“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”Matthew 5:5
The first time I ever heard the word “meek” was in that classic childhood film “The Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy stood before the fearsome visage of the Wizard who thunders: “I am Oz – the Great and Powerful. Who are you? Who are you?!” Dorothy’s timid response was “If you please, I am Dorothy – the small and meek. We’ve come to ask — ” And then she is rudely cut off by the potentate of the Emerald City with a loud “SILENCE!”
The image of meekness portrayed here is comparative weakness. Dorothy’s small frame and stature compared to the authoritative and strong Wizard. But when Jesus says “Blessed are the meek”, what sounds like a paradox is in fact not so much. The Greek word that is translated as “meek” is “praus”, which is rooted in the “prautes”. Contextually, it expresses a grace of the soul that is more akin to gentleness. Furthermore in Scripture the word is used to demonstrate an attitude of acceptance of God’s dealings with us good and indisputable.
According to Aristotle, “prautes”, is that state between two extremes: getting angry without reason and not getting angry at all. In other words, it is getting angry at the right time, to the right degree, and for the right reasons. Because the term “prautes” does not have an easy English equivalent, translators have used “meekness” and “gentleness” to translate this word. In reality, the proper translation is more akin to demonstrating gentleness in power, a virtue born of strength of character.
So what does that mean in the context of the Beatitudes and Jesus’ allusion to inheritance? Remember, the Biblical term for “blessed” is representative of God’s approval and the impartation of His authority upon His children. As we grow in our faith, we learn that one of the fruit of the Spirit is “gentleness” (Galatians 5:22-23). As the fruit of the Spirit are developed elements of individual character within each believer, we demonstrate these virtues in our actions and attitudes with the world around us. In so doing, we are fulfilling our fiduciary responsibilities as “ambassadors of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) and His Kingdom. As adopted children of our Abba Father, redeemed by the blood of His Son, and sealed by His Holy Spirit, we are entitled to the inheritance of His Kingdom as sons and daughters of the Most High God.
So ultimately, what Jesus is saying here is this: Because we are His ambassadors, we are imparted a sense of authority during our time on Earth. But we are expected to exercise that authority with gentleness. We are not called to brow beat the gospel into people. We are not called to wield our Bibles as royal scepters. We have been sent out “like sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents, but gentle as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
Therefore, meekness is a character trait of genuine, spiritual authority. It is a humble recognition of our position before the Almighty God, but a confident acknowledgement that we are children of our Creator. It is a gentleness that is exercised with authority, even when judgement is warranted. Therefore as His ambassadors, we are called to have attitudes and actions that are worthy of that calling. In so doing, we realize the benefits of our inheritance in Him, in this life and in the life to come.