The Third Beatitude

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

In our modern English idiom the word, “meek”, is hardly one of the honorable words of life.
In these days, it carries with it an idea of spinelessness, and subservience, and mean-spiritedness.
It paints the picture of a submissive and ineffective person.
But it so happens that the word, “meek”, in Greek, "praus," was one of the great Greek, ethical words.

Aristotle has a great deal to say about the quality of meekness (praotis).
It was Aristotle's method to define every virtue as the mean between two extremes.
On the one hand, there was the extreme of excess; on the other hand there was the extreme of defect;
and in between, there was the virtue itself -- the happy medium.

An example would be on the one extreme there is the spendthrift; on the other extreme there is the miser;
and in between there is the generous man.

 Aristotle defines meekness, "praotes", as the mean between "orgilotes", which means excessive anger,
and "aorgesia", which means "excessive angerlessness."
Praotes, meekness, as Aristotle saw it, is the happy medium between too much and too little anger.

And so the first possible translation of this beatitude is:
"Blessed is the man who is always angry at the right time, and never angry at the wrong time."

If we ask what the right time and the wrong time are, we may say as a general rule for life that
it is never right to be angry for any insult or injury done to ourselves.
That is something that no Christian must ever resent; but that it is often right to be angry at injuries done to other people.
Selfish anger is always a sin; selfless anger can be one of the great moral dynamics of the world.

But the word, "praus", has a second standard Greek usage.
It is the regular word for an animal which has been domesticated, which has been trained to obey
the word of command, which has learned to answer to the reins.
It is the word for an animal which has learned to accept control.

So the second possible translation of this beatitude is:
"Blessed is the man who has every instinct, every impulse, every passion under control.
Blessed is the man who is entirely self-controlled."

The moment we have stated that, we see we need to adjust that.
It is not so much the blessing of the man who is self-controlled, for such complete self-control is beyond human capacity.
Rather, it is the blessing of the man who is completely God-controlled. for only in His service
that we find our perfect freedom, and in doing His will that we find perfect peace.

But there is still a third possible way to approach this beatitude.

The Greeks always contrasted they quality which they called, "praotes", and which the King James Version translates, "meekness", with the quality which they called, hupselokardia, which means lofty-heartedness.
In "praotes" there is true humility which banishes all pride.

Without humility a man cannot learn, for the first step to learning is the realization of our own ignorance.
Quintilian, the great Roman teacher of oratory, said of certain of his scholars,
"They would no doubt be excellent students, if they were not already convinced of their own knowledge."

No one can teach the man who knows it all already.

Without humility there can be no such thing as love, for the very beginning of love is a sense of unworthiness.
Without humility there can be no true religion. for all true religion begins with a realization of our own weakness
and of our need for God.
Man reaches only true manhood when he is always conscious that he is the creature
and that God is the Creator, and that without God he can do nothing.

Praotes describes humility as the acceptance of the necessity to learn and of the necessity to be forgiven.
It describes man's only proper attitude to God.

So then, the third possible translation of this beatitude is:
"Blessed is the man who has the humility to know his own ignorance, his own weakness, and his own need."

It is this meekness, Jesus says, which will inherit the earth.
It is the fact of history that it has always been the men with this gift of self-control,
the men with their passions, and instincts, and impulses under discipline, who have been great.

In the Book of Numbers says that Moses was the greatest leader and the greatest law-giver the world has ever seen:
"Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3)

Moses was not a weak milk and water character.
He was not spineless.
Moses could be blazingly angry; but he was also a man whose anger was on the leash,
only to be released when the time was right.

The writer of Proverbs says: "He that rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city." (Proverbs.16:32)

It was the lack of that very quality which ruined Alexander the Great, who, in a fit of uncontrolled temper
in the middle of a drunken debauch, hurled a spear at his best friend and killed him.

No man can lead others until he has mastered himself.
No man can serve others until he has subjected himself.
No man can be in control of others until he has learned to control himself.
But the man who gives himself into the complete control of God will gain this meekness
which will indeed enable him to inherit the earth.

It is clear that this word, praus, means far more than the English word meek means today.
It is also clear that there is no one English word which will translate it, although perhaps the word, "gentle",
comes close to it.

What should we do to be possessed of this excellent grace of meekness?

We shoulld look more often upon the meekness of Christ.
The scholar that would write well has his eye often upon the copy.

We should pray earnestly that God will meeken our spirit.
God is called ‘the God of all grace.’ (1 Peter 5:10).
He has all the graces in His gift.

Go to God for this grace of meekness.
Mercy comes in at the door of prayer.
I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them." (Ezekiel 36:26, 37)

Meekness is the commodity we should want and need.
Let us pray in faith for the grace of meekness.
All of God's divine blessings come to us through this golden channel of prayer.

The full translation of this third beatitude should read:

"O the bliss of the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time,
who has every instinct, and impulse, and passion under control because he himself is God-controlled,
who has the humility to realize his own ignorance and his own weakness,
for such a man is a king among men

This concludes the study of the third Beatitude.