Monday, November 27, 2023

Blessed are the Meek…


…for they shall inherit the earth.

“Meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonour or in praise….it is a mark of extreme meekness, even in the presence of one’s offender, to be peacefully and lovingly disposed towards him in one’s heart.”

-          John Climacus, as quoted by Metropolitan Alfeyev

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, Vol.2 - The Sermon on the Mount, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

The world understands that the opposite of meek, as the world commonly understands the term, is necessary if one is to succeed: to “inherit the earth.” Strength, power, self-assurance, and aggressiveness.  These are the characteristics of those who will inherit – at least this is how the world sees it.

DMLJ: Once more, then, we are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.  It is a difference in quality, an essential difference.  He is a new man, a new creation….

And if we are not “altogether different” and a “new creation,” this speaks to us and where we stand in our Christian faith, not to the teaching of Jesus.

MHA: Jesus’ commandments can seem difficult to fulfill, but fulfilling them brings peace to the soul, because doing so frees the soul from the burden of earthly cares.  The means of acquiring this inner peace is meekness and humility.

John Chrysostom paraphrases this as follows:

“…if thou duly perform His words, the burden will be light… But how are they duly performed?  If thou art become lowly, and meek, and gentle.”

I am reminded of a Jordan Peterson story: he would ask a student if he would like to play a game.  After an affirmative reply, Peterson would simply state: “You go first.”  No discussion of rules, objectives, etc.  No game board.  Nothing like that.  Of course, with this unlimited and absolute freedom, the student stood frozen, unable to do anything.

Fulfilling Jesus’s commandments frees us; doing this bring peace to our soul.  This gives us freedom to now play the game.

Lloyd-Jones reminds that Matthew was writing primarily to the Jews, and the Jews had a different idea of the kingdom: materialistic, military, with a Messiah that would lead them to victory (not much has changed in this regard).  Therefore Matthew, early in his gospel account, strives to disabuse the Jews of this notion.

DMLJ: Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. … It is my attitude towards myself; and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others.

Metropolitan Alfeyev examines the word “meek,” and how it is used in the Septuagint to translate a whole range of Hebrew words (and then offers these in English): whole, perfect, in both a physical and religious sense; humble, stooping; destitute, poor, needy, uncomplaining, submissive.  There is another Greek word also close in meaning that can be understood as calm or soft.

He also offers a few verses from Proverbs that contrast meekness with envy, wrath, or anger.  Some other Old Testament passages about meekness are interpreted in the New Testament as foreshadowings of Jesus Christ.  Christ, who is called or referred to as a lamb multiple times, offers a picture of meekness.

Metropolitan Alfeyev further offers several verses and passages from the Epistles that touch on this concept of meekness: “receive with meekness the engrafted word”; “show your works by good conduct with meekness and wisdom”; “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit”; “the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”.  He offers many others.

MHA: Judging by the large number of times meekness is mentioned, the apostles considered this quality to be an important part of Christian witness, both within the Christian community and toward outsiders.

Lloyd-Jones notes that the Beatitudes are becoming increasingly more difficult, with one naturally leading to the next.  Our poor spirit leads to mourning as we become aware of our sin, which then leads to meekness.  A man can never be meek without first passing through and accepting the first two Beatitudes.

DMLJ: The first Beatitude asks us to realize our own weakness and our own inability. …Anybody who feels that he, by his own strength, can accomplish all that [is found in the Ten Commandments, God’s moral law, and The Sermon on the Mount], has not started to be a Christian.

Understanding this, we see our sinfulness, our sinful nature – we mourn with this realization.  Thus far, we are focused on ourselves.  Now it gets even tougher: in the third Beatitude, we start to concern ourselves with others:

DMLJ: Let me put it like this.  I can see my own utter nothingness and helplessness face-to-face with the demands of the gospel and the law of God.

I can face this and say such things about myself, but with this third Beatitude I must open myself up to hearing such things from others.  I am finally able to admit to myself my condemnation – but now I must be able to receive such judgement from another.  I must face other people, knowing that they will know my place.  I am to be meek in the face of this.

DMLJ: It is to allow other people to put the searchlight upon me instead of my doing it myself.

I read this more as the test to prove meekness.  When others see and note our failings, how do we react?  What is our response?  How are we feeling?  What is our emotional reaction or state?

MHA: Along with humility and patience, meekness is one of the characteristic features of the new spiritual and moral image being created in the church community under the direct influence of the person of Jesus Christ.

A meek man is not proud of himself, he does not glory in himself.  He finds nothing in his of which to boast.  He does not demand for himself – he does not take all of his rights as claims on another.  He is not even sensitive about himself; he is not always on the defensive.  He doesn’t pity himself.

Instead, he comes to realize that no one can harm him – knowing he is fallen, he is not concerned about a further fall.  He is not concerned about what men say about him; what worse can they say that has not already been exposed in the first two Beatitudes?  He must come to leave everything in the hands of God – his rights, his cause, his future. 

