Meekness (gentleness, NKJV) is so important that it is the third characteristic Jesus mentions in His foundational teaching, the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). Obviously, the world's ideal of the perfect man is very different from His. The meek are among those so favored that they will share in Jesus' inheritance of the earth.
He was not the first to state the importance of meekness, but He was the first to collect, in what we call the Beatitudes, a God-authored, organized list of the characteristics of the perfect man. Others have made lists of outstanding virtues, but Jesus' list is unique in that He relates them to the Kingdom of God and in the depth and breadth of what He meant.
How can this be, though? Given how modern man considers those who are meek, His statement about meekness is almost incomprehensible. The world would word this, "Blessed are the strong, who can hold their own." The world favors more conspicuous and so-called heroic virtues. Those who are strongly—almost fiercely—competitive, aggressive, and assertive are the ones who receive recognition, admiration, and reward. Do they not seem to end up on top of the pile, possessing the most and best despite other obvious and perhaps even offensive flaws in their character?
On the surface, this beatitude seems to have little meaning, and what there is seems to contradict the plain facts of everyday life. No sensible person, looking about the world or studying history, could sincerely accept it at face value. Unfortunately, many Christians have ignored it in practice, perhaps regretting that no doubt it should be true, but that it certainly is not so in the real world. Rather than taking God at His Word, they remain conformed to the world's standard of practice, missing the benefits meekness will produce in their lives. Remember, Jesus Himself says this: Blessed—happy, favored—are the meek.
So we must decide. Jesus either meant what He said, or He did not; He either knew what He was talking about, or He did not. Jesus is either a reliable guide, or He is not. We must either take Jesus seriously or not, and if we do not, we should drop His teaching altogether. If we decide to straddle the fence and strive for some characteristics but not others, we become hypocrites. Of course, the true Christian will accept it, learn from it and grow in it.
What Jesus says is a very practical doctrine. It may at first seem impractical, foolish, and even wild, but He was no sentimental dreamer who dealt in empty platitudes. He was an unflinching realist who has given us a great key to prosperity and dominion under God's purpose. One commentator, Emmet Fox, author of an entire book on the Sermon on the Mount, states that this beatitude "is among the half dozen most important verses in the Bible."
"The meek shall inherit the earth," and when they do, they will proceed to govern it. Meekness is a virtue God has determined those who will have dominion in His Family must possess. Without it, will we even be there?