of people who were seeking to harm Him before the proper time. The early disciples in the New Testament Church were in this same frame of mind. They were able to teach great things; to be strong in speech and yet peaceful without causing harm to others. They were turning the known world upside down with their preaching. In order to accomplish this, they had to fully believe what they were doing, and they had to be inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to do so.

What we are doing now will continue to become more and more difficult. Our faith will be tried. We are going to have to decide if we will keep proper meekness in our lives, while being strong and being gentle—strong in preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God; in obedience to God’s Law and regulations rather than man’s ungodly decrees; strong in believing that God will see us through all situations and that He will orchestrate them for His Will and for His great purpose—and at the same time, being meek and humble and gentle, fully realizing and knowing that it is GOD who gives us the strength to endure.

Notice the following Scriptures in this vein:

Luke 21:12 says: “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.”

Matthew 10:19 says: “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak…”

Mark 13:11 says: “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”

Revelation 20:4 says: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

It is the commission and responsibility of God’s Church to continue to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and to feed the flock, no matter what. That is what we will continue to do as God opens the doors for us to go through them. Our duty is to remain close to God so that we can draw upon His strength and wisdom in everything that we will face.

How we go about doing this is of utmost importance! It truly encapsulates what it means to draw upon godly meekness which we will need to be able to gain entrance into His Kingdom.

James 3:13 says:  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”

1 Peter 3:15 adds: “But sanctify (set apart) the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear [or respect for God]…”

God must be part of our lives. We have to have God to help us understand, endure and come out of this world. We have to learn how to have strength and gentleness at the same time.

The apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 10:1-6: “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

Paul uses this blend of meekness paired with boldness. We must be seeking the meekness and gentleness of Christ, since we are fighting spiritual fights with forces which the human eye cannot see, and which are directing people of this world to act against us.

Paul was also able to discern whether people were using godly meekness properly or not. He says in 1 Corinthians 4:18-21: “Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness (or meekness, compare Authorized Version)?”

As we live our lives, we have to come to know how and where meekness fits in. For believers, meekness (Strong’s #4240, praýtēs, “gentle-force”) begins with God’s inspiration and continues and develops through His direction and empowerment. It is a divinely-balanced virtue that we can and must take on. Once again, notice how Paul articulates this in Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…”

We need to learn how to be gentle, merciful and kind, and to suffer for righteousness sake, but we must also learn to be bold and strong, full of God’s Holy Spirit of wisdom and courage, as we continue our commission as ambassadors for God’s Way of Life.

Lead Writer: Kalon Mitchell

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