The Power of Meek


Nobody likes to be called meek.

In a culture that values the assertive, the decisive, and the forceful, meek seems weak.

Weak is indeed what we think of when we think of meekness, but there is a big difference between the two. Weakness is lacking power. It’s wanting to do something but unable to pull it off.

Meekness, on the other hand, is having the power to do something, but lacking the will to do it. I’m not talking about laziness or lack of ambition, but rather restraint.

I like a soaring dunk as much as the next person. (Watching someone else do a soaring dunk; even in my best basketball days the word “soaring” was never used in the same sentence as my name.) But what is even more impressive to me is to watch a great basketball player streak down court all alone, take off from the foul line, the ball cradled in both hands high above the rim ready to come crashing down—only to have him gently drop the ball through the net.

And he trots back down the court with a smile on his face that says, “I know I could have done it; you know I could have done it. But just because I can do doesn’t mean that I have to do it.”

It’s impressive because he’s got the option to throw it down or gently drop it in. I never had that option. Gentle was the only way I could get it through the hoop.

LeBron James has that option, although I’ve never seen him use it. I’ve seen him dunk so many times that it’s no longer a big deal, if it ever was. That display of raw power and athleticism just isn’t that impressive anymore. What would be impressive is restraint, but no one would ever call LeBron meek.

“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus said, “for they will inherit the earth. He is actually pulling from Psalm 37, a psalm which contrasts the ways of the wicked and the ways of the righteous.

Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act…Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

Psalm 37:1-5, 10-11

The wicked are those who hoard great power and wealth and use it to exploit those who are truly weak and powerless. Don’t be like them, the Psalmist is saying. Yet when people gain power, that’s exactly what they do. Solomon was reputed to be the wealthiest, wisest, most powerful man of his time—but in his “wisdom” he used his wealth and power to become even more so while his people were impoverished, and the result was a devastation from which the nation of Israel never recovered.

Better to follow the example of Jesus, who, having the very power of God because he was God, didn’t exploit that power. He rather emptied himself, appearing (to us at least) like a powerless slave, being born a helpless baby. And even as a man with the power to heal and to raise the dead, he submitted to a horrible death on a cross. But because of this, he is highly exalted such that one day even the most powerful ruler will bow at his feet. (See Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus was powerful, but he was meek. His power was in his meekness, because it gave him room to love fully and unconditionally.

And that is why the whole earth belongs to him.

Photo by Karen Russell by Photobucket

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