(Lowliness and Meekness)
By Larry White
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."
I would like to explain these two words so that we can get a better understanding of what they mean.
I.) Lowliness = Gr. (tapeinofrosunh) tapeinophrosune, is humbleness, it comes from the root word that means "not rising far from the ground." It means "having a humble opinion of one's self; a deep sense of one's (moral) littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind." (Thayer)
It's not thinking of yourself as little and lowly when you know you're really not. It's not making yourself small because you know you're great. But it's thinking truly of ourselves, esteeming ourselves small because we are small.
1.) We are small because we were created. We're not self-made and sufficient in and of ourselves.
Know you that Jehovah he [is] God: [it is] he [that] has made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
We are his sheep. We are dependent on God for our existence and for our living. He feeds us and supplies everything we have. If we are completely dependent upon God, we shouldn't think of ourselves as being very high, as if we can do it all ourselves. We come before his throne as the creature, having nothing, but receiving all things from God.
We're not God (I am that I am) self-sufficient, self-existent.
Oliver Wendell Holmes was quoted as saying, "Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God." That's also the secret of humility.
2.) The other reason why we're small is because we're sinners. Humility is admitting and confessing our true condition. There's no way we can be righteous on our own.
And he spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men [are], extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
We're all sinners and the only righteousness we have is our faith in Jesus Christ who died so that our sins could be forgiven. (!) That's our true condition. Jesus took the blame for us so that we could be blameless. There's nothing to boast about there. Jesus died in my place when it was me who committed the crime.
The only thing we have left is a plea for mercy - that's the humble heart; the one who is keenly aware of it's lack of strength and resources and who admits that lack; who confesses his sins and places his whole concern into the hands of God.
II.) The next word I want to look at is Meekness. Gr. (praoteV) praotes.
W.E. Vine in his dictionary says, "praotes, denotes "meekness." In its use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance than in non-scriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person's "outward behavior only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word tapeinophrosune [humility], and follows directly upon it, Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; cp. the adjectives in the Sept. of Zeph. 3:12, "meek and lowly;" ... it is only the humble heart which is also the meek, and which, as such, does not fight against God and more or less struggle and contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of His elect" (Trench, Syn. xlii). In Gal. 5:23 it is associated with enkrateia, "self-control."
The meaning of prautes "is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas prautes does nothing of the kind. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a rendering less open to objection than 'meekness'; 'gentleness' has been suggested, but as prautes describes a condition of mind and heart, and as 'gentleness' is appropriate rather to actions, this word is no better than that used in both English Versions. It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was 'meek' because he had the infinite resources of God at His command. Described negatively, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all."
Most modern translations render it "gentleness" which is unfortunate, for we lose the meaning of this rich word and will not be able to recognize it when we see it in others or ourselves, which is highly important.
Most people look at meekness as weakness, or very mild mannered. This isn't necessarily so. A good illustration of meekness is found in:
And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Has Jehovah indeed spoken only by Moses? has he not spoken also by us? And Jehovah heard [it]. (Now the man Moses [was] very meek, above all the men which [were] upon the face of the earth.) And Jehovah spoke suddenly to Moses, and unto Aaron, and to Miriam, Come out you three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.
Moses was meek, implying that Miriam and Aaron were not meek. They were asserting themselves and trying to take over in authority. But Moses was meek. That's why God chose him to be a leader. Moses wasn't asserting himself, he wasn't on any kind of EGO trip, but he was placing himself under the authority of God. So meekness, is having a mind and heart that is subject to authority. Far from being weak - meekness is a strength.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the Christ is his meekness.
Tell you the daughter of Zion, Look, your King comes unto you, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
Jesus always acknowledged that he was under authority to God.
Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am [he], and [that] I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
Jesus wasn't putting himself forward. He was just doing what God had told him to do. When he was confronted with the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees, he would discount what they said in preference to what God had said. Meekness doesn't weakly submit itself to anybody and everybody - but it submits itself to the proper authority.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
"Receive with meekness", that's the person who has submitted his will to God as the proper authority. The easiest person in the world to teach is the meek one, the one who wants to do what God says. The hardest, is the one that you have to convince over and over again that this is what God would have them do. They aren't meek.
When we teach someone we need also to show meekness.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Meekness and reverence...you do not tell them about your hope as if you are the authority, but with the attitude of being in subjection to the truth yourself, with meekness. (Giving a Bible answer to a Bible question)
Meekness does not need the respect of men. Our Lord and Master never received such.
Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit. A spiritual man does not cater to or bow to men. To the world, meekness looks like arrogance. But the meek submit to God first and foremost, not to men.
- Remember Mordecai in the book of Esther who would not bow to Haman? Mordecai was meek.
- Aaron and Miriam thought Moses was being high and mighty. Moses was meek.
- The worldly leaders of the Jews thought Jesus was out of line. "Who do you make yourself out to be?" Who do you think you are? But Jesus was meek, saying what the Father told him to say, doing what the Father told him to do.
A meek person will not judge the hearts of other people. Why? Because the only one that can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart is God. That is his domain, not ours.
- So, what do you think was the motive behind what that person said to you the other day? What should you think? Nothing.
- What should you think about all those people down there who just passed you by and gave you the cold shoulder? Nothing.
You might think that that takes a great discipline of mind. No, just meekness. You just trust in God and leave it to him. That's his domain. Always remember, when you assign bad motives to people, that evil thought, that bad motive originated from your own heart first.
III.) The relationship between these two words (Lowliness and Meekness) is that you can't have one without the other. Meekness rests on a foundation of lowliness of mind.
The opposite of meekness is arrogance, self assertiveness in the face of an authority, especially God. That's why lowliness, or humbleness of mind has to be there for us to have the character of meekness. Look at Christ's invitation to us.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.
Take his yoke upon you. That's something we have to be meek to do. (Oxen are meek though extremely strong)
"For I am meek and lowly in heart." He's saying that, "In my capacity, I have borne the yoke that was laid upon me." Look at the relationship his meekness and lowliness has to what Paul says about him.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, did not think it was robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
He found himself in the low estate of a creature and so humbled himself and became obedient. (That's the result of being meek) Now we should have the same attitude. We are men who have been created. We should recognize our low estate and humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God who made us. That's Lowliness and Meekness.
IV.) Now, the world isn't like this at all.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in your sight.
When the long awaited Messiah of the Jews, the Holy One of God, finally came to Israel, he didn't seek out the mighty leaders or the wise rulers and counselors of the people to deliver to them the riches of the promised kingdom. He sought out the lowliest of the people, the meek ones - mere babes in comparison to their rulers.
But why was this pleasing to God? The world is arrogant and very wise. Through their fleshly, human reasoning, they've worked it all out. They have the wisdom of the world, and you can't tell them anything. But where their wisdom has led, is to the dehumanization of man and they have either made God a thing or denied that he even exists at all. The proud fleshly mind, the sophisticated intellect, is unable in and of itself to find God.
Paul talks about this in
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.
God has ordered his wisdom and clothed it in the garb of what is foolish, so that he might destroy the pompous, fleshly wisdom of the world. "That no flesh should glory in his presence."
But still, there must be a reason why he did this. Is God on some selfish EGO trip, finding delight in frustrating man's intellect and reason, just so man will be wrong no matter what he does? Is God's wisdom purely arbitrary?
Flesh, here, is the idea of man's human nature and reasoning taken by itself without reference to his Godly image in his spirit. The flesh is where the things of this physical, worldly life are sought after to satisfy our lusting members with the pleasures of the earth. It's where pride and position and power are the most important things.
It reminds me of a commercial long ago with James Coburn. Their slogan was "Master Card International: so worldly, so welcome, so wise." Said with a sly grin.
