By Teresa Nelson
“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.” (Proverbs 8:12)
The dictionary defines “prudence” as “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason”. Seems admirable, don’t you think?! It’s strange how the label “prude” became synonymous with “too strict” and “unbending” in the 20th century. Before that “prudence” was considered a virtue. I suppose in the era of “free love”, rock ‘n’ roll, and New Age movements, ‘governing oneself with discipline and reason’ probably seemed old-fashioned and constricting.
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes the five virgins who had oil in their lamps as they waited to meet the bridegroom, as “prudent” and the five who had no oil as “foolish”. The foolish ones were locked out of the wedding feast. So I think it’s obvious that our Lord wants us to be prudent so that we can enter into his wedding feast!
What does it mean to be prudent? Surely, He wasn’t talking about hoarding oil for our lamps – or any other material possession, for that matter! A teenager today would probably tell you being prudent means “you can’t have any fun!” A senior citizen might tell you it means to “be careful with your money”. But the truth is “prudence” is much bigger than these simple ideas. It’s a necessary virtue for anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus and “enter into the wedding feast”. Being prudent in the spiritual sense means exuding the love of Christ in every moment, in every way, in every word, gesture or thought to everyone we meet…no matter how we feel! (that’s the hard part!).
It means listening when we feel like talking, hugging when we feel like slapping, smiling when we feel like snarling…in short, loving no matter what. How many of us face a cashier after waiting in line for too long with a stern look and a condescending greeting? How often do we avoid someone we know needs a friend because we are too busy, or too tired to listen? Are there times when, simply by a look or a tone of voice, we let someone know we don’t approve of them?
It’s tempting, I suppose, to consider silence as a way to be prudent – always trying not to offend anyone. But in many cases, silence is actually the imprudent choice. There are times when someone needs a word of encouragement, advice, or a pat on the back. When we withhold our approval, we’re voicing our disapproval.
Having two teenagers, I see that young people are often imprudent in their behavior, probably due to lack of wisdom and experience combined with hormones and a desire to rebel. But as mature Christians, we should be constantly aware of the message we are giving with our voice, our body, and our expressions. We should want to convey the love of Jesus we feel in our heart to everyone we encounter, not matter how difficult it may be. We are the face of Christ in this world! See you at the wedding feast!