Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Matthew 5:5

Who the Meek Are Not by Mary Karr

Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
in the rice-paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
nun says we misread
that word
meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.
To understand the meek
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
in a meadow, who—
at his master’s voice— seizes up to a stunned
but instant halt.
So with the strain of holding that great power
in check, the muscles
along the arched neck keep eddying,
and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order.

I love this poem by Mary Karr, which describes the word meek, used by Jesus in the beatitudes, so well. The beatitudes are the assigned gospel reading this coming Sunday for those of us using the Revised Common Lectionary and celebrating All Saints’ Sunday. So they are very much on my mind. In the third beatitude, Jesus blesses the meek. But what does that mean? As this poem reminds us, when Jesus blesses the meek, he is not blessing those who are weak, but those who are willing to be led by God. The meek that Jesus blesses are the great stallions who await the next order, strong but obedient. The word obedient or obey literally mean “to listen toward,” which is also what the meek do. We listen toward, eagerly awaiting the next Divine order.

The meek are, to put it another way, like Jesus, who describes himself as meek later in Matthew’s Gospel. It is usually translated as gentle in Matthew 11, but the Greek word is the same: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

We are to be meek like Jesus, in other words, like the great stallion who is our Savior, and who wanted nothing more than to fulfill his heavenly Father’s will. Blessed are all who are meek in this way, who have their “ears pricked forward, awaiting the next order.” 

Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

James 1:21

I first encountered Mark Karr’s poem in this collection of poetry edited by D.S. Martin: “Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry.”

2 thoughts on “Who the Meek Are Not

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