But the mind of the flesh is death. (Rom.8:6) It's diametrically opposed to the spirit. That's why God has rejected it. "If you live according to the flesh...you'll die. But if you , through the spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, you'll live."(Rom.8:13)
The spiritual mind is humble, not proud, it's not sophisticated and worldly. Jesus points to the little children and says, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt.19:14) If we want to have a spiritual mind and grow into an effective member of Christ's kingdom; here Jesus points for us the way.
The hardened, callous, manly, sophisticated, adult hearts of the world, can't receive the things of the spirit - to them they're foolish.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; so that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual [men]. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
The soft, humble, meek and child-like heart can receive the things of the spirit, because this kind of heart can believe and trust and can see; it's not blinded by the corruption in the world.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and should understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed [are] your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
That's why Jesus picked these men; because they were lowly in heart, they were unspoiled by the world. That's why James says that pure religion is.... "to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jam.1:27) That's why you have the constant condition of coming to God of repentance; of circumcising our hearts; of humbling ourselves. If we don't we can't come near to God.
V.) Do we want this church to grow? Do we want our members to be great in the kingdom, spiritual giants? Look what Jesus advises.
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the middle of them, And said, Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
When in the church we have problems in the congregation - with everyone trying to outdo each other in humility, then the problems will be easy to handle. Paul said in (Phil.2:3) "..in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves."
Looking at the other term: Meekness. In Gal.5:23, the fruit of the spirit is meekness. If we all submit ourselves to the proper authority, which is the word of God, and not rally under the banner of any man, then we'll truly be spiritual, and there won't be any factions in the church.
Not many wise after the flesh are called, not many mighty of the world are called. You can't be mighty and "macho" in the world and be of the spirit. The spiritual mind is holy and meek; humble and contrite. Only these "little ones" can see and hear. Only the contrite ones can dwell with God.
For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name [is] Holy; I dwell in the high and holy [place], with him also [that is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
We need to take stock of how much the world has had an effect on us. The world's influence will harden us to the things of the spirit. We need to keep aware of our hearts condition.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
The hardening here is the opposite of the soft and contrite heart with which we started out. If in the future we should find ourselves puffing up in pride - being provoked easily to a fit of anger and rage over some little thing - it should alarm us that something's wrong; we've lost our humbleness of mind. Or when we find that we can just take or leave the services of the church and it doesn't matter whether we're there or not, and when we really do not care what the Bible says on the subject - there should be bells going off in our heads - we've lost our meekness.
What do we do when we find ourselves in that condition?
You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do you think that the scripture says in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy? But he gives more grace. Wherefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [you] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [you] double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
We can change. We can add these attributes to our hearts.
In (Zeph.2:3) meekness is something we should seek.
In (Col.3:12) Paul tells us to put on humbleness of mind and meekness.
In (1Tim.6:11) he tells Timothy to follow after meekness.
These are things we need to concentrate on and pursue and add to our hearts.
After Jesus had spoken of the little child in Mark 10, there came a rich, young, ruler asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said to him, "One thing you lack, go and sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come, follow me." He was unwilling to do this, and went away sorrowful.
What in all was Jesus asking this young man to give up? Money? Yes. But is that all? Along with his money would go his power, his pride, his position in the world. Jesus is asking him to give up his Master Card and what it represents. He would have to give up the world. Jesus is asking him to become a little child again; to give up all his prestige, his mature, sophisticated, social standing among his peers.
To be in the spirit, that's what we have to give up also. We have to give up the fleshly lusts and the fleshly wisdom.
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He takes the wise in their own craftiness."
The way we develop and then maintain a spiritual mind and godly attitude is by submitting ourselves to God.
Lowliness says, "He is the creator and provider, I am the creature. I am the sinner, he is the merciful savior."
Meekness says, "Since I find myself in this lowly estate, I'm going to submit myself to the proper authority - which is God, and rejoice in his righteous judgments."
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR. June 17, 1984