3. the meek
Blessed are ‘the meek’- who practice self-restraint and self-control.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matt.5.5)
In the ancient world in which Jesus lived, the concept of ‘meekness’ was very different from today. Today, the word ‘meek’ is often used as a synonym for the word ‘weak’. So we often think of a ‘meek’ person as a ‘weak’ person – a ‘wimp’, a ‘wuss’, a ‘gutless wonder’ – a scrawny, cowardly individual. But in Jesus’ day, the word ‘meek’ was often used to connote a ‘quiet, controlled, internal strength of character’ in a person, which opponents would only interpret as a sign of ‘weakness’ at their own peril.
The word ‘praus’ – which we translate as ‘meek’- actually had two separate but interrelated meanings. The first meaning of the word ‘praus’ was ‘neither too much anger, nor too little anger – but just the right amount of righteous indignation’ to address any grievous wrong that it might be confronted with.The second meaning of the word ‘praus’ was separate from, but related to, the first – as the word was used for ‘domesticating wild horses’- for harnessing the explosive potency of primal, spirited power.1So when Jesus talked about the ‘meek’, he was talking about people who practiced spirited but non-reactive self-restraint and powerful but non-violent self-control in the face of violent provocation.There is great danger in getting angry. When we get angry, we want to hit back at people who have hurt us, or hurt those whom we love. When we hit back, we are tempted to hurt them like they hurt us.We call them names, which dehumanize them and/or demonize them, and then set out to destroy them.
On 9-11-2001, Osama Bin Laden ordered an attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre at the heart of the ‘Satanic’ Empire, killing more than 2000 innocent Americans. In retaliation, George Bush ordered an attack on Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan – and an attack on the ‘tyrant’ Saddam Hussein in Iraq, (who did not have any weapons of mass destruction, or anything to do with 9-11, but had once tried to kill Bush senior,) leading to the deaths of over a 100,000 innocent civilians – and still counting.
So it is not surprising that Jesus said: ‘you have heard that it was said, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,’ (or ‘I spit on you’) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.’ (Matt.5.21-22)
However, while Jesus says there is grave danger in getting mad and calling people names, Jesus does not say that we should ‘not be angry’, or ‘never call anyone a fool’. There is plenty of evidence Jesus got angry (Matt.21.12-17) and called the Pharisees ‘fools’ (Matt.23.17) His statements here are not prescriptive, but descriptive. He depicts a violent cycle of action and reaction we can get stuck in, if we are not careful, by being annoyed with one another and insulting one another. Yet, he does not tell his disciples ‘not to be angry’; he tells them – as Paul reminds us – ‘be angry but do not sin.’ (Eph.4.26)2
Jesus shows us how we can be angry ‘yet without sin’ at the tomb of Lazarus. John says when Jesus was confronted with his friend’s death, he was ‘deeply moved’ (John 11.34,38). The word we translate as ‘deeply moved’ is ‘embrimaomai’. It means to ‘snort in spirit’. It is the word used to describe a stallion, rearing up on its hind legs, tearing the air with its hooves and snorting before it charges into battle.3 By using this word repeatedly, John is saying Jesus got really, really ‘wild’ about the needless death of his friends and was ‘mad’ enough to do something about it, even though it looked impossible. But, unlike many of us when we get ‘mad’, Jesus made sure he channeled his rage constructively. He didn’t react -‘returning evil for evil’. He acted proactively – ‘overcoming evil with good’.(Rom.12.21)
Now, the only way we will ever be able to act proactively, like Jesus did, is if we practice self-control to such a degree we do not react, but respond with self-restraint – regardless of the way others treat us. Jesus says we can practice proactive self-control by learning to ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘go the second mile’ and give people the ‘shirt off our back’. He says, ‘If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, give them have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ (Matt 5.40-42)
Jesus says ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you‘. (Matt.7.12) Do not treat others ‘as they treat you’ – nor ‘as they might treat you’ – but ‘as you would like to be treated’ – regardless of the way that they may treat you. ‘You have heard: “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons (and daughters) of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matt.5.44-48)
Jesus says, ‘blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth’ advisedly. (Matt.5.4) Because if we
are ‘meek’ – like our sister Gladys Staines (*)- and ‘love our enemies’ – there is more than enough room in the world for all of us – friends and enemies alike. But if we are not ‘meek’ – and want to bomb the hell out of our enemies like our misguided brother George Bush – there will be no earth left for us to inherit.
 Willian Barclay The Gospel Of Matthew Vol 1. The Daily Study Bible The Saint Andrew Press Edinburgh 1956 p 91-2
 Glen Stassen & David Gushee Kingdom Ethics IVP, Downers Grove, 2003 p 134
 Os Guiness The Dust Of Death IVP Downers Grove, 1973 p 384
(*) Read her story in be.encouraged