Matthew 5:5 commentary on being meek in the Bible
Peterson: “Be a monster”?
Professor and psychologist Jordan Peterson sparked controversy with his interpretation of the term “meek” in Matthew 5:5, relating it to exercising restraint with weapons.
He said, “Meek is not a good translation,” the better interpretation is “those who have swords and know how to use them, but keep them sheathed, shall inherit the earth.”
Peterson suggests that rather than being submissive or weak; we should strive to be “monsters” in terms of our capabilities and strengths, but with the ability to control and restrain them.
In this context, being meek could mean harnessing our power and prowess while maintaining self-control—not timidity. We see similar patterns in other verses.
The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth.
The intention of the word πρᾶος (prah-oos)
The Greek word used for meek in the Bible is πρᾶος (prah-oos). It is a typical Greek word that means “soft, gentle, mild-mannered.” But it can also refer to animals that have been tamed, submissive, or broken in.
Wild stallions were captured from the mountains and carefully broken in for various purposes. Some were employed to pull wagons, others were raced, and the finest were trained for warfare, but these horses retained their fierce spirit, courage, and power.
Yet they were also disciplined (tamed) to respond to the subtlest cues or pressures from the rider’s leg.
They could gallop into battle at up to 35 miles per hour and come to a sudden stop upon command. They were not easily frightened by arrows, spears, or torches. Therefore, they were considered “meeked” or “tamed.”
Power under control is meekness
To be “meeked” meant to be taken from a state of wild rebellion and transformed into complete loyalty and dependence on one’s master. It also entailed being taken from an atmosphere of fear and becoming unflinching in the face of danger.
Some war horses would plunge from ravines into rivers in pursuit of their prey, while others would charge fearlessly toward exploding cannons, as Lord Tennyson described in his poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
These stallions became submissive yet far from weak-willed. They embodied power under control and strength with patience.
Apostle Paul: self-control in all things
The apostle Paul sums up what true meekness is. He exercised self-control in all things. Having been blessed with weapons of spiritual gifts and revelation, Paul disciplines his body to keep it under control yet remain gentle.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things… So I do not run aimlessly or box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified.
2 Corinthians 10:1
I, Paul, myself entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…
The meekness of Jesus
Jesus Christ is described as meek in the Bible, yet He demonstrated great strength and courage. In His meekness, Jesus had the self-control and humility to face conflict and death.
Whatever the translation of the word meek used in Matthew 5:5, scripture consistently tells us not to be weak or timid but to practice restraint, honor, and self-discipline.
Behold, I send you out as sheep amid wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
2 Timothy 1:7
God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.