Christians Need to Learn the Blessing of Meekness

What do you think would happen if the next time someone asked you how he or she looked, you replied, “You look rather meek to me”? Do you think it would be taken as a compliment or would he or she be offended? Or what would happen, if you heard a schoolteacher describe one of her students as the “meekest child in the classroom,” what would your image of the child be? I ask these questions to illustrate a point: we don’t have a very high opinion of those who are meek. When we hear someone described as meek, we automatically picture him or her as being something of a weakling. We live in a society that extols strength and looks down on anything that smacks of weakness, a society where no one wants to be described as being meek. But Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)  So let me ask you a question, “If Jesus says the meek are blessed and that they shall inherit the earth, why aren’t more Christians displaying this attitude?”  Perhaps it is because we don’t really understand what the word “meek” means.

What Does It Means to Be Meek?

Contrary to popular opinion, “meekness” does not refer to someone who is submissive, mild, or unassertive. We say, for instance, that a person is “meek as a mouse,” meaning he or she is shy, skittish, and afraid of confrontation, but this does not capture at all what the Greek word meek (praus) means. The Greeks had a very different saying; rather than focusing on a person’s lack power, they used the word meek to describe someone who exercised composure.[1] The Greeks, therefore, would say that someone was as “meek as a lion.” The Greeks used the word meek to describe animals that had been tamed or domesticated. This particular use of the word shows us the value of cultivating the virtue of meekness. A horse, for example, is a beautiful and powerful creature, but until it is broken, it isn’t much value to human beings. Once a horse has been tamed, however, its enormous potential and power can be turned into something productive. This same principle holds true for people. We are of no practical use to the kingdom of God until we learn to live under full submission to the will of God and the control of the Holy Spirit.

This attitude of submission is the direct result of the way meekness relates to the way we see ourselves. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.”[2]  Over the next few days we are going to further examine what the Bible says about being meek by examining the life of Moses, whom the Bible says was the “meekest man on the earth.” (Num 12:3).  But for today, I want to encourage you to stop right now and pray about how you might cultivate the attitude of meekness in your life.  

 

[1] John MacArthur, The Beatitudes: The Only Way to Happiness (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 99.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 57.
      

 

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Attitude Shapes Character

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 4.21.03 PMIn late May or early June my first book “Cultivating A Gospel Shaped Attitude” is going to bereleased. This morning I want to share with you a short excerpt from the book dealing with the way our attitude shapes our character.  The basic premise of the book is that if we want to have a Christ-like character we must first cultivate the gospel-shaped attitudes that are described for us in the Beatitudes.  If you find this excerpt interesting please sign up to follow my blog by email so that you will receive automatic updates about the release.  I would ask that you help me to start spreading the word about this book by sharing the link to this blog on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Here is a short excerpt from the book.

Attitude Shapes Character

Our attitude refers to the way we evaluate other people, our circumstances, and ourselves. More fundamentally, our attitudes determine how we make decisions; therefore, they exhibit a strong effect upon our behavior. We’ve all seen children, for instance, who exhibit a bad attitude when told not to do something and then react by making a bad decision. When I was about nine years old, my younger brother, Ron, received a pool table as a birthday present. One night while playing pool, I developed a bad attitude because Ron had beaten me three or four games in a row. At the time, I was convinced he must have been cheating—perhaps by telepathically altering the course of the balls as they crossed the table—and the next thing I knew, my anger erupted and I broke one of his pool cues over my knee. My bad attitude led to a bad decision, which resulted in even a worse consequence when my dad came rushing into the room. Do you see how my attitude affected my decision-making? My decision in this situation was directly related to the way I viewed my brother and the circumstances of the game.

While this story represents one single episode in the course of my life, it raises an important question. What would have happened had I continued to cultivate this attitude? How would people describe my character if, over the course of time, I continued to exhibit this same attitude and repeatedly made these kinds of rash decisions? Eventually, I would have developed a reputation for being a hothead, and people would start to think of me as being ill tempered. My actions, which were driven by my attitude, would eventually come to define my character. This is why I argue that in Matthew 5:1–11, Jesus is talking about our attitudes rather than our character. Attitudes are more fundamental than character. Any change in our character must begin with a change in our attitudes. This is why I say that a gospel-shaped attitude leads to Christ-honoring actions that when exhibited over time will result in a Christlike character. The end result is a life conformed to the character of Christ, but it all starts with our attitude.

The apostle Paul summarized this pattern of spiritual formation in Philippians 2:5–8 when he said, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”[1] The word mind in this passage could also be translated as “attitude.” In essence, Paul uses the word mind to describe how Jesus viewed Himself and other people: He saw Himself as a servant and other people as being in great spiritual need. Jesus’ attitude resulted in definitive actions; He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” In other words, Jesus’ attitude resulted in specific actions, which in turn came to define His character. This is the basic formula for all spiritual growth and maturity.

But let me be clear, Jesus is not talking about some kind of flaky positive thinking or health-and-wealth philosophy. He is not suggesting that we refuse to accept reality by viewing life through rose-colored glasses. Instead, Jesus is urging us to view life through the lens of the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross. He was buried and rose triumphantly from the grave, so that anyone who will repent of his or her sin and believe in Him will receive the forgiveness of sin and be reconciled to God. The more deeply we reflect on the glory and majesty of the gospel message, the more we recognize how it permeates every area of our life and ministry. As we work our way through the Beatitudes, we will discover how each of these attitudes is deeply grounded in the gospel and how together they provide a comprehensive picture of knowing Jesus and developing a Christlike character.

From “Cultivating A Gospel Shaped Attitude: Understanding and Living the Beatitudes” (Nashville: Crossbooks, 2013) Copyright 2013 Joseph Buchanan


[1] All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).