Me-ness or Meekness? (Matthew 5:5)

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We live in a culture where

–        Young generations seek prominence and fame without the work ethic.

–        A man is valued for his muscles and might rather than maturity of character.

–        A business is praised if it is crushing its competitors.

–        A nation is great if it has powerful leaders and a poised military.

–        Even, a church is acknowledged and celebrated if it has bold leaders with sizable buildings and a substantial budget.

–        Americanism 1: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

–        Americanism 2: “Meekness is a weakness.”

But Jesus says, the meek shall inherit the earth… Today’s message is the third beatitude.

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EXAMINE

Remember

1)    Rogue Living: Following Jesus is completely counter-cultural. If we follow Jesus we will be devoted to God and different from the ways of the world.

2)    Beatitudes are about God’s blessing. Makarios (Happy/Bliss/Blessing) is God’s design for the world. God’s nature and design is to bless, whereas the world and satan’s desire is to burden – to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

3)    Beatitudes contain no imperatives, and therefore are about divine grace not human grit. The beatitudes are not about a task list but about traits reflective of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in His followers.

4)    Beatitudes have a flow/progression from poverty of spirit, mourning over personal immorality and corporate injustice, faith that fuels grace-formed righteousness.

 

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the meek

In the Greco-Roman world, meekness was no more esteemed for leaders then it is today. The Greeks had no respect for meekness as it was equated with slaves and servants, or weak. Unless you literally had a body (throat, back, belly) of steel you could not ascend the Roman political ladder; the meek did not survive while the mean and mighty thrived.

Even the Jews had its Zealots seeking to overthrow Rome by might and force, and their hopes of the Messiah would lead the way. Israel did not appreciate or pursue meekness. They believed God’s Messiah would deal gracefully with them and war-like with their enemies. Their hope was in a mighty God who disposed of pagan nations in the OT to repeat the efforts again.

However, Jesus preached about a different kingdom that wouldn’t bring peace but division (Matthew 10:34). God’s kingdom is ruled by a king who came humbly as a child, and preached about denying self, serving and sacrificing for others, suffering, and carrying a cross. The Jews wanted no part of that. They ignored the peasant carpenter, rejected the self-taught rabbi, hated the proclaimed Savior, and killed the Lord of glory.

Jesus taught the meek were blessed. So, what is meekness?

Meekness (πραει̑ς) can be translated gentle or humble. John MacArthur notes the term means mild or soft, and was used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze.[1] Meekness describes a wild and strong animal that has been tamed. MacArthur goes on to explain the essential difference between the former beatitude poor in spirit is turning away from self, whereas meekness is turning to God.

In our own words, meekness is the balance of toughness and tenderness. It is the perfect blend of patience, humility, compassion, passion under control, and godly character required for leadership (1Tim 6:11; 2Tim 2:25; Titus 3:2). While the world may not value meekness, God’s word does. So, let us look more closely at two marks of meekness.

The meek are devoted to God.

–        Psalm 37:11 “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” The context of Psalm 37 is trusting God in trials and tragedy. The psalmist exhorts believers to have faith in God without fretting, anger or revenge, as God will bring about the recompense of all. The meek’s devotion to God is steadfast despite hardship in this world.

à Meek are devoted by trusting God without fretting when the wicked are winning.

–        Zephaniah 2:3 “Seek the Lord, all you humble [meek] of the land, who do his just commands, seek righteousness; seek humility [meekness]” The prophet Zephaniah exhorted Judah to national repentance to avoid ruin and judgment from God. There’s a three-fold command to take action in seeking God. In Zephaniah’s day, God’s people were complacent with wealth (Zeph 1:12-13, 18), and Judah’s prophets were fickle and treacherous, profaning the holy (3:4), and lacked a fear of God (3:7) with injustice and lies (3:13). The Lord through the prophet promises to sing over His people with His love and to gather those who mourn (3:17-18). Sound familiar? Likewise, that same Lord calls His followers to meekness, exhibited by spiritual discipline and devotion to God.

à Meek are devoted by disciplined seeking of God.
–        Galatians 5:23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [meekness], self-control” Ephesians 4:1-3 “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness [meekness], with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit…” Colossians 3:12-13 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Paul exhorts Christians to walk by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. Those led by the Spirit are characterized by meekness, among other traits. Remember Paul’s context for writing – he’s in jail and persecuted for his faith in Jesus. Instead of plotting revenge or planning escape, he writes believers to live by gentleness/meekness. An identifying mark of meekness is keeping unity in the body of Christ.

