The Might of the Meek
You have to watch out for meek people.
A meek little truck driver stopped at a roadside diner for lunch and ordered a cheeseburger, coffee, & a slice of apple pie. As he started to eat, three bikers pulled up, walked in. One of them grabs the trucker's cheeseburger out of his hand and takes a huge bite from it. The second biker grabs the cup drinks the trucker's coffee, & the third biker wolfs down all of the apple pie. The truck driver didn't say a word, just pays the cashier & left. When he was gone, the bikers snicker to the cashier, "He ain't much of a man is he?" "He's not much of a driver either," replied the cashier, glancing out the window. "He just backed his 18 wheeler over three motorcycles."
I guess we all like stories where the meek little guy ends up getting ahead of the evil bullies. There seems to be a sense of satisfying sense of justice seeing the humble triumph over the proud. But is that really the way the world works?
Nice guys finish….when? Last. In the real world, if you don’t speak up you don’t get heard. If you don’t push back you get pushed down. You either step up or get stepped on. Let’s face it—the meek may end up winners in jokes, but that doesn’t happen very often on Wall Street, or Washington, or even where you work or go to school.
Or so it seems. But perhaps it’s not really the way it is after all. Perhaps there is a hidden strength in meekness, a patient power that just bides it time, waiting for its victory.
What evidence could you find to support such a strange claim?
The words of a meek Man Who changed the world—the words of Jesus Christ. In the Beatitudes, where He describes the happiest people in the world, He tells us among those folks are the meek, or the gentle. Before you make up your mind, perhaps it’d be good for us to understand exactly what He means in Matt. 5:5.
If you missed any of the other sermons in this series, let me remind you that this passage is what we call the Beatitudes (pronouncements of blessing). Jesus begins this great sermon with a description of the happiest people in the world, though with each verse He adds a new twist. V. 3 tells us the poor in spirit are blessed, v. 4 tells us those who mourn are blessed, and now He adds yet another highly unlikely candidate for happiness: the meek= the gentle.
What comes to your mind when you hear this word meek? Maybe the worn out old cliché meek as a mouse. We think of meek people as weak people, folks who never stand up for themselves, the quiet ones that get ignored and walked on and occasionally pitied.
But that’s not exactly what Jesus has in mind when He says the meek are blessed.
The word used here is actually used to describe a horse who’s been harnessed, or a wild animal who’s been tamed. One Bible commentator explains that meekness refers to power under control.[i]
This makes a lot more sense to me when you think about two men the Bible called meek. One of them was Moses, whom the Bible calls the meekest man on the whole earth. (cf. Num. 12:3) Here is a man who was anything but weak---killing an Egyptian for mistreating a fellow Hebrew, standing before Pharaoh, King of Egypt, one of the most powerful men on earth in his day and demanding that the king let the Hebrew slaves free. Moses, the man who brought down the 10 Commandments from the mountain, and when he sees the Israelites worshipping the gold calf, breaks the tablets and then makes the people drink water filled with the dust of the tablets. Moses was a lot of things, but weak he was not.
Another Man Who’s known as meek was Jesus, and to look at some of the famous paintings of Him, you might make the mistake of thinking He was weak. But it’s this same Jesus Who boldly calls the Pharisees and scribes hypocrites and snakes, the same Jesus Who twists a whip together and drives out the moneychangers from the Temple like a herd of goats. It is this same meek Jesus Who, after being beaten within an inch of His life, carries His own cross to Calvary. Jesus is a lot of things, but weak He is not.
From these two examples, you see a meek person is a very strong person, full of passion and power, but all of this strength is under control.
In my younger days, I used to watch a TV program called Kung Fu. It was set in the old west, and was about a Chinese man who had come to America to work on the railroads, but then became a drifter who went from town to town, doing good. One of the fascinating aspects of the show was that this man was trained in this art of self-defense called Kung Fu, but he did not use it in every situation. You could always count on the fact that during the show, someone would show up who would make fun of him, or hit him, or do something mean to him, and he would just take it, usually without striking back. But you also knew that at some point during the show, the bad guys were going to pick on someone who was weak or defenseless, and then- watch out! The bodies would go flying, and the bad guys started getting what they deserved. This guy would give these scoundrels a serious whipping! This Chinese man had incredible skill, but it was always under control. He never used his ability for selfish reasons, but always to help those who were threatened by evil. He had power under control!
Meekness is power under control. Under control of what? Under control of who? Under control of God. The happiest people in the world are strong people under the control of God. This is the meekness Jesus speaks of in this verse.
But exactly what does it mean to place yourself under God’s control and be meek? The Greek word for meekness is used not just to describe an individual, but a relationship—actually 3 types of relationships which shed light on what it means to be meek before the Lord.
First, meekness describes a relationship between a son and his Father. The ideal relationship between a father and son is one in which the son honors and respects his father not just because dad is bigger, but because the son loves his father. The son grows taller than dad, maybe stronger than dad, yet he still looks up to dad. There is a submission of the son to the father based on love.
In much the same way, a meek person submits to God out of love for Him. God’s love. They show Him honor and respect, obey His commands, follows His lead not just because God is bigger and stronger. They look up to Him because they know He loves them, and they love Him. A meek person honors and submits to God out of love for Him.
Another important relationship of meekness describes a relationship between a student and his/her teacher. In ancient times education was a little different than it is today.
I had a friend of mine whose daughter was entering college for the first time. This mom explained that her daughter would be keeping a close eye on her professors, making sure they didn’t say or do anything she didn’t agree with. I didn’t ask the question, but I wanted to: was this girl going to college to teach, or to learn?
