Meekness Toward Our Neighbors

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)

Last week we spent our time in verse 5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” I hope that over the last week you have taken time to give that some thought in your own life. We defined meekness last week and then talked about it biblically in regard to meekness toward God. We are to be meek in our relationship to God. As we relate to, think about, study about, pray to God, we are to do all of that in meekness. Meekness is an attitude, a way that should rule our relationship with God. You could say there is no other proper way to approach God than in meekness. Meekness is that important. 

What is meekness? Here is one way we talked about it last week: meekness is easiness in our spirit. Meekness toward God, if we are meek toward God, then we will be easy in our spirit toward Him, or you could say we will live in quiet submission to His will. That means to live in complete submission to Him as He has revealed His will to us in His Word, and as we see it unfold around us circumstantially. It is like an understanding, a belief where we may say, “Okay God, you are big, you’re great, you’re sovereign, you’re loving, you’re merciful, you’re just, you’re righteous, you are my King, and because of all that, because of what you’ve shown me about yourself, I will bow down to you in all things – all things you tell me in your Word and all things you bring my way circumstantially.” It’s a belief, where we may say as believers, “You are in control, and I am not in control, and I am really good with that because I am lowly, poor in spirit, and I am sinful, and God you are neither lowly nor sinful.” That is meekness toward God.

When I say, “You are in control and I am not, and I am really good with that,” I don’t mean that with an attitude of, “Okay, I guess I really don’t have any choice in this matter anyways. I guess I am good with whatever you are doing, or whatever you will do. I don’t really have an opportunity for anything else so I have to be okay with that.” It’s not that way. There should be an excitement that God is in control of all things around me. It’s not a giving into God’s will out of defeat or some kind of a forced surrender. That’s not meekness. No, it is more like an attitude of wanting what He wants, desiring what He desires, and knowing that whatever comes to us is the best path for us. There should be an air of excitement over discovering God’s way as He unfolds that before us, knowing He has everything covered regarding our lives and circumstances. It’s all taken care of, we are protected and loved, He is looking out for our good in all these things. It is choosing His way. Sometimes it’s choosing His way rather than what may appeal to our senses, because we trust Him even more than we trust in our physical senses. It is thinking this way, living this way even when there may be pain involved.

As we discussed last week, the opposite of meekness, this complete submission to God and His will, is to be like that wild horse I mentioned last week, and even as some domesticated animals do from time to time, that is to charge through the barrier, the barbed wire fence, to go our own way, often times getting cut and maimed, being out of control, rebellious, out of fear or some other reason that fails to see meekness toward God as the key to happiness and protection.

Meekness toward God is very foundational. It’s not an extra for the Christian, like we could be a Christian and meek, or a Christian and not meek. It’s an attitude for all Christian living. Not out of dread or duty, but out of love for and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we will be meek toward God, then we must also be meek toward each other, meek toward our neighbors. In fact, being meek toward our neighbors is one way that we can express meekness toward God. As Christians, as Bible believing Christians, we may often say things like, “God is in control.” Have you ever said that? Do you believe that? That’s what we tell people when their life seems out of control. “God is in control,” or we may say, “God has this taken care of,” or, “God is working in all things and circumstances.” We believe that, right? From statements like that comes some comfort. These are statements that express a right view of God that says, “He is mighty and sovereign, He’s got it all, He’s in control.” And knowing that He is full of compassionate love for His children is in the mix too. So we find comfort in these words, in who God is.

But the interesting thing is that sometimes there is a major breakdown in these thoughts, in these things we say we believe, a major breakdown when we throw into the mix our neighbors, other people. By the way, who are our neighbors? Anyone you come in contact with. That is the point of the story of the Good Samaritan. That would include not just people you choose to hang out with, but also people you may not choose to hang out with but God’s brought them into your life. Often times when we think about people, there is a breakdown in our thinking when we talk about God’s loving care and even His control. We may get sinfully angry with other people, disgusted, fearful of other people. We may want to give up on other people. We wouldn’t say this, but sometimes we even think of others as being bigger than God, sort of out of His domain of control. When people act, we may see that as outside of God’s sovereignty. And if we see them in that way, as autonomous, then we will treat them differently than if we see others as under God’s sovereign domain, and part of His sovereign, though often mysterious, will. We give people too much credit by thinking they’re autonomous.

The reason we can be meek, should be meek around others, is because we are first of all meek in our relationship with God. Our meekness with our neighbors should flow from how we relate to God Himself. It is important to see that. 

