When’s the last time you called anyone “meek”?
I’m not sure I’ve ever used the term outside of a religious context. And I’m pretty certain I’ve never used it as an adjective to describe anyone. You know, that’s one incredibly meek dude. Yep, I’m quite certain.
“Meek” is an antiquated word that’s no longer a part of our everyday vernacular. This means we have some issues when we hear it used in Scripture. So when Jesus says,
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
it can be a little confusing to know exactly what he means. I know that I have some particular ideas that come to mind when I hear the word, but that doesn’t mean they are the most accurate.
Meekness tends to get associated with shyness, humility or timidity. Maybe it’s because meek sounds an awful lot like weak. Regardless, the word has an aura of shrinking to it; the idea of becoming smaller than normal. It’s certainly not an attractive concept on the surface — become small, become weak, lower yourself. It’s not an altogether foreign notion to the Christian mind, but certainly not the most appealing.
You know what the Greek word for “meek” actually means? It’s the word praus (PRAY-us) and literally means “the harnessed power of a horse.” Didn’t see that one coming, did you? I know I didn’t. What a strange concept for Jesus to bring up. I’m not exactly the most country guy in the world, so it’s a little confusing. (We really need Chris for this — he was all set up to own chickens at one point. But I digress…) But here is where I think Jesus is going with it.
I haven’t spent much time around horses, but they are impressive animals to stand alongside. You can almost feel the power and speed lying just underneath the skin primed to explode. This is why a wild horse is a dangerous thing. Running around on its own, it serves only its own purpose and can hurt those that try to get in its way.
But a bridled horse, one that has been broken and trained, can harness its power in a much more productive way. Fields can be plowed. Long distances can be spanned quickly. Heavy loads can be carried.
The key is not removing its power because it’s dangerous; the key is focusing that power in the right direction.
Meekness really has nothing to do with becoming weak. This isn’t about feigned humility or acting less than you are so that others don’t feel bad about themselves. Being meek is not about shrinking back.
Meekness is focusing our agency and power in a constructive and positive direction. It’s harnessing our abilities and talents and gifts in a way that benefits everyone.
There is such a cultural pressure to make something of ourselves. To use whatever we have been given to its fullest extent so that we can find profit and success and happiness. We measure this by attention or celebrity or the number in our bank account or the amount of likes or followers we collect.
Meekness refuses to play that game. Instead of letting our talents run wild on the world, meekness refuses to waste them on selfish pursuits.
Meekness is about surrendering to a purpose greater than our own success.
We can surrender because we believe we’re not the ultimate power in the universe. And what Jesus is describing is the beautiful reality that breaks forth when we focus our power on others rather than ourselves. We tap into a greater wisdom, a deeper existence.
Because “meek” is also plural. It’s blessed are the meek. When a group of people lay aside their own agendas and pull together in the same direction, amazing things can happen. More work can be done. The distance between people can be covered. Heavy loads can be carried.
We can inherit the earth. An earth the way God intended it be to be in the first place.
The Kingdom of God can become a reality. All we have to do is surrender.