Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,
In this Bible Study series we are continuing to look at what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The lessons run monthly and focus on “Looking Inward,” (relating to and loving God), and “Looking Outward,” (relating to and loving our neighbor). In this series, the entire lesson each month is presented here on the front page. We hope you will join us in applying knowledge of God’s character to deeper levels of life. Previous lessons from 2014 remain available under the Table of Contents and Archive page.
©2013 Kay Smith and Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission. User Permission Notice: This study may not be sold or used for profit. However, copies may be made for personal use. Questions? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we define leadership as “having influence,” all of us are leaders to some extent. The domain of influence may be large or small, but every human being influences others—employers, employees, fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends.
Everyone has influence but not everyone uses it wisely. To impact others well we must:
Commit to Integrity and Authenticity
Being an honest and genuine person follows a “wisdom from heaven that is . . . pure,” which refers to character (James 1:17). It goes without saying that who we are speaks louder than words. Any efforts to exert a positive influence will be undermined by hypocritical behavior. People exercising wise leadership will not lie, cheat, or manipulate; instead, they build trust and respect.
Another aspect of authentic leadership includes the ability to admit weaknesses and mistakes. Asking for forgiveness, making appropriate disclosures, relating to others in their struggles, and asking for help models humility and a confident strength. This kind of leadership shows that authenticity, not perfection, is the goal.
Control Our Tongue
Wise leaders know when to speak and when to be quiet. Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” They know what to say when they speak. Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Include Others in Decision Making
Wise leaders do not operate as lone wolves. They know that their knowledge and capabilities are limited and therefore surround themselves with capable men and women. They understand the wisdom of Proverbs 18:1 that says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire. He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” A wise leader welcomes input and will seek it. “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).
John 7:24 says, “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.” This echoes God’s words to Samuel when he was impressed by David’s older brother, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). A wise leader will care more about the heart than impressing others. Nor will he show unfair favoritism to boost his own advantage and status.
Prov. 29:8 says, “Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.” Wise leaders are peacemakers, yet they will not sacrifice at “all costs” for the sake of a false or counterfeit peace. They understand that false peace is no peace at all.
Do you see yourself as a leader? Look for where you are in a position to influence others. How might you be an encouragement to your family, friends, co-workers, etc.? Who are the people you are closest to? Write down some names.
The book of James has much to say about wisdom. The following questions look at how James relates wisdom to our relationships.
James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” What are the characteristics of leadership depicted here? Read James 3:17. What other characteristics and qualities can be added to this list?
Planting and Harvesting
James 3:18 says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Peacemakers are leaders. Every day we plant seeds in the lives of others. We can choose whether to plant negative seeds such as strife, jealousy, and condemnation or positive seeds such as kindness, inspiration, and support. What does James mean with his phrase “sow in peace”? What kind of seeds do you want to sow into the lives of others?
Leaders responsible for others must make important and sometimes life-altering decisions. The burden of such a responsibility can be difficult to bear, especially when faced with poor options such as the proverbial rock and hard place.
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” As leaders, to whom do we go for wisdom? What does God require of us to receive from him?
James 2:12-13 stays to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” In your circle of influence, whom do you tend to judge? How might you interact differently with these individuals if you focused on “mercy triumphing over judgment”?
Taming the Tongue
One of the most important ways of influencing others is by what we do or do not say. Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Having control over our speech is all important. Read James 3:1-12:
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James says the tongue is small but it “makes great boasts” as it can control things far larger than its size. For example, a _____________________in the mouth of a horse can make it obey, or a small ____________________on a ship steers its entire direction. Though small, the tongue can spark an out-of-control _________________. (vs. 6) James describes the tongue as a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” It’s easy to see the tongue’s destructive potential in others but not so readily in ourselves. In what ways do you find the tongue causes trouble for you? Through gossip? Complaining? Critical words? Insensitive comments?
Using Words Wisely
Proverbs 16:23 says, “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.” And Proverbs 16:21 says, “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.” According to these scriptures, what is the key to speaking graciously and prudently?