So in meekness, thinking of, “Blessed are the meek,” let’s look at what this is like as we relate to people around us. Not primarily as we relate to God, but as we relate to our family members, our church friends, our co-workers, and so on. How do we relate to people? People we want to have coffee with, and people we would never choose to be around except that God has sovereignly put us in the same place. As we interact with people from all sorts of angles and in varied circumstances, how do we do that? How do we lead those God has given us to lead when they don’t want to be led? With what attitude do we parent our children? How do we have meaningful conversations with those who disagree with our views about Christ? How do we talk with friends who think we are too radical? With what attitude do we engage with other people? How about when someone is just downright mean and hateful, how do we respond? That is the real question. With our neighbors, all the people that you and I come into contact with, what attitude do we bring with us into those engagements? The short answer – with meekness!

Before I go any further, I want to say that much of what I will give you today in this realm of meekness, I do so with the help of a couple of men and their writings. We will only scratch the surface on this topic of meekness, and there’s so much more we can learn and understand about meekness, so I’m going to recommend two books on the topic. First a book called, “The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit,” by Matthew Henry. And secondly, “The Beatitudes” by Thomas Watson. Both of these men do an excellent job of unfolding these truths about meekness. If you pick up either one of these books, don’t think you’re going to sit down and read it in an evening. These are the kind of books you probably need a notepad next to you and perhaps a dictionary to understand some of the words, and how they’re used. They are really good books and go way beyond my understanding of meekness.

Meekness toward others is the character of a gracious soul. When we enter a room of people, what do we bring into that room? Do we enter the room with a spirit of grace? Or do we enter a room and everybody gets uptight because we’re there? Meekness is a grace. It is a grace through which the Spirit of God works to moderate our passions that may otherwise rule us. It is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning something given to believers, found in Galatians 5:23. The 17th century theologian Thomas Watson said, “By nature the heart is like a troubled sea, casting forth the foam of anger and wrath. Now meekness calms the passions. It sits as moderator in the soul, quieting and giving check to its distempered motions.” Meekness then means we are not easily provoked. A meek person is not easily provoked. If an insult is hurled at us, it does not have to take hold of us and demand of our spirit a like response. Watson goes on to say, “A meek spirit like wet tinder, will not easily take fire.” What he means is that one who has a meek spirit in their interactions with other, they are not primed and ready to attack. They don’t easily catch fire. It means they don’t respond sinfully with out of control emotions and feelings. A meek person is not one who pounces on his friends or his enemies. And I need to say, this is true in the meek person’s inner man, not just in what comes out in his actions.

Some people are good actors. Being a good actor, some people may have an ability to look meek, to be kind, to be gentle, but on the inside they are like a bomb ready to explode. That explosion isn’t going to happen around everyone else; it may happen somewhere later, some time later, perhaps when nobody’s around. Some may speak kind words out of their mouths but harbor hatefulness in the heart. True meekness does not discriminate between inward thoughts and outward actions. Meek is meek, inside and out.

The Psalmist said…

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth. (Psalm 38:12-13)

The Psalmist is describing those who are intentionally trying to hurt him, planning his fall and demise, but he refuses to respond in like kind, or hastily in anger. It is like he does not hear it and he refuses to participate in these verbal attacks. That’s meekness.

People may attack and speak all kinds of evil against us personally, but meekness helps us to hold our tongue, like a bridle in the mouth. It helps us to bear with other people. Meekness helps us to moderate our responses, to temper our emotions, to think before expressing what may be our natural tendencies in our flesh.

Meekness is a fruit in our lives that counters sinful anger. Anger is all about making judgments. We judge something to be wrong, or sinful, or unjust, or unfair, or not according to our desires, what we want. Anger starts with a judgment and can move very quickly to an action. Sometimes there is like a split second between the judgment we make and our response to that judgment. It can happen very quickly, sometimes with no thought at all. If someone hits you in the face, just out of the blue, sometimes a response could follow really quickly. If a hurtful comment is directed at us, we may, really with little or no thought at all, pay that person back with something meant to cause emotional pain. A quick word toward us, a quick word in response. 

A meek person does well to wait, to think, to consider what has happened carefully before acting, taking time to formulate an appropriate, biblical response. To do this is to recognize some important things. First, that we are not omniscient, only God is. We are not all-knowing. We don’t have perfect understanding. Our judgment may not take in all the facts, we may not understand all that is going on, all of what is true about the circumstance. Waiting forces us to act more rationally, to think, to gather more information, to ask questions, and to possibly even seek counsel from someone else on how to respond.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:19-21)

In meekness we can realize that our judgments are not always correct. We can remember that we are often very biased in our thinking. We don’t always see things as they truly are right away. Our emotions can cloud that greatly. Meekness leads us to humility in our thinking, in our judgments, quieting those restless, strong emotions, clearing a way for sober mindedness.

