These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
We are in a series of lessons on wisdom. We have been dissecting James 3 and what God’s Word tells us about natural wisdom (the kind without God) and heavenly wisdom (God’s Wisdom). No matter who you are, you are navigating your life using one of those wisdoms. James is trying to help us understand and apply God’s wisdom to our life. With that said let’s take a look at James 3:13 where we are told, If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness (NLT). James gives us 8 marks that identify God’s wisdom in action. We have already looked at the first two. But let’s review and then take a look at something new.
Purity: If I’m wise I will not compromise my integrity
First, we saw that God’s wisdom is marked by purity. This says, “If I’m wise I will not compromise my integrity.” This means you have an undivided commitment to God and His ways. You have a pure devotion to God. You are all in. You are sold out. You are dedicated to following Jesus and His Word. As a result you will not compromise your integrity.
Peace Loving: If I’m wise I will not antagonize your anger
Secondly, we saw that God’s wisdom is peace loving. This says, “If I’m wise I will not antagonize your anger.” You intentionally work at bringing order, stability, and understanding into a relationship or situation. This doesn’t mean you avoid conflict or tension, but when you need to confront someone you think through the process using God’s wisdom to help you bring peace and order into the room.
Gentle: If I’m wise I will not minimize your feelings
This brings us to a third mark of God’s wisdom which is gentleness. This is where you think, “If I’m wise I will not minimize your feelings.” God’s Word says in verse 17, “The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times…” (NLT). The book of James was originally written in Greek and the Greek word for “gentle” (epieikes) doesn’t have a completely satisfactory English word for it. This is why some Bible translations use the word “gentle” or “considerate” when trying to catch the meaning of this word. This word “gentle” means to be considerate, courteous, graciously accepting others as they are and it involves a willingness to forgive. To be “gentle” is choosing to see the best in even the worst of people.
God’s wisdom is mostly seen in what we do, rather than what we say. God’s wisdom is more of a verb, than a noun. When God’s wisdom is operating in your life you are going to grow and express gentleness toward those who are in your life. I believe we really need to get this and focus on this today. To do this I want us to look at three descriptions of gentleness and three demonstrations of gentleness. I want you to understand it and apply today.
The Description of Gentleness
Let’s begin with a description of gentleness.
Gentleness is control
First, gentleness is control. Controlled power. The word “gentle” was used to describe a wild stallion that had been tamed or broken. The tamed stallion had as much power and energy as when it was wild, but it could now be controlled and made useful for its master. Gentleness describes the “controlled conduct” of one who has the power to hurt but doesn’t do it. It is the husband who chooses to respond in gentleness toward his little wife, rather than abuse her physically or verbally. It is the parent who restrains from yelling at their child and instead disciplines them in love. It’s God’s wisdom in the form of gentleness showing up in the relationship. It’s controlled power. It’s controlled strength. Jesus demonstrated this when He was on the cross. He could have called 10,000 angels to deliver Him. He could have brought immediate judgment on the people, but He acted in gentleness – power under control.
Gentleness is comfort
Second, gentleness is comfort. There is something soothing and calming about it. This word was used when referring to people or things that demonstrated a certain soothing quality – like an ointment that took the sting out of a burn. We do the same thing when we talk about a gentle breeze on a hot day.
This comforting and soothing gentleness is seen when a person admits to their sin or mistake and you forgive them, love them, and speak words of healing. That’s gentleness. It is seen when your spouse or kids tell you about something that was hurtful or discouraging at work or school and you listen and you sympathize and patiently listen to their heart. That’s gentleness.
Have you ever had a sore on your body and it was sensitive? If the doctor or nurse started pushing on it you wanted them to be gentle. Well, that’s the way people are. People have sore spots mentally and emotionally. For whatever reason, they are sensitive in certain areas of their life and with certain subjects. A wise person will be gentle when they know that are addressing certain areas of their life that is sensitive.
Gentleness is concern
Third, gentleness is concern. It cares about people. It cares about others. Paul catches this idea when he wrote, “We were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thess. 2:7-8, NLT). Gentleness looks like a loving mother caring for her child. Physically she is big enough to abuse or neglect her child, but she doesn’t because she loves her little boy or girl. She knows they are fragile. She is going to be gentle with them. She is going to care for that little child.
Listen carefully, everyone around you is fragile in some way: emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. Be gentle toward them. Be gentle in what you say, how you say it, and how you treat them. God’s wisdom in you will help you grow in this.
