It has been widely taught and believed that the strongest and the fittest are the ones who survive. But there have been philosophers, as well as some Bible writers who have claimed that in the end it will be a completely opposite class who actually survive.
Many men who are considered to be the greatest in the world are actually proud and arrogant and many believe that you have to be this way in order to succeed and survive in this world. But Jesus stated something completely opposite from this. The third beatitude, found in Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
There are eight beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount, steps in the ladder of spiritual progress. The first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (verse 3). If we recognize our spiritual poverty, that will lead us to mourn over our spiritual condition. The second is, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (verse 4). If we feel our need of Jesus because of our sins and we are grieving over them, we will not only receive forgiveness from Him, but we will also learn meekness, because He is meek and lowly in heart.
Spiritual pride cannot exist in a person who has passed through the experience of the first two beatitudes, for such an experience humbles a person who has been spiritually proud. Meekness is a synonym of the word humility. Some other definitions of meekness are: gentleness, peaceableness, modesty, humbleness, unostentatiousness. These characteristics are just the opposite of haughtiness and pride. Meekness also conveys the idea of submission to God’s will. The apostle Peter, who was present when the beatitudes were spoken, enlarges on this idea in his first letter. He says, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5, 6).
It sounded strange to the people who first heard it, just like it sounds strange to many people today, because we’re used to hearing that it will be the strong and those who are most fit who will survive. But Jesus said that those who survive and inherit the earth will be the meek, the gentle, the unobtrusive, the humble. This actually was not a new idea but is stated several times in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 37:11 says, “The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” And in Psalm 138:6, the psalmist wrote, “Though the Lord is high, yet He regards the lowly.” And again, Psalm 149:4, last part, KJV, says, “He will beautify the meek with salvation.”
The meek are blessed with a beautiful character, the character of the Saviour. The wise man Solomon said, “He gives grace to the humble [lowly]” (Proverbs 3:34, last part). So, those who are meek, those who are gentle, are under divine favor. This truth also is stated many times in the negative. The opposite of meekness is pride or haughtiness. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”
Proverbs 21:4 says, “A haughty look, a proud heart … are sin.” And then, “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife” (Proverbs 28:25, first part). You see, friend, the proud in heart are actually troublemakers, because they are sensitive and easily offended. They are always seeking to justify themselves and to defend their reputations. Their feelings of superiority make them feel miserable if they are not given the preeminence. Spiritually proud people are the cause of all the strife that has disturbed the peace and harmony of the church since the time of the apostles. The proud and haughty have ever been a disrupting element in the world.
Jeremiah said, “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken” (Jeremiah 13:15 KJV). How different it sounds from the philosophy of the world in which we live. Men and women in the world today, live by the principle that the strongest, the fittest, and the most proud will be the ones who survive and succeed. The world’s great philosophers and conquerors have not considered meekness a virtue. Most all war heroes have been proud and arrogant men. And this is the spirit that dominates the prince and god of this world and all the citizens of his kingdom. It was this principle that led Lucifer to revolt against the government of God back at the beginning of the sin problem.
Isaiah 14:12–14 says, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ ” I, I, I, I will exalt myself. It was the idea of self-exaltation that led to sin in the first place.
Speaking through a serpent, he deceived Eve into thinking that if she ate the forbidden fruit that she would become like God (Genesis 3:4, 5). And so, when Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes surely were opened. They did gain a knowledge of good and evil, a knowledge of what we have known ever since – pain, suffering, loneliness, sorrow, death. Neither they nor we would ever have known any of these things, except they wanted the forbidden knowledge, just like many people want today.
In the 28th chapter of Ezekiel, speaking again of the devil, it says, “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; … You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (verses 12, last part–15).
What was it that led to this iniquity, this sin at the beginning? Verse 17 says, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty.” It was pride, self-exaltation.
There are only two roads for travelers. There is the broad, easy, liberal road. On that road the proud in spirit can travel to their own destruction and carry along anything that they like. But there is also a narrow road, a restricted way, in which only the meek, and gentle, and humble can travel toward eternal life and happiness. Meekness or gentleness, or humbleness is the only pathway to a high and holy estate, while pride and self-exaltation may appear to lead to temporary success in this world, but eventually will lead to ruin. In Proverbs 16:18 and 19, Solomon said, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Jesus stated the same thing. Notice what He said in Matthew 23:12: “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled [abased], and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The eternal law of justice has been demonstrated in the past, in the experience of Lucifer and Michael, in the lives of Haman and Mordecai and in the lives of Saul and David.
Jesus was a perfect example of gentleness and meekness. He said unto the people, “Come to Me, all you 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).
