Meekness Misunderstood: the strength of πραΰς

…Which in God’s Sight is Very Precious…

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4 ESV

It was early Tuesday morning and the Almighty Maker of the universe —  nebulae, planets, gravity, magnetism, ocean creatures, majestic mountains, beauty and grandeur that leave me breathless in awe– had just revealed that there is something in the heart of a woman that He finds very precious. Something that radiates with a beauty that never fades. He says that it is a gentle, quiet, meek spirit.

In the ESV translation above, the word “gentle” is the Greek word πραΰς, meaning “gentle, mild, meek”, which also appears in Matthew 5:5 and 21:5. Other translations (KJV, for example) render this word as “meek” in English.

So, what is meekness and how do I get it?

Called to what?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the word:

1.) enduring injury with patience and without resentment: MILD

2.) deficient in spirit and courage: SUBMISSIVE

3.) not violent or strong: MODERATE

Here comes the pause in my reading, the calm before the storm of questions and protests. The something that is worth a great price in God’s sight… that something is meekness? Deficient. Lacking in spirit. Cowardly. Weak.

Here comes the storm.

Surly God isn’t calling me to that! Doesn’t Proverbs 31 say an excellent wife is clothed with strength and dignity? Do Peter and King Lemuel need to go argue it out somewhere? Worse yet, is the Bible contradicting itself? How is meekness strength and not weakness?

Interpreted through a dictionary or, worse yet, a mere cultural understanding (i.e. out of context), even Christian men and women can assume that a meek, gentle, and quiet wife (or woman) is demure, placid, complying, mousy, non-opinionated, non-problematic, and sweet.

You-keep-using-that-word

 

Your King 

πραΰς (prä-ü’s) is the same word the references Jesus Christ in Matthew 21:5 (in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9).

“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your King comes to you, πραΰς and riding on a donkey, and on a foal, the colt of a donkey.”

The first part of Zechariah 9 reveals God’s vengeance on the nations who defy him and trample his people. To them, he is not meek. However, when he comes to his people — who have also disobeyed him — he does so in a spirit of meekness, forgiveness, restoration, and peace.

In Matthew 21, Jesus is entering Jerusalem, surrounded by shouts of praise, knowing this visit ends in rejection and the weight of the Father’s wrath against our sin. He comes meekly — in obedience to the Father’s will — ready to bear injury from his creation with forgiveness.

As recounted in Matthew 21, after arriving in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Father, Jesus also drove out the money changers in the temple, overturning their tables. Yet, a few days later, he was the lamb silent before his shearers. In all this, he was meek before God the Father, obedient even unto death.

Meekness responds to others out of obedience to the Father, not out of lack of courage.

When Christ calls us to meekness and gentleness, he is not only calling us to exhibit a quality his Holy Spirit has put in our hearts. He is calling us to reflect his own nature.  The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit bears the fruit of meekness. This is strength of Spirit, not deficiency.

The strength of meekness, however, is not the strength of spirit the world immediately values. Meekness is not grasping, nor is it concerned with self. It is completely reliant on God, not fearful. Meekness walks in obedience, as Christ did, completely trusting in the Father. Meekness submits a fallen self-will to the Father’s perfect one.

“Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Gal 5:23).” blueletterbible.org

Blessed are the Meek…

Blessed are the πραΰς, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness, then, is a quality for all believers that brings blessing through an eternal inheritance.  A meek believer does not obey Scripture with a bleak outlook, but with hope. The earth belongs to God and it is in his power and pleasure to gift it as an inheritance to those who walk in meekness.

Meekness endures persecution without exacting vengeance, walks in obedience to God without resentment, acts with patience, speaks without harshness of spirit, and is open to wisdom. (For a more in-depth look at Matthew 5:5, see John Piper’s valuable article here.)

πραΰς

One of wonderful things about Scripture is that the more I learn, the more I realize there is to know.  πραΰς is only one word, one fruit of the Spirit, and I feel I could keep learning for the rest of my life.

But back to Tuesday and 1 Peter 3.

πραΰς does not signify a certain personality of a compliant wife, but a certain disposition toward her Heavenly Father. As with all believers, women who adorn themselves with πραΰς are focused first and foremost on their God, who has promised them their inheritance. The Spirit himself strengthens wives for many acts of obedience to God, including submission to their husbands without resentment. They hope in God, and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:5).

I am not a wife, but I am still called to πραΰς. I have not been called (as of yet) to submit to a husband, but there are limitless ways I can show the unfading beauty of a gentle, quiet, meek spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

Hope in God, not marital status.

Forgive when I’d rather hold a grudge.

Rejoice with others’ gifts when I’d rather be envious.

Respond with a kind word when I’d rather retaliate.

Be patient and thankful when I’d rather complain.

Trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding.

Seek first His kingdom, and not my own (on social media, at work, or anywhere else).

Value and obey Scripture, not the demands of culture.

Have we learned the meekness which understands the power of patience, of quiet waiting on God, and the futility of employing massive methods to get our own way? What about the reverence that trusts God’s hidden, seemingly slow, working out of his own mysterious purposes? Impatience hardens. -Elizabeth Elliot “Keep A Quiet Heart”

In bloom

Dark clouds are gathering to the north, the setting sun gleams golden to the west, and the first lily has bloomed in the back flower bed.

A reminder that God provides.

Matthew 6:25-34 Be not therefore anxious…

True Testimony

“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain in the temple was torn two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” Matthew 27:50-52

Saturday Song: Crown Him with Many Crowns/Rejoice the Lord is King

I spent a good part of today lost in a new book, a new story. One theme was the corruptible natural of man — even a good one — when lured by the possibility of absolute power.

Tonight, one of the things about God’s nature that I love is his incorruptibility — that he was tempted, yet was without sin. As tonight’s hymns reflect, we can rejoice that he alone is king, the matchless king throughout all eternity because his goodness can never be altered by absolute power.

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

  • Refrain:
    Jesus paid it all,
    All to Him I owe;
    Sin had left a crimson stain,
    He washed it white as snow.     — Evelina M. Hall

Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul and sing
Of Him Who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side—
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends His wond’ring eye
At mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of life!
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
Who rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit through Him giv’n
From yonder glorious throne,
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died;
Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days
Adored and magnified.       — Matthew Bridges

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,
And triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains
He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail,
He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope!
Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up
To their eternal home;
We soon shall hear th’ archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!   — Charles Wesley

 

By God’s Grace, arranged and played by Katie