Gentleness is controlled power, not abusive. Gentleness is healing comfort, not hurtful. Gentleness is loving concern, not destructive. When we talk about gentleness we are talking about all three of those mixed together which produces God’s wisdom in the form of gentleness.
The Demonstrations of Gentleness
You see God’s wisdom when you see gentleness in action. James 3:17 says wisdom is “gentle at all times.” Wisdom is not dependent on how you feel. You may feel tired, but you can still demonstrate wisdom. You may feel offended, but you can still display wisdom. You may have shown wisdom many times before toward this person, but you will demonstrate wisdom many more times toward them before your life is over. We are to be “gentle at all times.”
Philippians 4:5 puts it this way, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (NIV). No matter where you are or what you are doing, your gentleness should be seen by all. So let’s look at three areas of your life that God’s Word specifically mentions regarding gentleness.
God’s wisdom produces gentleness in the home
Number one, God’s wisdom produces gentleness in the home. In 1 Peter 3 God is giving some instructions to husbands and wives regarding how they should treat each other. In 1 Peter 3:3, God tells the wife, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.” God is not forbidding those things. He is saying that should not be your primary source of beauty. Now look at verse 4,”You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (NLT). Your inner beauty should be that of a gentle and quiet spirit. Now I’m treading on sensitive territory right now. Just to read that creates some tension in some wives. Satan wants you to read that and think it means you let your husband get away with everything, that you don’t correct him in anyway, you just be that cute little servant girl that serves him. But that is so far from the truth.
To be a “gentle” wife is to be a wise wife. To be a “gentle” wife is one who is not rude toward her husband. You are not harsh towards him. When he says something stupid or insensitive or does something selfish or rude, you as a woman who is walking in the wisdom of God respond with gentleness. You respond with power under control. You respond with concern and comfort. You have a gentle spirit about you. You are walking in the wisdom of God.
But let’s look at the husband for a moment. Look at 1 Peter 3:7, “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered” (NLT). You, as a husband, display wisdom when you honor your wife (whether she deserves it or not) and treat her with understanding (seeing her life from her perspective). To honor and understand your wife is an act of gentleness and wisdom.
This means you think about her needs, her perspective, and her feelings. You think about what’s best for her. You also need to treat her with respect. You talk to her using kind and gentle words, you control your emotions in a tense moment, you don’t belittle her or use foul language to prove your point and you don’t use physical strength to get her do to what you want. You treat her with wisdom that displays itself as gentleness, honor, and understanding. This is wisdom. This is being wise.
God’s wisdom produces gentleness when helping others
Number two, God’s wisdom produces gentleness when helping others. This is what Galatians 6:1 is addressing when it says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path” (NLT). You are going to need God’s wisdom when helping another person overcome a sin in their life. That wisdom will show up in the form of gentleness and will be filled with grace, forgiveness, patience, and humility. When your friend or family member is caught in a sin and they want help they need you to be gentle with them not critical or judgmental. They need your comfort and concern. They need you to walk in wisdom.
In helping them “back onto the right path” gentleness sounds like this: “I forgive you” or “Let’s pray together” or “I’ll be with you through this whole journey” or “I know you messed up again, but let’s get back up and start over” or “With God’s help, you can overcome this.” Wisdom is practical gentleness.
God’s wisdom produces gentleness when sharing your faith
Number three, God’s wisdom produces gentleness when sharing your faith. When you are explaining your faith and sharing Jesus with others you may get offended with what the other person may say or how they react to you and Jesus and His word. God’s Word gives you some direction on how to share your faith with others. Look closely at 1 Peter 3:15, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (vs.15-16, NLT). This will take wisdom. When someone asks you about your God, your Jesus, your faith, or something about God’s Word you may need to say something you know they will disagree with, not understand, and not like. Instead of getting angry because they don’t believe like you, understand like you, or live like you. You will answer them with gentleness and respect you what you say and how you say it. This is the wisdom of God at work in you and through you.
Wisdom is more of a who than a what. When you embrace Jesus, you embrace His wisdom and His gentleness. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (NLT). A yoke was a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull together. What Jesus is saying is let’s walk like together. Let me help you carry your load and you will find my gentleness and rest for your soul.
Marks of Heavenly Wisdom
If I’m wise I will not compromise my integrity
If I’m wise I will not antagonize your anger
If I’m wise I will not minimize your feelings
If I’m wise I will not criticize your suggestions
If I’m wise I will not emphasize your mistakes
If I’m wise I will not waste my life
If I’m wise I will not treat you unequally
If I’m wise I will not pretend to be someone I’m not