DMLJ: You cannot spend time with a verse like this without its humbling you.  It is true Christianity; it is the thing for which we are called and for which we are meant.

What about inheriting the earth?  Lloyd-Jones describes it this way: the man who is meek is already content – he has already inherited the earth, as there is nothing more that he desires and there is nothing that he lacks.  Having nothing, he has everything.

Metropolitan Alfeyev offers that we should look for this meaning of inheriting the earth in the promise given to Abraham; as explained in Hebrews, Abraham was called to go to a place which he afterwards would receive as an inheritance.  Per Metropolitan Alfeyev, this story of Abraham is…

…reinterpreted in Christianity as a type of the spiritual journey that has as its goal the new promised land – the kingdom of heaven. 

And it is this kingdom of heaven which the meek will inherit. 


It is a weak man that the world sees when told of the meek.  Returning to the opening quote by John Climacus, do you see a weak man? 

“…an immovable state of soul…”

There is no weakness in such a man, one who will stand immovably and with love regardless of the situation he faces.

DMLJ: Meekness is compatible with great strength.  Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. … The meek man is one who may so believe in standing for the truth that he will die for it if necessary.  The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak; strong men, yet meek men.

The meek man is the strongest and bravest man.  Such a man truly will inherit the earth.


  1. I don't know if it is completely correct, but the definition I have heard of "meek" is "submitted". Sounds like the 2 books you are reading expand that definition to be more like "humble". It fits. Submitted and humble people don't fight for their own will. But I think the submission must be directed at God. That is when you see the strength. Someone who is humble but submitted to obeying God is immovable from his path.

    In the context of the beatitudes the person who experiences meekness is taking a step closer to faith in the gospel. This man is no longer self-willed but looking to follow God's lead. The next beatitude is the result of orienting your will to God. You then desire the things of God, natural law, righteousness, etc.

    1. Yes, I think humility is the easiest way to think about meekness, at least as I understand it.

      "You cannot spend time with a verse like this without its humbling you"

      The Beatitudes are a mountain with treacherous cliff faces on all sides, impossible to climb with our natural gifts alone. The only way to the top then is to humble oneself and ask the Creator of the mountain for help.

      "the submission must be directed at God"

      Agreed. One can certainly humble or submit oneself before the State or other false idols.

  2. "Having nothing, he has everything."

    I don't like this formulation. It is too close to "own nothing, and be happy." It is too close to Eastern mysticism which teaches a total withdrawal from the world, an inner peace that is achieved once we let go of all earthly attachments. It is too close to the philosophy of a happy slave. And perhaps this mentality is powerful when we are hopelessly enslaved. When all we can do is to personally refuse to worship the hydra's heads. But I don't think that is our position now.

    "because doing so frees the soul from the burden of earthly cares."

    I see meekness as being an open and honest recognition of our failings and flaws in light of the perfection of Christ (as you put it), and not as a withdrawal from the cares of the world.

    The cares of this world are important. Aren't they? Whether my son and daughter have food and shelter matters. Whether my truck works or not matters. Whether I protect my family from an intruder in the middle of the night. Whether I perform my work with diligence and competence. Whether Christian leaders are leading people astray. Whether Christianity is being subjected to the margin by an ascendant secular (satanic) authority. Whether Christendom is being invaded by bloodthirsty Mohammedans or worse. Whether more churches are being built or burned. It matters doesn't it?

    "knowing he is fallen, he is not concerned about a further fall"

    I think we should always guard against a further fall. We will not win more souls to God's ranks by carelessly living scandalous lives while preaching modesty. We can always fall further.

    "The meek man is the strongest and bravest man"

    I agree with this. The meek man knows the score and the odds, given an honest assessment of his inadequacies and failings, knowing full well that God does not promise us victory in this world, but charges into the fray regardless, because it is right and just. The meek man is willing to sacrifice for something greater than himself (family, friends, country, God). He does not hold onto his life, when losing it is the right thing to do, but he still values his life. He simply puts the value of his own life in proper perspective (through the lens of Christ). It is only because he values his own life and the world that it is virtuous to lose them both when called upon to do so.

    1. ATL, I think you have explained this well.

      I have heard meekness described as "strength under control". Being that one of the attributes of the Spirit is self-control, it follows that a meek person is strong and self-controlled under the guidance and tutelage of the Holy Spirit. He is not given to fits of spiritual or emotional weakness. This must be learned and the experience does not come cheaply. In fact, it may be that the more meek a person is, the more he has lost, at least in the way that the world thinks.

      Learning this means that we can face the vicissitudes of life with a calm demeanor, an inner assurance that the world simply cannot understand.

    2. ATL, I will touch on a few of your comments:

      “Having nothing, he has everything."

      If this can only be enacted by living as a desert monk, I share your caution. The Beatitudes are meant to be lived by all Christians.

