I’ve been doing the James: Mercy Triumphsstudy by Beth Moore with a group of high school girls in the youth group and man, oh man it has been kicking my behind. Every single day that I sit down ready to study, I leave with convictions that require change. It is James, after all, and it’s pretty hard to read even one verse of that book without feeling convicted. If you’re looking for a study this summer – I would absolutely, hands down, suggest this one if you’re ready to get serious.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere | James 3:13-17.
Beth commented on this section pretty bluntly, “True wisdom has a gentleness about it, doesn’t it? Harsh people are never wise people. They may be smart. They may even be right. But they are not what the Bible calls wise” (p. 123 in the study).
When I think I’m right, I am a harsh person. I get my arguments lined up and I’m ready to pound them into you, so you know just how much what I think is right. But that’s not wisdom. Sure, I might be smart, and I might even be right… but I’m not being wise.
I’m not approaching that situation with a pure heart (I want you to know I’m right), gentleness, a mind that’s open to reason (I’ve already decided I’m right), full of mercy or good fruits, impartial or sincere. The sting is still pretty sharp, y’all.
She also had us list out a few people whom we considered wise, and you know what? Every single one of those people aren’t harsh. They are pure, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, sincere, open to reason and gentle.
There have been several situations this past week I did not handle with a gentle spirit. I’m working on growing in that, but I’m very thankful for the examples of gentleness in my life.
In college, an older woman discipled me from my church. Every week she invited me into her home despite her crazy, busy life. She now has five kids (four boys and ONE girl, mind you!), her husband owns several businesses and I’m sure their lives are still as chaotic now as they were when we hung out weekly.
To say the least, I was not a calm person in college. I know I came to her with a lot of wild, passionate, crazy ideas (probably ones that I thought were “mature” at the time), but she never once said a harsh word to me. Ever. She walked beside me through mine and Jacob’s entire dating relationship and never laughed at my stupid decisions or the silly arguments we had. She patiently listened while I complained about how hard our engagement was and she nodded right along with me. She spoke a lot of truth into my life in hard situations, but she never spoke harshly.
I’m certain she is clueless to the extent of the impact she has made on me, and she probably wouldn’t believe you if you told her… that speaks to the depth of her humility, too. Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself for how much I don’t look like Christ. I see myself doing the same things over and over from a selfish heart and I want to cry out in despair. But part of learning wisdom is learning understanding… and it seems that understanding comes from experiencing. As much as I cringe sometimes when I think back to past decisions, I’ve learned leaps and bounds from them after the fact.
I don’t want to be smart or right if wisdom is at stake. So I’m praying for discernment to remember that the next time I get stirred up to be harsh.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced the gentleness of sincere wisdom? I’d love to hear your stories.