Nehemiah is a great example of one who exercised meekness in his response to government leaders. Nehemiah was a leader, a leader who in chapter 5 of Nehemiah saw his people being taken advantage of in terrible ways. People were being treated very unfairly, they were being oppressed terribly. He had to do something because of this injustice that he saw taking place. Here is what we read about this, about Nehemiah’s response.

I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. (Nehemiah 5:6)

Now think about yourself first before I finish this. “I was very angry.” What do you do immediately following that? Here’s what Nehemiah did…

I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. (Nehemiah 5:7)

He was angry at the injustice, but while angry, what did he do? Took counsel with himself. In this case, his anger did not supersede meekness. Before he spoke, before he boldly spoke to express his displeasure, he paused, he hesitated, he retreated into his own mind and thought about what was happening, and considered an appropriate response. He did end up rebuking them as he should have. But as he did he was not out of control, nor was he rashly giving them a piece of his mind. Meekness urges us to give it more time, to consider our judgments, to consider our words. A quick flare of anger, if you think about it, is like a man who may be trying to master another person, putting them in their place, to control them with his words, when he has failed to master himself.

Calmness of spirit, peace of God, meekness of the soul.

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Meekness toward other people flows from our meekness toward God. As we walk on this earth as Christians, God has a plan for us. His plan for the believer is to further conform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. We are here on this earth to walk as He walked. How did Jesus walk on this earth? With what attitude did He approach life?

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:1)

Christ was meek.

I want to do something a little unusual for us this morning that I hope will encourage us in the way of meekness. I want us to look at a portion of John’s gospel, and I want you to do something with it. I’m going to read a portion of John 18, and what I would like you to do is to make a mark, either in your Bible or mentally, or if you are taking notes, make note of verses which clearly demonstrate meekness on Jesus’ part. So all that you know about meekness so far, as I read a small portion of John 18, I want you to mark those places that show some sort of meekness in the life of Christ. It could be meekness you recognize in His relationship with the Father, or meekness in His interaction with men. Now remember, meekness exercised toward the Father would be seen in total, complete submission to God’s will, full trust in Him. Meekness toward others would also be a demonstration of trust in the Father, but will also be seen as being tempered, in calmness, a quiet spirit. Meekness toward others is not a quick, angry, out of control response.

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11)

I don’t know how many places you identified meekness, but my guess is that if you took that home, spent more time in it, prayed through it, you would see meekness all throughout those words in relation to Christ. I’ll not do so this morning, but you could continue in the rest of chapter 18, all the way through chapter 19, up to His crucifixion, and do the same thing, and stand in awe of the meekness of Christ. We see it time and time again. You could go through the whole gospel and do the same thing, just with the thought of, “Where am I seeing meekness in the Lord Jesus Christ?” To see what it really looks like to walk in meekness. Trust in God, submission to God, a desire to obey the Father’s will. Jesus had all kinds of opportunity to lash out, to put others in their place, to set them straight on so many things, but His aim was to trust in and submit to His Father, and in that He was perfectly successful.

In spite of all the lies told about Him, the deceit of other people around Him, the false accusations, the physical abuse, Jesus was able to keep His eye on the goal and to always do what was pleasing to His Father, even with all those terribly sinful people that surrounded Him. His life was a demonstration of meekness. He had the power to put each one in his rightful place with His words and with His strength, but those things did not rule Him, He was not ever out of control, He was meek.

Do our lives demonstrate that same trust in the Father? Do our lives demonstrate meekness?

How do we attain meekness? I would say look often at the life of Christ, look often in the gospels at His life. Secondly, pray earnestly that God will increase His grace of meekness in your life. It’s not optional for the believer. We can have more, we can pray for more. “God would you please, by your Spirit, develop this meekness further in my life?” He is the God of all grace, and He is the giver of gifts to His children, including meekness. We can pray earnestly for more meekness.

At the end of this verse, it says that the meek will inherit the earth. That’s a big promise! One day every believer, those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God, those who have been given the fruits of the Spirit, will inherit the earth. The earth is for the meek, the new earth is for the meek. And who are the meek? Christians.

Just one final thought. If you’re sitting here this morning and you think, “I don’t have an ounce of this meekness stuff in my life, I haven’t been meek a second in my life. I don’t recognize this at all ever in my life, and if I asked people close to me they’d agree.” Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit, and honestly if that’s where you are, the thing is probably not to go after meekness but to go after Christ. Do you really belong to Him? Is He really your Savior and Lord? Are you walking with Christ? Is God really your Father through the Lord Jesus Christ? To ask ourselves those hard questions. Because it’s the Christians who are meek, and Christians who will inherit the earth.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)