à Meek are devoted by extending remarkable gentleness and grace in a self-gratifying and evil world.

–        1Peter 3:4 “…wives… let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with imperishable beauty of a gentle [meek] and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Peter exhorts Christian wives to display the heart and humility of Jesus in effort to win over their unbelieving husbands. Such compassionate character and radical living would stand out to influence others with the power of the gospel in family relationships and interpersonal conflict.

à Meek are devoted by extravagant humility and not external appearance.
–        1Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness [meekness] and respect” Peter wrote to Christians who lived in a hostile culture for the Christian faith. He exhorted believers to be ready to defend and speak for the faith, but to do so with meekness. Therefore, the content of our message can often only be understood with the right tone. The way we say something is as important as what we say.

à Meek are devoted by defending the faith with our lips and our lives.
 

The meek are not defensive.

–        Numbers 12 “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?’ And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth…” Aaron and Miriam discriminated against Moses for his interracial marriage. Their actions displeased the Lord. God cursed Miriam with a short-term leprousy that caused her skin to turn very white like snow. In other words, God was saying lighter skin color is not a sign of divine blessing, but can be equally viewed as a sign of divine judgment.  Ultimately, our problem is sin not skin color. But more, Moses’ response to Miriam’s cursing wasn’t celebration but compassion. He prayed for God to heal her. So, Moses reveals the greatness of his meekness by not taking offense at wrongs against him but interceding for God’s grace to forgive and heal. Unlike Jonah in the Bible who avoided sharing grace with those who were undeserving, Moses sought to share grace because he knew how much God had given to him. While Moses was the meekest man on earth, Jesus is greater than Moses and exhibited immeasurable meekness as God of heaven and earth. He endured the insults and ill-treatment from the religious elites. Jesus wasn’t a doormat or personally defensive. “Jesus was no indecisive pushover, nor did he have a spirit of compromise, but he was radically meek. He shows us that meekness is not conflict-avoidance or being agreeable [for its own sake]. Meekness is not milquetoast.”[2] Ultimately, Jesus reflected meekness even to the point of death, while praying for God the Father to forgive sin (Lk 23:34).
– – – > “A meek spirit, like wet tinder, will not easily take fire.”[3]

–        Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

for they shall inherit the earth.”

“God’s children inherit first and foremost a person, not property. In the future, the whole earth will know that it is under the authority of King Jesus and his loyal subjects, and the Lord will make this known through his might. The property will be ours, and it will extend in every direction. In the meantime, we experience our inheritance of the earth through meekness”[4]

APPLY/THINK

Meekness or Me-ness? Where can you learn meekness? What are the environments for you to mature in meekness?

–        In knowing Jesus. “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 [meek], and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28-29)
–        In making disciples. Jesus called people to gain the world through self-denial (Mat 16:24-27). Loving God and living as Jesus to serve others and spread the gospel is the path to meekness and an imperishable inheritance.
–        In marriage. Dave Harvey in When Sinners Say I Do… Meekness has nothing to do with being weak or passive. Meekness is power harnessed by love. . . . In marriage, to be meek is not to be weak or vulnerable, but to be so committed to your spouse that you will sacrifice for his or her good.
–        In parenting The moment by moment endurance of caring for a child’s needs before your own will teach meekness. If parenting isn’t humbling you to your own pride and selfishness, and learning about receiving and extending grace, then you are missing the sacred experience (Gary Thomas).

–        In ministry of serving people. Jesus’ church is different than a country or company. Jesus entrusted the future of His church not to army generals but to humble disciples. A distinguishing mark of shepherd-elders for the church was that they recognized their weakness (1Cor 4:21; 2Cor 4:7; 10:1; 1Tim 6:11; 2Tim 2:25; Titus 3:2).
 

  • Seek and submit to Jesus the Meek.

    During football season there are commercials of large NFL players with large muscles. The commercials show these strong athletes blocking and knocking people off their feet, and performing massive feats of strength. Then, in the very same commercial, they are told to sit down and be quiet and eat their soup. Why do they listen? Because their mother is speaking to them. The athlete hasn’t lost any strength, speed, or power, but the only thing that has changed is their submission to a higher authority. Likewise, meekness is not weakness.

    Let us embrace meekness by seeking and submitting to Jesus as our higher authority.

 

[1] John MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 5:5.

[2] R.W. Glenn, Crucifying Morality, p.48.

[3] Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 (1660; Banner of Truth, 1985) p.45.

[4] R.W. Glenn, p.47.

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