“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:19-22 (ESV)
How we approach the Word of God is vitally important! Just opening our Bible isn’t enough. When we approach the truths of God’s Word, the above verses teach that we are to do so with an attitude of meekness.
Meekness is a word greatly misunderstood in our society, where it is often equated to weakness or deficiency in spirit and courage. Because of this misconception, in most modern versions of the Bible, the Greek word the New Testament uses for meekness is usually translated gentleness. The above passage is one of the few where meekness is used – frankly because “gentleness” would make no sense in James 1:21. Other versions translate the Greek word as “in humility” or “humbly,” which is a characteristic of those who are meek but actually misses the full meaning of the word.
The Greek word “prautes,” as it is used in the Bible, is the condition of heart and mind with which we are to approach God and His Word.
- Meekness is the way Jesus lived while He was on earth, always following the instructions the Father gave Him. “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49)
- Meekness is a characteristic Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
- Meekness is one of the attributes Paul encourages us to put on as God’s people. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” (Colossians 3:12)
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, one of my favorite Bible study tools, defines meekness as “an inwrought grace of the soul” – in other words, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23, translated “gentleness” but the same Greek word) – that is exercised first and foremost towards God. Vines goes on to say, “It is that temper of spirit with which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, the author of a recent study our God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness group did on Choosing Gratitude, contrasts meekness and pride using the the following words.
“You see, meekness says, ‘I know that God has His reasons, and it doesn’t matter whether I can see the reason or not.’ But the proud heart, the poisoned heart, says, ‘It should have been done differently. I see no reason for this; therefore, God should not have done this.’”
She adds about meekness as our attitude toward God’s Word, “It’s able to cleanse us, to renew us, to transform our lives. But it does none of that if we don’t receive it, if we resist what it says, if we don’t have a teachable and humble and open spirit to the Word of God.”
God’s desire is to “implant” the Word of God in our hearts, where it will take root and grow. And for that to happen, we must approach our Bible reading and study time with an attitude of meekness, with a willingness to listen and then do what God is teaching us. Sometimes that means allowing His Word to encourage us during a difficult season, other times it will correct us when we’ve left the path God is calling us to walk, sometimes it will warn us of a danger ahead if we don’t deal with a wrong attitude.