The common conception of meekness makes it one of the least sought after characteristics encouraged by Jesus in these “beatitudes” in Matthew 5. Many regard meekness as weakness in a world were strength and courage are so revered. Spineless people are often viewed as meek by those who fail to understand the true meaning of the term used by Jesus and extolled throughout God’s word. Consider that Paul includes it in his list of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:23). He also says it is required for those who want to live in a way worthy of the name Christian (Ephesians 4:1-2). Yet, how many pray for the Lord for help increasing in meekness?
Now, it is certainly true that some people are weak and timid in their dealings with others. Being too afraid to resist group pressure to do what we know is wrong has nothing to do with Biblical meekness. The business man who practices dishonesty to hold a job or keep a customer isn’t fulfilling Jesus’ desire about meekness.
The Greek word translated “meek” in Matthew 5:5 means being “gentle,” “mild,” and “quiet,” rather than violent, harsh and dissonant in one’s speech or actions. The meek man is the one who accepts God’s guidance and submits to his will. With the patriarch Job, he accepts that the Lord gives and also takes away, proclaiming “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). The Greeks used the word to describe a horse tamed and under control, but still full of spirit.
Aristotle used meekness to describe the virtue between the extremes of spineless timidity and that of reckless cruelty. Biblically, it is often associated with “lowliness. Moses is spoken of as “very meek, more than all people on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) His meekness did not involve moral weakness, lack of controlled temper or in timidity; rather, it was seen in his kindness to those who opposed him (Numbers 12) and his submission to the will of his God. (Deuteronomy 34)
As in everything, Jesus gave us the best example of meekness. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The reward from God for meekness is the inheritance of the earth. In the Old Testament, this expression frequently refers to the occupation of Canaan by the Israelites. However, we need to keep in mind that in the spiritual kingdom of God, eternal blessings aren’t dependent on physical things. In answer to a question from his disciples about reward, Jesus once said, “...everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:29-30)