Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Understanding What "Meek and Quiet" Actually Means

 By: Rebekah Hargraves



Photo Courtesy Of: Aaron Burden


"Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes, but rather what is inside the heart—the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

~1 Peter 3:3-4


For a long time, when in the midst of my years-long legalistic season, I held to a very wrong understanding and interpretation of this passage. My firm assumption was that I had to go around speaking as Michelle Duggar does, with a quiet, gentle, calm tone of voice at all times, or else I was guilty of living a life of disobedience to Peter’s admonition here.

The result was that I tried my hardest to stuff away my true personality – a personality that tends to be given to excitement, chattiness, exuberance, talking fast, and sometimes talking rather loudly. I viewed my personality in these ways to be sinful, to somehow maybe even be evidence of a mistake made by God. After all – if God made me to be an easily excited person, but in order to express that personality I would have to supposedly go against this passage from  Peter,  then had God maybe set me up to sin?

Of course the idea of God setting us up to sin is preposterous, and yet I had no other answer for my conundrum. So, for years, I continued on in my mission to do the best I could at reining my excitement and passion in, and instead purposed to speak in a subdued manner, believing that that is what it looked like to be obedient to 1 Peter 3:4.

You can imagine, then, what freedom I felt when I discovered that my interpretation had been wrong all along!

CONTEXT IS KING

There were two things that were incredibly helpful to me and truly key in opening my eyes to an actually biblical and accurate understanding of this passage. The first was backing up and paying attention to its larger context. The context of these two verses is that Peter is addressing a situation in which a Christian wife is living with an unbelieving husband – it has nothing whatsoever to do with personality tests or the exact decibel level at which you speak.

What we have to understand is that in the culture of the day, an unbelieving husband could put his wife out of the house, thereby rendering her destitute, if he didn’t like her newfound beliefs. He could divorce her, abandon her, or replace her with a new wife, all in the name of defending himself against her newfound worldview.

This is why Peter writes in this same chapter, in verses 5-6, “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” 

Peter was telling these women to be unafraid of what their unbelieving husbands might do to them, and to instead seek to win their husbands over with a Christlike gentleness. They weren’t to live in fear of what might happen, nor were they to beat their husbands over the head with their newfound beliefs. Instead, Peter instructs them to “be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct” (verses 1-2). Part of this chaste conduct was their living with a “meek and quiet” spirit, a spirit that was neither judgmental and harsh towards unbelievers, nor a trembling, anxious, fearful spirit in the face of an unknown future.

DIGGING INTO THE GREEK

The second thing I did that I found helpful in coming to an accurate understanding of 1 Peter 3:4 is something I always encourage you to do when studying the Bible for yourself: dig into the original languages in which it was written (Blue Letter Bible makes this incredibly easy to do!). When I took the time to do so with this passage, I discovered that my newfound assumption that meek and quiet was referring to being gentle, kind, and unafraid was, in fact, true.

The Greek word translated “meek” is “praus“, and it literally means “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit.” This confirms what we have already seen about Peter encouraging wives to win their husbands over to the Lord through their Christlike behavior, rather than through their judgmental words or by attempting to force them to believe.

The Greek word translated “quiet” is “h─ôsychios“, and it literally means, “undisturbed, peaceable, tranquil”. This confirms what we have seen about Peter encouraging these Christians wives to remain unafraid and at peace, even in the face of what their unbelieving husbands may do as a result of their newfound faith.

So, what does all this mean? What does it actually mean to have a “meek and quiet” spirit?

LIVING OUT A MEEK AND QUIET SPIRIT

Having a meek and quiet spirit has much more to do with what is going on in your heart than it does the outward picture you are presenting. It has very little to do with the decibel level at which you speak or whether or not you are ever excited. You can seem meek and quiet on the outside, while harboring within a spirit that is anything but!

What having a “meak and quiet spirit” actually means is that you go through life largely at peace. You do not fear the future, because you know your God. You do not wring your hands and fret, because you know the character of the One you serve. You do not grow antsy and afraid, rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off, because you know Who wins in the end, and you know He holds you in the palm of His hand.

Having a meek and quiet spirit looks like being gentle (in fact, the word “meek” is translated as “gentle” in the vast majority of the other English translations of the Bible!). It looks like living out the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of love, patience, kindness, and self-control. It looks like being humble and compassionate, understanding and empathetic. It looks like being slow to speak and quick to listen (see James 1:19-20). It looks like living out true love per 1 Corinthians 13.

All of these characteristics, my friend, are things you can live out whether you, by personality, are largely loud and outspoken or quiet and calm. This is a passage you can obey, follow, and implement into your daily life whether you have a lot of words or few, whether you are easily excitable or a stedfast, laid back soul.

Having a meek and quiet spirit has very little to do with your personality, and everything to do with your view of God. That’s really great news for all of us, amen? This means that we can be faithful to live out this passage whether we tend to be more loud and boisterous by nature, or whether you could almost hear a pin drop when we do finally open our mouths. As long as you are not sinning, you are completely free to live out your own unique God-given personality, because 1 Peter 3:4 is not about the volume at which you speak – it is all about whether or not you trust the God you claim to serve and are seeking to walk in His loving ways.


Reflection Questions:

1) What did you learn today? What wrong ideas have you had about what it means to have a meek and quiet spirit?


2) How can you cultivate a meek and quiet spirit? What steps do you need to take?

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