Meekness Must Not Become Weakness

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On Mathew 5:5 and reconsidering what it means.

What is it to be meek? Mathew 5:5 is one of the few passages modern people have bothered to learn by heart. It reads: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.” But what is meekness?

A popular modern interpretation would have us believe that meek = pacifistic. But in Numbers 12:3 Moses is also described as being meek — and Moses certainly was no pacifist. Moses’ first act in manhood was to kill an Egyptian soldier (Exodus 2:12) for injuring one of his kinsmen. Here is Moses, Prince of Egypt his entire life, happy to trade it all for an exile’s cloak to kill a man who was only doing what all other Egyptian soldiers had done for centuries — because he was doing it to a blood relative of Moses. That’s not a pacifist.

Some translations of the Bible even use the word “gentle” in Mathew 5:5 and in Numbers 2:3 where the King James Version uses “meek”. The distinction is worth considering. After Moses’ covenant, he never became a pacifist, he tempered his violence. This is an important distinction: Moses continued to have the powers of war and he willingly chose not to use them. He did not hastily unsheathe his sword. Moses became ‘gentle’.

What is it to be gentle? It’s not the same as being pacifistic and it’s certainly not the same as being weak. An insect is not ‘gentle’ because it has no power to harm and an infant is not ‘gentle’ likewise. They’re simply weak and vulnerable. Gentleness is what a horse possesses who consents to be ridden by a child when it could easily kick and maim him. Gentle is a dog, who, though possessing every essential inheritance of the wolf, has tamed himself to be yielding to everything except what may harm his loved ones.

The ‘gentle/meek’ inherit the Earth because they possess such controlled power that they never need to unsheathe their sword. It is the possession of power and the temperance not to use it.

What about pacifism then? Does “meek” or perhaps “gentle”, the translation I prefer, imply pacifism? Those who believe that it does point to Christ as their example. But Christ was never a true pacifist in the liberal sense: he was selective in his willingness to use violence in resistance.

Christ was ‘gentle’, the correct reading of the word ‘meek’, therefore he was unwilling to use violence against Caesar’s soldiers, but he was willing to use violence against the money changers. The distinction is important: Christ was unresistant to what he could not change (Caesar’s Law) and resisting towards what he could change (evil — profligacy).

Therefore, Christ was no pacifist in the liberal sense, and Moses was certainly no pacifist in any sense. Their “meekness” was not weakness. Those who insist in believing that meekness (do you understand why ‘gentleness’ is the superior translation?) means pacifism — I challenge you to name me one true pacifist from the Bible other than Abel. There is your pacifist paragon — one whose blood cries out because he leaves no descendants.

There is no good reason for believing that God wants a world of Cains and Abels.