The third blessing is for those who are submissive to the Lord. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5) There is a progression: first we must become humble (poor in spirit). When we are humble then we recognize and mourn our personal sin and worldly sin. Then we are able to be meek.
Poverty of spirit and meekness are related yet have important distinctions. Poverty of spirit begins with the awareness of our spiritual lack before God and our need for Him and what He provides. In meekness, we are aware of our lack both before people and God; we are grateful for all the Lord provides us and know it all comes from Him, not ourselves. Our natural tendency is to see our resources (gifting, money, position of authority, etc.) as mostly belonging to us and being the fruit of our dedication and hard work (which is prideful). But Scripture tells us “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
Meekness, according to the Bible, is being humble and gentle towards others and being willingly submissive and obedient to the Lord. It is not being selfish, arrogant, loud or obnoxious. Rather, it’s having a quiet but confident trust in the Lord and being willing and able to do whatever it is He commands. “In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Is. 30:15b) The ability to be strong rests not in human might or brute force, but in stillness and belief in the goodness of God. When one is able to calm the mind and soul from controlling/striving/worrying, and simply trust in Him, strength is produced. A confidence in His strength is realized.
Walking in meekness or humility is not the same as timidity, which is rooted in fear man and low self-esteem. The essence of meekness is rooted in where we are focused. The meek focus on Jesus as their source and owner of everything they possess. Therefore, they are grateful for it and they use it with a servant spirit and with generosity. In our sinful nature, we are preoccupied with ourselves and with what we believe we deserve, resulting in a sense of entitlement. When our perceived entitlement isn’t met and we are unable to control circumstances, we become frustrated, angry and even bitter.
But the one who is guided by God’s Spirit accepts God’s ability to direct events. In meekness we accept that God has given us our circumstances for His purpose. And we trust that He will provide for our needs in whatever season in which we find ourselves. Meekness doesn’t suggest weakness, but rather one who is willing to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus. Instead meekness is when we choose to live our lives in God’s strength and power, not our own. “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 also must forgive.” (Col. 3:12)
The meek know that they deserve God’s discipline much more than any measure of (small or large) blessing that He has given them before people. The meek embrace important tasks or menial tasks with gratitude, knowing they are getting more than they deserve from God. The meek refuse to manipulate or exert pressure on people to promote themselves.
A beautiful depiction of meekness is found in Psalm 37: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” (Ps. 37:5-11)
Biblical scholar W. E. Vine says that meekness is what allows us to wait on the Lord and “accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting,” just as Jesus did on the cross. Jesus is calling His followers to a life that appears both foolish and misguided to the world, but those who live this way are blessed because God fights for them (Deut. 20:4).
Thankfully, Jesus gives us the “how to”: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
Living in humility and being willing to forego one’s rights for the benefit of someone else models the attitude of Jesus Christ. The promise made for this is that the meek will inherit the earth, partially fulfilled in this life and completely fulfilled in the age to come, because the meek by faith are joint heirs with Christ. “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” (Ps. 37:29) What a blessing!