When George H.W. Bush was President, comedian Dana Carvey made a living by imitating Bush on Saturday Night Live. As he spoofed the President, Carvey made popular the phrase: “Wouldn’t be prudent!”
While the President could have become irritated and resentful of Carvey, Bush demonstrated prudence by inviting Carvey and his wife to the White House. Apparently the two became good friends and dispelled any rumors that Bush held a grudge against Carvey.
Prudence, while somewhat of an old fashioned and antiquated word, is rich with meaning and offers good advice to those who will practice it. Prudence is the ability to exercise sound judgment.
“Prudence is foresight and far-sightedness,” observed author and minister John Ortberg. “It’s the ability to make immediate decisions on the basis of their longer-range effects.”
Prudence is being wise in the practical matters of life. Demonstrating discretion. Exercising wisdom. And proceeding with care, caution, and proper consideration regarding the impact of one’s actions.
The Bible says that God “endowed” King Solomon “with prudence and understanding” (2 Chron 2:12). His book of Proverbs was written to “ to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Prov. 1:4).
One nugget of wise counsel that is particularly applicable during this current crisis is Proverbs 22:3. “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Because of health concerns caused by the global pandemic of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), prudence is the order of the day.
We are constantly hearing advice from our leaders, health care providers and news broadcasters to practice social distancing. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Practice respiratory hygiene when you cough or sneeze. If you have fever or difficulty breathing, seek medical care. That’s prudent.
Social distancing is difficult for Christians who are used to atomically shaking hands or hugging their brothers and sisters in Christ. But prudence says, it’s best to refrain from close contact during this present distress. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a congregation where one sister walked up to another sister and blurted out, “I’ve just got to hug you.” And she did. That wasn’t prudent.
Currently many shepherds have temporarily cancelled all public gatherings of their congregations. There has been some criticism of this decision in some quarters. However, these men have made a difficult and prayerful decision, desiring to exercise prudence.
The apostle Paul urged that we “conduct (ourselves) with wisdom toward outsiders” (Col. 4:5). Reckless, radical and irresponsible actions, attitudes and words during this present distress will only dim our light and diminish our influence with non-Christians. Proceeding with prudence often requires that we leave some of our private thoughts and personal opinions to ourselves instead of posting them on social media.
Prudence is a wonderful virtue that will aid us in practicing self-discipline, restraint, moderation, and forbearance. Prudence is born of serious consideration. Thoughtful deliberation. And prayerful meditation.
The 19th century English minister, Robert Hall, summed it up succinctly when he said, “In matters of conscience, first thoughts are best; in matters of prudence, last thoughts are best.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman