“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes. But what does that mean? Depending on who you talk to, the answer varies—and many of them are devastating to the Christian life. But of all the helpful explanations I’ve read, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount is among the most helpful. There, Lloyd-Jones writes:
Meekness does not mean indolence. There are people who appear to be meek in a natural sense; but they are not meek at all, they are indolent. That is not the quality of which the Bible is speaking. Nor does it mean flabbiness-I use the term advisedly. There are people who are easy-going, and you tend to say how meek they are. But it is not meekness; it is flabbiness. Nor does it mean niceness. There are people who seem to be born naturally nice. That is not what the Lord means when He says, `Blessed are the meek.’ That is something purely biological, the kind of thing you get in animals. One dog is nicer than another, one cat is nicer than another. That is not meekness. So it does not mean to be naturally nice or easy to get on with. Nor does it mean weakness in personality or character. Still less does it mean a spirit of compromise or `peace at any price’. How often are these things mistaken. How often is the man regarded as meek who says, `Anything rather than have a disagreement. Let’s agree, let’s try to break down these distinctions and divisions; let’s smooth over these little things that divide; let’s all be nice and joyful and happy.’
No, no, it is not that. Meekness is compatible with great strength. Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. These people we have looked at have been great defenders of the truth. The meek man is one who may so believe in standing for the truth that he will die for it if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak; strong men, yet meek men. . . . [Meekness] is true Christianity; it is the thing for which we are called and for which we are meant. . . . [It] is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is therefore two things. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others. . . .
The meek man is not proud of himself, he does not in any sense glory in himself. He feels that there is nothing in himself of which he can boast. It also means that he does not assert himself. You see, it is a negation of the popular psychology of the day which says ‘assert yourself’, ‘express your personality’. The man who is meek does not want to do so; he is so ashamed of it. The meek man likewise does not demand anything for himself. He does not take all his rights as claims. He does not make demands for his position, his privileges, his possessions, his status in life. No, he is like the man depicted by Paul in Philippians ii. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ Christ did not assert that right to equality with God; He deliberately did not. And that is the point to which you and I have come.
Meekness isn’t niceness, laziness, of having a spirit of “peace at any price.” It is the mindset of thinking of others more significant than yourself. Meekness, simply, is true humility.