5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
In his work Ethics, Aristotle defines the Greek word we translate as ‘meek’ as the median between recklessness and cowardice. Anger is a powerful emotion, and knowing how to use it wisely and in proper proportion was considered ‘meekness’.
The word can mean ‘mild’ or ‘gentle’. It is used of a tame animal and suggests the notion of a person who has tamed their emotions. I heard, once, that a warhorse was considered ‘meek’ that was not frightened by the battle raging around it. I have not been able to confirm this, but it fits with the idea of meekness in Aristotle.
The point is that the ‘meek’ are not doormats. They are those people we would describe as ‘centered’, in that calm space of knowing who they are and who God is and seeing everything in light of the big picture. Firm yet gentle, confident of the grace and power of God, steadfast.
Moses was described as meek. Yet he was clearly courageous both before Pharaoh and the rebellious people in the wilderness. Jesus describes himself as meek – “Take my yoke upon you for I am gentle…” – and we know he drove the moneychangers from the temple, that he was angered at the death of Lazarus, that he was steadfast before Pilate and forgiving towards his torturers.
The ‘meek’ are honored by God. The zealots took up arms against Rome and by their rage and zeal brought destruction on Jerusalem and the temple. They tried to seize the land by force and lost it. The ‘meek’ were not driven by passions but governed by the Spirit of God. They were the peacemakers, the merciful – and probably the persecuted – but they are honored by God for they embodied God’s reign of grace and life. The land shall be their inheritance.