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”