An East European newcomer to America in the 1880s took his pregnant wife to the hospital, but during the delivery of two babies, he fainted so his brother was asked by authorities to name them.
“My brother named the kids,” he later moaned. “My brother is a numbskull, an idiot! What did he name the girl?”
“He named her Denise,” was the reply.
“Denise? Well, that’s not such a bad name. I kind of like it. And what did he call the boy?”
One of the names wasn’t so bad. What is a good name? Someone once suggested that as we live we can choose a good name for ourselves. We can’t choose the name we were born with, but we can choose what that name means. Our character is what someone thinks of with our name. “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” (Abraham Lincoln)
One of the great character names in the Bible is the word “meekness.” It’s the third Beatitude in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Meekness is one of the great names God has given to the kind of character He wants us to develop. Usually when we think of meekness, we think of the “Caspar Milktoast” type of person who is so timid that when he walks into the room everyone feels as if someone just left.
Actually the word meekness can have several different meanings. First, we look at the original word in the Greek language, “praos.” The biblical scholar Gerald Heard says, “They used this word for wild animals that had been trained and tamed, for wild horses which had been made able to work with men.”
The great church reformer, Martin Luther, translated this phrase, “Blessed are the sweet-tempered.” The French New Testament translates this phrase, “blessed are the Debonair.” Debonair means courteous and gracious. I like debonair; it sounds a lot better than meek. If we put these definitions together, we might say, “Blessed are the God-tamed, God-tempered and God gracious, for they shall receive what the earth has to offer.”
Sometimes it seems like the pushy, arrogant, selfish, evildoers will succeed in gaining the world. God tells us it’s not that kind who will receive his blessing. We might put it this way: The world is like a banquet table. God invites everyone to come. Some aren’t too well mannered. They try to hog all the best stuff. They are grabby, pushy, and rude. For that kind, there is no blessing. They won’t be served until they learn to be gracious and meek. God begins to treat us like heirs in His family when we learn to behave like guests.
God wants the meek, not the kind of meekness we think of as timid and bashful. These meek are the ‘Clark Kent’ type, mild and mannered, but underneath they are the Supermen and Superwomen of the world.
Prayer: Our Lord, sometimes it seems like the wicked will get it all. Help us not to worry about that, but only to watch our own manners and walk humbly with you as guests on this earth. Amen
The Rev. Dan Safarik recently retired as a full-time pastor at St. Luke Methodist Church in Lincoln and now serves part time at St. Mark’s UMC in Lincoln. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.