Pride vs. Prudence

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.”

Proverbs 8:12-14

Here it comes again… pride rearing its ugly head in my thoughts and speech, especially when I find myself disappointed by or in disagreement with the actions of others. But then here is Proverbs 8:12-14, reminding me that wisdom dwells with prudence – that is, using good judgment and caution before speaking or acting.

Hmm, this means that making snap judgments and blurting out my feelings of disappointment do not fall into the prudent category. It also means that assuming the worst in others is not prudent, even if they have done something to disappoint us.

The good news, though, is that if you struggle with this type of pride, you can change. It all begins with the idea of fearing the Lord. Throughout the Bible God warns us of his hatred of pride:

If you really believe God’s word, these verses should open your eyes to the dangers of pride.

On the flip side, we can be glad that we can attain true humility by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), setting our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2) and thinking on things that are worthy of God, Himself (Philippians 4:8). Take an inventory of your thoughts. Do they measure up to the standards described in these verses?

Beginning this process of renewing your mind to be more Christ-like is prudent in and of itself. Prudence carries with it the idea of self-awareness (Proverbs 14:8) and a willingness to listen to instruction (Proverbs 15:5). Sometimes our feelings can get in the way of prudence until we discern those things with which we struggle the most and learn how to combat the thoughts that fuel those struggles with the truth and wisdom of God’s word.

I recently read in Thom Rainer’s book I Am a Church Member a great statement on how we should react to people with whom we don’t agree: “And if someone did something that disappointed or frustrated us, that was God’s way of telling us to pray for that person.” (57) Instead of judging the person whose actions we did not like, we should simply pray for that person. Some of us might think that means we should pray for fire to fall on the person’s head, or something of that sort, but it really means we should pray for that person’s well-being. Having a mindset of prayer is prudence.

Whatever your struggle with pride happens to be, embrace prudence and find peace by exercising good judgment and seeking understanding in difficult situations before speaking or acting. Begin the process of “counting others more significant than yourselves” as Paul taught in Philippians 2:3 and allow prudence to overtake pride in your life.

Delight in the Light

“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye…. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight as the day was fading as the dark of night set in.”

Proverbs 7:2, 7-9

Have you ever been told to do something so many times that you just didn’t value the command anymore, or maybe you never understood its importance, and you decided to go your own way?

It seems in every stage of life, we find someone telling us what we should or should not do, whether it’s counsel from a friend or a family member, a plea from an advertisement, or teaching from a pastor or expert in a given field. In Proverbs 7, and throughout the entire book of Proverbs, Solomon urges his son – and us – to follow the way of wisdom found in God’s commands. And more than simply following God’s word, Solomon exhorts us to “guard [his] teaching as the apple of [our] eye.”

To call something the apple of your eye means that it is precious. The apple of the eye is the pupil which has the important role of letting the right amount of light into the eye to help the retina carry the images we see to our brain. If we are to guard God’s commands as if we were protecting such an important part of our eye, then we should not only keep those commands but cherish them as well. We are protecting them as a most prized treasure.

After urging his son to follow the ways of wisdom, Solomon gives an example of what happens when we do not cherish and keep God’s commands: the example of adultery. If we analyze the path the man takes in this example, we see:

  1. A man walking down a street near the adulteress’ house.
  2. He is walking toward her house.
  3. He is walking as the light is fading and night is setting in.

The progression toward adultery in this example includes three simple steps: walking in the vicinity of the adulteress, walking in her direction, and walking under the cover of night, possibly in isolation. If we place ourselves in temptation’s way, sooner or later we will fall. The only way to avoid temptation such as this is to heed God’s commands, which means we must know and do those commands.

Psalm 1:1-2 also illustrates the progression toward sin, by explaining that a person first walks toward a situation, then stands in it, and eventually sits in it. The righteous person, on the other hand, avoids temptation by delighting in and meditating on God’s law.

Avoiding temptation by relying on our own judgment isn’t always wise, which is exactly why Solomon instructs us to cherish God’s commands so that we will keep them. Even if you’ve heard God’s commands so many times that you know them by heart, do you cherish them enough to obey them?

Are you walking near an area of temptation in your life thinking that you can manage it in your own wisdom and strength? Remember the “simple youth” of Proverbs 7. He walked near temptation and fell completely into it. Learn from his example and begin cherishing God’s commands. Walk in the light, not in the dark, as you guard God’s words of wisdom as the apple of your eye. Delight in the light!

Financial Folly

“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.” 

Proverbs 6:1-3 (ESV)

Have you ever made a financial pledge before you had thought the decision through, and then realized that you might not be able to fulfill it? This might be cosigning for a friend to buy a car, or pledging a large amount of money to a cause that you later realize you cannot pay. Sometimes we can get caught up in the moment of wanting to help a friend or stranger who needs money or a large item like a house or car. Cosigning a financial document is a serious matter, and if you can’t afford to pay your friend’s debt for them, you should not promise to do so.

Financial wisdom is important and money-related decisions should be considered carefully. Proverbs 6:1-3 describes Solomon’s plea to his son to not enter a surety agreement, and if his son had already entered that type of agreement that he should humble himself and ask to be removed from it. Solomon was advising his son to not put himself at the mercy of another person because, if that person ends up not being able to pay off their debt, Solomon’s son would be responsible and might not have the money to cover it along with his own family’s expenses. This would result in the family’s financial ruin.

The stress related to financial folly can be overwhelming, and that stress can result in poor health, divorce, depression, and even legal action that could lead to jail time.  The lesson we learn from this passage is that financial decisions should always be made after a time of prayer, and not in the heat of the moment. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give your money to anyone ever again, but that you should prayerfully consider all financial decisions. Proverbs 3:27 commands, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” This verse exhorts us to help others, but notice that the second half of the verse explains that we should only help them in those ways that we are able.

Heed Solomon’s wise counsel in Proverbs 3:9 to avoid financial folly. Before you make any significant pledge, consider whether you have the funds to fulfill that pledge and still support yourself. Remember to honor the Lord with the “firstfruits of all your crops.”

 

Just a Step

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

John 11:25-26

Yesterday started out as a day filled with anticipated excitement at my church for two reasons: it was the fourth day of Vacation Bible School, the one in which children would have a formal opportunity to make a decision for Christ, and it was the morning a group of high school kids and chaperones would begin their trek for a mission trip to Botswana.

As the sun shone beautifully in the morning sky outside, inside the church children were singing fun VBS songs and hearing about the depth of Jesus’ love for them. In my class, I had the great joy of seeing two fourth grade boys accept Christ. In that very moment these two children made the step from eternal death to eternal life! Just as we were rejoicing about this here on earth, I know the angels were rejoicing in heaven!

Just a few hours later, as the church bus headed to Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, a few miles from the airport, the bus flipped, resulting in multiple serious injuries and one death. While we might want to question how could this happen, as Christians, we know God is in control. He always has a plan, and nothing takes Him by surprise. We are reeling in grief, but we do not lose hope. Our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so was Sarah Harmening’s. We all grieve in the loss of 17-year-old Sarah , but we can also rest in the fact that in her last moment, she made the step from life on earth to eternal life in heaven.

In a simple moment, faith can take you from the temporary to the eternal. Make your hope in Christ alone, and tell others about Christ. Don’t delay or miss a moment, because life is just a step from one place and time to another.