We have heard or read this word countless times in our lives but do we really understand what it is? In the Old Testament it is usually used regarding the poor, the humble and the afflicted. But that does not get completely to the heart of the meekness that Christ speaks of in the New Testament.
The Sermon on the Mount uses the word in Christ’s second example: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.” The word in the New Testament Greek is praus which expands the OT understanding to: that disposition of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and therefore without disputing or resisting it. It is not unlike the virtue of long-suffering which allows us to bear patiently with ills knowing that God’s will is being done. There is the hope and understanding that God is accomplishing something for the Good though we cannot see it or understand it at the moment. So we bear with it patiently.
When I was younger I used to think of meekness as being humble but somehow construed to mean apathetic as well. So when Christ says to the Apostles that they should “learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart,” it always made the words of Christ seem a bit too contrived or a bit prideful (though He is God with every right to boast of His virtues). Maybe that was just me. But it did strike me as being a bit different from the usual statements I was used to hearing from Christ.
However, when I look back to the Book of Wisdom I find the following: “Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be. For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words.”
Now that passage seems to foretell the meekness that our Lord was talking about. For He was going to His death on the cross without a whimper, without crying out for mercy or declaring His innocence for the crime He was sentenced. No, He went as meekly as a Lamb to the slaughter.
Now this is not apathy. For if apathy were a virtue, this country in its present age would be a utopia overrun with saints. But meekness is not a virtue you find very much of in this country or in any developed country. It resides mostly in the Third World.
I wonder if we are too far along in our belief in Utilitarianism to ever find meekness as a positive virtue to be practiced. Perhaps, as we continue our slide into the ocean of oblivion which swallows our wealth, freedom and pride, leaving us with shackles and chains of debt to eat the scraps that our lords throw us, we can once again find that God will respect His promise and return the land to the meek.