Is It True That Gentleness Gets Nothing Done?

In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the LXX, the word prautes appears 12 times, and 11 times in the New Testament. Here is a sample of their uses.

In the OT it’s often translated humble—as in Psalm 24:9, 33:3, 75:10, 146:6, and 149:4. In most of these instances it is used to indicate the one who will be “taught by the LORD,” is “lifted up by the LORD,” who will be “adorned with salvation” and “saved.” The word was also used to describe the meekness of Moses in Numbers 12:3, and in Psalm 36:11 it is the meek who will inherit the earth.

Prautes is also used to translate a different Hebrew word that is often translated “the poor.” This is the case in Job 24:4, Isaiah 26:6, Zechariah 9:9, and Zephaniah 3:12. Just as with “the humble” we see that God is working to defend and rescue “the poor.” The word can also be used to translate another Hebrew word that refers to things like enduring hardship (Psalm 132:1), toil and trouble (Psalm 89:10). And once again the Lord is working for their rescue.

In the New Testament, the word does not appear in the Gospels or Acts – though it does appear in root form in Matthew 5:5 to describe Jesus. The word is most frequently used by Paul, James, and Peter. 2 Corinthians 10:1 uses the meekness and gentleness (kindness) of Christ as an example for his own pattern. This is similar language to what Paul used in 1 Corinthians 4:21, when he contrasts gentleness with coming to them “with a rod.”

In Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians the word is used in lists – combined with things like humility – as virtues and graces. In Galatians it is a mark of being led by the Spirit and it is shown as an example of walking in step with the Spirit in Galatians 6:1. When we attempt to restore someone caught in sin, we are to do it “in a spirit of gentleness.” In 2 Timothy and in Titus, gentleness is to mark the Christian leader. When correcting opponents, it should be done with gentleness. And as we engage others we should avoid quarreling with them but should instead have “perfect courtesy” toward all people. This is similar to how Peter uses the word (1 Peter 3:16).

James contrasts gentleness with “filthiness and rampant wickedness.” It is the mark of being one of wisdom. The one who is truly wise and who has received the “implanted word” will be marked by gentleness.


The less common word, epieikes, is used in Paul’s pastoral letters, as well as in James and 1 Peter. It is used similarly to prautes but is more of an opposite of violence. It seems to be synonymous with being a good person. When someone considers someone to have the quality of epiekes, they would say that this is a pleasurable person to be around.

In sum, the Scriptures show God as a kind and gentle leader. And God in Christ is exemplified by the gentleness with which he labored among others. Therefore, as followers of Jesus we are called to exhibit this character trait in our own lives. And it is to those who are gentle and meek who will inherit the earth—the gentle are the ones who receive God’s rescue.

Click here to read more verses about gentleness.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Oleksandr Yakoniuk

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