“What does it mean, then, to be meek? From the outset here you must realize that Christ is not speaking at all about the government and its work, whose property it is not to be meek, as we use the word in German, but to bear the sword (Rom. 13:4) for the punishment of those who do wrong (1 Pet. 2:14), and to wreak a vengeance and a wrath that are called the vengeance and wrath of God. He is only talking about how individuals are to live in relation to others, apart from official position and authority.”
Now, let’s turn to look at Martin Luther’s expositions of the Sermon on the Mount. We find the first of these in his treatise Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, and the second in, unsurprisingly, The Sermon on the Mount. The first, while troubled by a number of inconsistencies (some simply the result of Luther’s characteristic lack of rhetorical caution), offers a much more satisfactory account than the second. I shall resist the temptation to dwell on the inconsistencies and will stick to the core argument.