Posted by: sean | April 23, 2007

Matthew 5.5

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Meek people don’t use violence to defeat their enemies. Some translations (including the NASB) translate meek as gentle indicating the non-violent nature of the word. In order to nail down a solid definition for “meek” please consider the dictionary entries below.

  1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
  2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.
  3. Obsolete. gentle; kind.
    Merriam Webster Dictionary

  1. enduring injury with patience and without resentment : MILD
  2. deficient in spirit and courage : SUBMISSIVE
  3. not violent or strong : MODERATE
    Webster’s Dictionary of 1913

  1. Mild of temper; not easily provoked or orritated; patient under injuries; not vain, or haughty, or resentful; forbearing; submissive.
  2. Evincing mildness of temper, or patience; characterized by mildness or patience; as, a meek answer; a meek face. Her meek prayer.” Chaucer. Syn. — Gentle; mild; soft; yielding; pacific; unassuming; humble. See Gentle.

From these definitions it is clear that a meek person would never pick up arms or use violence to assert his will over others. Jesus fully endorses this mentality with the word “blessed” and the reward promised (to inherit the earth). Further understanding can be gained through a comparison between this beattitude and the Psalm from which it was quoted.

Psalm 37:1-40 1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. 2 For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. 10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. 11 But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. 12 The wicked plots against the righteous And gnashes at him with his teeth. 13 The Lord laughs at him, For He sees his day is coming. 14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow To cast down the afflicted and the needy, To slay those who are upright in conduct. 15 Their sword will enter their own heart, And their bows will be broken. 16 Better is the little of the righteous Than the abundance of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken, But the LORD sustains the righteous. 18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, And their inheritance will be forever. 19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, And in the days of famine they will have abundance. 20 But the wicked will perish; And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures, They vanish– like smoke they vanish away. 21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives. 22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, But those cursed by Him will be cut off. 23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. 24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. 25 I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread. 26 All day long he is gracious and lends, And his descendants are a blessing. 27 Depart from evil and do good, So you will abide forever. 28 For the LORD loves justice And does not forsake His godly ones; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. 29 The righteous will inherit the land And dwell in it forever. 30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. 31 The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip. 32 The wicked spies upon the righteous And seeks to kill him. 33 The LORD will not leave him in his hand Or let him be condemned when he is judged. 34 Wait for the LORD and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it. 35 I have seen a wicked, violent man Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. 36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found. 37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; For the man of peace will have a posterity. 38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; The posterity of the wicked will be cut off. 39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. 40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him.

God will punish the wicked. Faith in God’s righteous vengeance coming in due time forms the backdrop for this psalm. The righteous are incouraged to wait, take refuge, be at peace, not worry, do good, trust in God, etc. The people of God need not resort to wicked means because God will deliver. I contend that Matthew 5.5 must be read in light of this Psalm. Thus to be meek is not to be cowardly, but instead to demonstrate the greatest kind of courage–to endure unjust suffering without seeking retribution or harboring bitterness. This meekness cuts directly across the grain of man (his pride) and leaves him with no recourse to “defend his rights.” We trust in Him and He will deliver us, if not in this age, then certainly in the age to come.



  1. I think this is a very important aspect of this investigation. Some would question to purpose of looking at this issues, especially since many people may never be faced with a violent attack or a military draft. Meekness is a disposition that all Christians are to have all the time! We are to be gentle people, not harsh, violent, or fighters. Meekness however is not weakness – it is a disposition of mind and body that is caring, nurturing, and compassionate.

    To define meekness as “receptive to the things of God” misses what is being taught here by Jesus and communicated in the Psalm above. Someone who is gentle will not resist the things of God, but they also will not resist and evil person.

    I love Psalm 37 – it really paints a clear picture of how the people of God should act in this age and also the important truth to remember in this whole thing that God will repay and execute justice.

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