Gentleness is not seen as a strength in today’s world. The meek and mild aren’t the ones who do well; they’re the ones other people walk all over. You gotta toughen up if you want to stay alive. To quote Mordred from the musical Camelot, “It’s not the earth the meek inherit, it’s the dirt.”
God doesn’t think like that, though. Gentleness is a trait He commends as godly, useful, and blessed. And it’s not, “blessed are the gentle, for I’ll protect them from their own weakness” or “blessed are the gentle for they’ll do no harm.” Nope. It’s a promise that those who use their power gently will receive an incredible inheritance.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5, all quotes from WEB version)
Using Power Gently
The Greek word translated “gentle” here and “meek” in the King James Version is praus (G4239). Of this and the closely related word prautes (G4239), Spiros Zodhiates says that it’s an “attitude of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute nor resist.” He also references Aristotle as saying the word represents a balance between two extremes: “getting angry without reason” and “never getting angry at all.” Praus is hard to translate because English doesn’t really have a word for gentleness expressed in power, not weakness, but that’s what this word means (Key Word Study Bible).
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29)
Balanced power perfectly submitted to God is a key characteristic of Christ as a meek and gentle person. It’s not really all that commendable if you’re gentle when you’re also incapable of causing harm — you have no choice but to be harmless. But when you have power and you choose to use it gently, that truly means something.
Strength in Weakness
For us, being filled with the power of Jesus Christ is connected to having a submitted spirit. We submit any power we have to Him (while also recognizing our weakness and spiritual helplessness). Then we receive power, which we continue submitting to God by using it in the same way our gentle, meek, Savior would.
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, and in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
It’s incredible to think that power lies in weakness, meekness, and gentleness. That doesn’t make sense from a human perspective, but God specializes in doing things that seem impossible. All the Beatitudes fly in the face of what “makes sense,” and yet God works works even through situations where we seem powerless or hopeless. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” who recognize their own spiritual helplessness. “Blessed are those who mourn,” who take their helplessness and griefs to the God who fully satisfies our needs. And now, “Blessed are the gentle,” who use the power they receive by going to God in a right and proper way.
Heirs to the Kingdom
The idea of inheritance is a key component of the covenants God makes with people. We are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” because we’ve received the spirit of adoption from God (Rom. 8:14-17).
giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. (Col. 1:12-14)
Our inheritance is connected with Christ’s saving power, God’s holy spirit inside us, and with our gentleness. When a certain lawyer asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the law, and expanded on how to love your neighbor with the parable of the good Samaritan. His final instruction to this young lawyer was to tell him to emulate the one person in this story who used the power they had to care for and serve someone else (Luke 10:25-37).
Similarly, the people to whom Jesus will say, “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” are the ones who used their power in gentle ways. They fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, took in strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick, and went to those in prison (Matt. 25:34-40). God cares a great deal about how we use the power we have to interact with the people around us, and He will count those who are gentle among the heirs of His kingdom.
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