      Taken in the context of the first two Beatitudes, and understanding that the order isn’t random (each Beatitude builds on the previous), the poor in spirit next will mourn. Why is one poor in spirit? It isn’t a material poverty, but a spiritual poverty. And in spirit, we have nothing – we are totally dependent on God’s grace.

      But if that doesn’t work, then I will argue via Janis Joplin: freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose!

      "because doing so frees the soul from the burden of earthly cares."

      I struggle with this idea as well. Even if I might be prepared to die a martyr, I sure worry about the future condition of those I love.

      "knowing he is fallen, he is not concerned about a further fall"

      Can a woman be partially pregnant?

    3. BM,

      "Can a woman be partially pregnant?"

      Would you rather have a neighbor who raped and killed a busload of kids or one who secretly covets your wife (and otherwise is a perfect gentleman)?

      God in his infinite mercy and righteousness may view these two infractions on equal terms (both violations of His Law), and may readily forgive each if a genuinely contrite heart is offered Him. But my merciful nature is not so perfect. And neither is most other people's.

      "Taken in the context of the first two Beatitudes"

      And taken in further context of the whole Bible and shared Church tradition, it is clear that meekness does not mean abandoning the cares of this world. My pause is only that phrases like this will be taken out of context and used to justify things like the Great Reset or worse. It's not a big deal though. I think I understand what you were getting at and I agree.

      "freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose!"

      Funny how freedom can mean so many different things.
      1. no unwarranted political intervention in your peaceful life.
      2. power and wealth to make things happen and to have many options.
      3. no attachments, no strings, nowhere to be, nothing to lose.
      4. not enslaved to sin or any ideology/philosophy which promotes it.
      5. more?

    4. Roger,

      I think 'meekness' and being 'poor in spirit' sort of describe the same thing, but the former has an outward focus, and the latter an inward. I think both describe what it means to be humble. "Strength under control" is a good way of describing this. Having an inner, untouchable strength that is beyond the reach of worldly powers and events, because its Source is not of this world, and yet not a strength that bubbles up through the surface as pride, vanity, or wrath. It is constrained. Its Source is recognized and given its due.

      I don't have this (the world constantly tests and wounds my inner strength, and my wrath and pride are often kindled to flame), but I'm aiming for it as best as I can.

    5. ATL, both authors have written that these Beatitudes are to be taken in a spiritual light, not material - as I have also emphasized.

      Jesus describes the coveting as equal to the adultery - there is no partial pregnancy when it comes to violating God's law.

      Which would I rather have in the material world? The answer is obvious. But knowing how God considers these in terms of my violating His law is a different matter.

      Yes, if someone is violently attacking a person I care for, I know what I will do - the same as you would do. I am prepared to answer to God for this.

    6. ATL, I believe my comments come across as argumentative; this is not my intent. I struggle with some of this as you do.

      I am attempting to expand my vision by working to try to frame the two author's comments in the best light that I can grasp. In other words, on this topic of understanding the Sermon on the Mount where I admittedly am at a loss to understand (as many Christians are), I am trying to remain open to being taught by the authors and also to include being taught by comments such as yours and others here.

      On many topics where I have what I believe to be a more firm grasp on the matter, I often do push back. But on this one, I am trying to absorb.

    7. "I don't have this (the world constantly tests and wounds my inner strength, and my wrath and pride are often kindled to flame), but I'm aiming for it as best as I can." -- ATL

      I am with you, brother.

      One of the things that has helped me in my own quest is the desire I developed 50 years ago--to become unflappable (strength under control) regardless of the circumstances or happenings around me. I have learned through some serious, um, well, "stuff", to let go of the rage and animosity seething inside my soul. Things (and people) still bother me at times, but those times occur less frequently and the level of intensity is diminishing. If I live long enough, I might actually make it to a place where I can live at peace with all men, most importantly, myself.

      You can do it, too. I believe.

    8. BM,

      No worries. It didn't come across that way to me. I am more or less thinking out loud myself. I struggle with understanding the Beatitudes and how we are supposed to incorporate them into our lives and communities. And I am grateful to you (and all the commenters here) for exploring this topic.


      "regardless of the circumstances or happenings around me"

      One thing I learned at a hokey project management seminar is the concept of "no bad days." Always have an attitude that every problem can be overcome. It helps me sometimes.

      "You can do it, too. I believe. "

      Thank you. I appreciate the vote of confidence. All I can say is I hope so.

  3. "He who has the most grandchildren wins." If it's not in there it should be.

  4. Ive heard it said that the original term translated from the original Greek ,was nothing close to meek,but actually meant the " String but merciful shall inherit the earth "
    I'd be completely out of my depth on the merits of both
    So many translations ,all with their own agendas

    King James version removes all of the copious me toons of tyranny from the Geneva Bible, nevermind his connections to occultists John Dee and Francis Bacon
    Scofield bible
    The entire apocrypha is gnostic psyop right ?
    Ever engaged with Laurent Guyenot's " From Yahweh to Zion " thesis ?

    Thanks in advance