Some people think that meekness means cowardice, just giving in to anything and being a pushover. It really doesn’t mean that at all. Gentleness and humbleness were two of the outstanding character traits of Jesus Christ. Concerning Jesus, the apostle Paul says, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery [that is, a thing to be grasped] to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6–11).
Jesus, being equal with God, humbled Himself and came to this world as a man. And He came not just as a man, but as a servant of the human race. One of the last acts of His life was to act the part of a servant. Remember the story in the upper room on the night of His betrayal. At that time, it was the custom when entering a house before a meal for a servant to come and wash the feet of the guests. However, on this occasion there was no servant to perform this task and the apostles were too proud to do it. While they waited, Jesus arose and took off His outer clothes and girded Himself. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His disciples. One after the other He washed the feet of all of them (John 13).
He has been described as a servant of servants. See what Jesus said in Matthew 20:25–28, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles [that is, the worldly people] lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you [that is, among Christ’s disciples], let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. Now this divine meekness that Jesus manifested was not at all related to timidity. It is not another name for fear, or anxiety, or weakness, or cowardice. In fact, the truly meek are the truly brave who alone can be calm in the midst of the storm, and not be easily ruffled or disturbed in spirit because things are going wrong. Meekness does not at all imply a negative, passive attitude that surrenders to any and every foe. Moses was declared to be the meekest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12). And yet, when you read the story of his life, you find that he was a successful general of armies; that he faced the mightiest empire in the world at that time. He and his brother faced that whole empire alone and demanded that they yield to the sovereignty of the God of heaven.
Daniel and his companions were meek. They were humble and gentle, just like lambs, but when it came to moral principle, they stood their ground and they fought with the courage and boldness of lions. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused the authority of Nebuchadnezzar who commanded them to worship the golden image instead of the God of Heaven, even though it meant they were cast into the burning, fiery furnace. For Daniel, disobeying the king’s decree meant that he was cast into the den of lions. Meekness does not imply weakness. These brave men were not afraid to defy the decrees of the most powerful kings in the world at that time, whose word was law and whose authority embraced the whole then-known world.
After the crucifixion when the disciples saw what their Lord had done for them, their pride was abashed, abased, humbled. They could never strive for the highest place again. They knew that in the kingdom of Christ the highest position is for those who are the lowliest in servitude.
During the years of persecution and martyrdom, the disciples stood brave and firm for the truth, even though, as is recorded, 11 out of the 12 were martyred. And the one who was not martyred was banished to the isle of Patmos, after he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, in an effort to destroy him.
So, a meek person is not a weak person. In fact, meek people end up being the bravest people in the world. Abraham Lincoln was a very meek man, but also very great. His greatness grows with every passing year as people begin to appreciate more and more his character. Abraham Lincoln is said to have had a favorite poem that was entitled, “O, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?” Lincoln was a humble man, but no one could question his courage. No person would dare say that he was weak because he was meek.
Jesus is symbolized in the Bible as a Lamb. The outstanding characteristics of a lamb are meekness and innocence. But Jesus is also characterized in the Bible as a lion, the king of beasts and the monarch of the forest. Jesus was meek and gentle and at the same time He was bold, strong and courageous. He was filled with love for men’s souls and was willing to do anything so that they could have eternal life.
He did not permit Himself to fret over the trivial things that so often try our souls today. He was too busy with important things to pay any attention to insults which did not in the least affect the high and noble principles for which He stood. So Jesus submitted meekly to a traitor’s kiss. He submitted to be arrested by a mob. He submitted to be questioned by envious and hypocritical priests. He submitted to be condemned without any substantial evidence of any guilt. Pilate said three times that he found no guilt in Him at all and nothing to justify His death.
Jesus was made the subject of jest and ridicule by corrupt king Herod and his court. He also endured the mocking injustice of a weak, vacillating Roman judge. He submitted to being scourged, to be spit upon, to be insulted, and to be mocked by Pilate’s soldiers, and finally, to be crucified, the most cruel and ignominious death that was available in those days. All without the least sign of resistance. Yet, this was the same Jesus that so often demonstrated that he was not afraid of any man, or group of men, or devils.
He calmly faced the raging demoniacs and threatened the Pharisees and Sadducees with unflinching courage. With eyes flashing with indignation, He drove the merchandizing traffickers from the sacred precincts of the temple with a scourge of small cords that seemed to them like a flaming sword of divine justice and vengeance.
So, while He was meek, He was bold and courageous, and made no compromise with evil or evil doers, regardless of rank or position. Jesus wants to recreate your heart, your spirit, into the image of His own character, if you will surrender for Him to do this. He wants to make you meek like He is. Will you consent to have Him do it?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.