Meekness, gentleness, and mildness get a bad rap in today’s society. People tend to think of them as synonyms for being weak or boring. A door mat. But those three words I opened with are all possible translations of the Greek word praotes (G4236), which is listed as part of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
The spirit of God is not weak or boring. It is full of power, and it is also “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.” Indeed, though we may not think of these traits as “powerful,” we cannot display them all unless we’re empowered by God. It takes a great deal of inner strength, commitment, and willingness to be transformed by God to live-out the fruit of His spirit, including gentleness.
The Meekness of Christ
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul opened one of his lines of thought with the words, “I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1, WEB). The traits of gentleness, humility, and meekness that the world spurns are key to understanding Jesus Christ’s character.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey before His crucifixion, Matthew’s account tells us “all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, behold, your King comes to you, humble, and riding on a donkey” (Matt. 21:4-5, WEB). The Greek word translated to English as “humble” is the root word for praotes — “gentleness” in the fruit of the Spirit. And since Matthew is quoting Zechariah 9:9, we know the Hebrew equivalent for this word is aniy (H6041).
You have also given me the shield of your salvation. Your right hand sustains me. Your gentleness has made me great. (Ps. 18:35, WEB)
Not only does our Lord and Messiah identify with those who are lowly and meek, but He also works gently in our lives to bring salvation.
A Heart For The Humble
Our God is deeply concerned for those who are humble, meek, poor, and needy. They share one of His character traits and they hold a special place in His heart.
For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither has he hidden his face from him; but when he cried to him, he heard. Of you comes my praise in the great assembly. I will pay my vows before those who fear him. The humble shall eat and be satisfied. They shall praise Yahweh who seek after him. Let your hearts live forever. (Ps. 22:24-26, WEB)
Our God “will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the needy” (Ps. 140:12). He will arise on behalf of the weak and needy when they call on Him, and set them in safety (Ps. 12:5). And He wants us to follow His example and do this as well so that we can be like Him.
Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. (Ps. 82:3-4, WEB)
Defending the poor and needy is part of knowing God (Jer. 22:16). We need to have a heart for them, as God does; Not despise them as so much of the world does. And we do this not only to model God, but because we recognize that we are also weak, needy, and humble.
Gentleness and Relationship
God is building relationships with humble, meek, and gentle people. In Isaiah, He says, “on this one will I look, one humble and of a contrite spirit, who trembles at My word” (Is. 66:2, TLV). Once again, “humble” is the Hebrew word aniy.
For Yahweh takes pleasure in his people. He crowns the humble with salvation. (Ps 149:4, WEB)
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5, WEB)
Gentleness, meekness, and humility aren’t just something a few people happen to have which makes them more attractive to God, though. It’s part of the character we all develop as God’s children under the guiding influence of His holy spirit.
Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. (Col. 3:12-13, WEB)
Humility (also translated “gentleness” in LEB and “meekness” in KJV) is a trait that God’s chosen ones put on. We need it in order to have a relationship with our heavenly Father and His son Jesus.
Coaching Us In Gentleness
Because gentleness is so important, it’s a trait that God will help us develop. He wants to have a relationship with everyone on earth. Since a lack of humility blocks relationship with God, He’ll help us get rid of pride and become gentle, meek people.
You shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. … You shall consider in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so Yahweh your God disciplines you. (Deut. 8:2, 5 WEB)
Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s going to help us become humble, prove our hearts, and discipline us for our good just as He did for His chosen people in the past. And we get to be involved in choosing His way of life — running toward Him and away from evil things.
But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. (1 Tim. 6:11-12, WEB)
We dare not despise or neglect the fruit of gentleness. Humble, poor, gentle, needy, and meek people are precious to God. Even our Lord Jesus Christ calls Himself gentle, meek, and humble. If we’re abiding in the Vine by attaching ourselves to Jesus (John 15:1-8), then gentleness will be part of the fruit we bear.