Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)

Most of us have heard sermons that were careful to point out that to be meek in the Christian sense is not to be weak per se, but rather, like Jesus, to have one’s inherent power under control. There’s a sense in which this is certainly true.

However, in my book, Defeating Pharisaism: Recovering Jesus’ Disciple-Making Method, I offer an understanding of Christian meekness that is a bit more nuanced. I propose, first of all, that, as with all the other beatitudes referred to by Jesus in his most famous sermon, meekness was an attribute that was, in general, noticeably absent from the lives of his main antagonists, the Pharisees. This was a truly ironic way for Jesus to begin his sermon since most of his listeners would have held the typical Pharisee in high regard. Then again, I’m convinced that throughout the sermon, Jesus used the Pharisees as a negative example of what he wanted his followers to be and do. Thus, it was precisely the ironic disconnect between the beatitudes and the lifestyles of many of the Pharisees that made Matthw 5:3-8 such an effective, interest-arresting, agenda-indicating sermon introduction!  

I go on to suggest that the key to understanding the meaning of all the beatitudes referred to by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is to cross-reference what the Old Testament scriptures (Jesus’ Bible) have to say about each attribute with what the New Testament Gospels have to say about the lifestyles of many of the Pharisees. Thus, if we take Psalm 37:1–11 seriously when contemplating what it means to be “meek,” it might lead us to conclude that this “core value of the kingdom” calls for Jesus’ followers to keep trusting in God to protect and provide for them rather than feel the need to return tit for tat or engage in conspicuous, shameless self-promotion (for contrast, see Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18; 23:1–12). In other words, to be meek isn’t simply power under control, it’s a radical refusal to get even or, as the Pharisees were want to do . . .  show off.

Now this idea that Christian meekness involves a freedom from the need to promote oneself or to show off in front of others finds corroboration in A. W. Tozer’s Christian classic, The Pursuit of God. But Tozer goes on to draw our attention to a connection between the attribute of Christian meekness and a blessed sense of psychological rest that can be experienced here and now, long before the meek literally inherit the earth.

According to Tozer, most of us live our lives under the “curse of artificiality.” Deeply insecure, and deathly afraid of meeting people who are better than us in the area of our greatest giftedness, we feel the need to posture, pose and pretend—to do our very best to manage the impression most people have of us. Obviously, this is a psychologically exhausting way to pass through our days.

But, insists Tozer, it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, fully convinced of our importance to God—that God values us more than the angels—it’s possible for us to essentially stop caring about whether the world will ever see us as God does. Truly meek Christians, says Tozer, are like very young children before they learn to compare themselves with others: they just enjoy being who they are without worrying about how others see them, or whether they measure up. It’s possible, says Tozer, for us Christians to come to a place where we do not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased, and where what we really are matters more to us than what we appear to be.

To be completely preoccupied with what we really are rather than what we appear to be; to be free from the burden of caring so very much about what others think of us: don’t you want to be able to experience this kind of psychological rest before this life is over?

Frankly, I’m not there yet. How about you?

Then again, I suspect that the first step toward true Christian meekness is a willingness to be honest with ourselves about the true state of our spirituality. Then, perhaps the next step calls for us to spend some time (each day) meditating upon how much we are loved by the God who both created the world and will someday re-create it as an inheritance to be enjoyed by those who, with Christ’s help, have learned to value what their heavenly father thinks of them above what everyone else thinks.

A most blessed rest indeed! I’ll pray for you if you’ll pray for me.

Something to think about.