Students used to have a very difference attitude. A student spent most of his/her time listening, not talking. Students respected their teachers, and teachers saw themselves as more than just educators; they saw themselves as role models. The teacher was the source of knowledge for the student, and the student did all he/she could to learn the truths the teacher taught.
In much the same way, the meek person submits to Christ as the Great Teacher, or the Source of all knowledge. The Bible tells us in
Col 2:3 …in [Jesus Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus is our Teacher, Who can teach us all we need to know to live life skillfully and successfully—if we are meek enough to learn and obey what His Word. A meek person is submitted to Christ as His Teacher.
Finally, meekness describes a relationship between a servant and their master.
This may be the most challenging aspect of meekness for us, because as Americans, nobody is our master. We go to great lengths to know our rights, to let anybody and everybody know that nobody tells us what to do. We are nobody’s servants, and nobody’s slave.
It probably doesn’t make it any more appealing to think about the servant/master relationship in the ancient world. The rules were simple: the master gives the orders, the servant does what he’s told. There was no argument or debate. A servant meekly submitted to his master’s will.
In much the same way, Jesus says the meek person is submitted to God’s will. He gives the orders, you do what you are told, without argument or debate. A meek person submits themselves without reservation to God’s will.
This meekness before God also affects our relationships with other people. A truly meek person before God is also gentle and humble before others. The fact that God controls him/her makes it easier to escape the snares of in pride, or selfishness. Meekness makes us better at overlooking other people’s faults and failures, more forgiving, better able to sacrifice for the sake of the people we love, better able to get along with other people.
Put all of this together, and you get the picture: the happiest people in the world are those who humbly submit to God’s love, God’s truth, and God’s will.
What is it that makes these meek people so happy? What is it that makes meekness worth it? Jesus answers this question by declaring: …for they shall inherit the earth.
Many folks who read this don’t realize Jesus is quoting a portion of Psalm 37.
Ps 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
The word earth in the Psalms is more accurately translated land. Every Israelite interprets this to be the Promised Land, the land of Canaan—the place promised to Abraham and his descendants.
Jesus expands this promise, to not only include land, but the whole earth. The meek get the whole ball of wax, the total package, everything the proud and grasping are after, God gives it to the meek and gentle.
We’re used to thinking about the Promised Land in different terms, aren’t we? When we sing I am bound for the promised land we’re not looking forward to a trip to Israel, are we? Usually we use the Promised Land as a symbol of heaven.
But I suggest to you that the Promised Land is not just a plot of real estate, or even the entire planet. The promise here is not just eternal life in heaven, but of abundant life here on earth. It is the meek alone who experience the best life on earth and everlasting life in heaven.
The triumph of the wicked is really only temporary. The bullies may bloody your nose, but they still can’t keep you down forever. They may laugh at you, ridicule you, try to make you feel like you’re nothing, but they don’t have the last word. God has the last word, His last word says that in the end, it is the meek who have the last laugh. All the success that the ruthless person works so hard for, all the satisfaction that the arrogant man schemes for, all the happiness that the cutthroats are willing to kill for eventually slips right through their fingers and falls downward to the waiting hands of the meek. It is the meek who end up being the real winners in the real world.
So if meekness is one of the keys to happiness, how do you and I become meek people?
It begins with an attitude of submission to God. Like a son who lovingly submits to His Father, like a student who sits and learns at the feet of his teacher, like a servant totally submitted to his Master, you and I must submit ourselves to Christ.
For some of us, it means laying down our pride and coming to Christ to be saved. You have to admit you are a sinner who needs God’s forgiveness. You have to be humble enough to realize that you cannot receive forgiveness apart from Christ. You have to be meek enough to turn away from your sins and yourself and turn to Jesus Christ, receive His forgiveness and submit yourself to Him as your Master.
There are others here who have trusted Christ, but you are not living in submission to His love, His truth, His will. You’ve been trying to have it your way and still hold on to His way, and the truth is you’re just miserable. The root problem is your pride and the only way you will ever find happiness again is by letting go of your pride and meekly surrendering afresh to the Lord.
There is an ancient legend about an 18 foot tall pagan named Reprobus whose fondest desire was to serve the greatest king. So he travels to the nearest palace and offers to serve the king there, until he discovered the king was afraid of the devil. Since the devil is obviously a mightier king, he goes looking and finds an evil man who claims to be the devil. But then Reprobus discovers this devil is afraid of Christ, so Reprobus goes searching for the mighty king Jesus. He finds a hermit, who tells him about Jesus, and Reprobus asks how he can serve this King called Christ. The hermit tells him since he was so big and strong, he can begin serving Christ by carrying weary travelers across a dangerous river. For many years Reprobus sits at the river, and when any weary traveler happened by, he would lift him onto his back and carry him across the river.
Then one day Reprobus is napping by the river and he is awakened by the sound of a child crying. He sees a little boy, standing by the side of the river weeping. Reprobus’ heart is touched, and he offers to carry the boy across the river. The little lad climbs onto Reprobus’ big back and the giant wades out into the water.
As he crosses the river, Reprobus notices the little boy gets heavier and heavier with each step. In the middle Reprobus is sweating, hassling for breath, wondering if he will ever get to the other side. He keeps trudging along, eventually making it to the other side. He gently lowers the child and says, “I didn’t think we would make it over to the other side! I don’t think the whole world could have been as heavy as you were.” The Child smiles, and says, “Reprobus, you have not carried the world, but the Creator of the World on your shoulders. I am the Lord you serve, and from this day on you will serve me with a new name: Christopher—Christ bearer.”`
The story of St. Christopher is just that—just a story. But it illustrates a great reality—that you and I are meant to find the greatest happiness in the world by submitting your life to the greatest King---King Jesus. Are you ready to join the ranks of the meek and the mighty?
[i] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary,