Over the past year, our scout troop has examined various scouting ideals and compared them to our shared beliefs as Christians. [Note: you don’t have to be Christian to be a scout, but in our troop, our families do share a common faith so we often try to compare how scout ideals and our shared Christian ideals parallel each other]. This year, we’ve been examining what the Bible describes as a “Godly Man” to see how those attributes compare to our scouting ideals.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus describing the ideal attributes of a man. While he was specifically writing to offer advice and direction on finding men who’d be good candidates to hold pastoral or teaching jobs within the church, Gene Getz, the author of the book “The Measure of a Man”, felt that it was a good list for all men. This evening we are taking a look at what it means to be a man who is “prudent”.
What do you think it means to be “prudent”? I’ve heard the term “prude” (someone excessively conservative or easily offended), but that’s a completely different word with different origins.
Prudent has it’s origins in Latin – Prudens (wise) and providens (foresight). Some dictionaries say:
- Acting with or showing care and thought for the future
- Exercising good judgment or common sense
- Clever decisiveness in the management of practical affairs
What about the Bible as a dictionary?
When we look at verses containing the word “prudent” here are some of the references:
- Proverbs 13:16 – Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly. (prudent men make informed decisions, fools publically suffer the consequences of poor choices)
- Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit. (Prudent men seek God’s way of doing things)
- Proverbs 18:15 – The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge. (Prudent men see learning as a good thing – an investment in their future).
- Proverbs 22:3 – A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. (Prudent men will stay away from evil, fools will jump in with both feet and suffer the consequences)
- Isaiah 5:21 – Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (test your knowledge – make sure you aren’t thinking more of your self than you should – avoid pride)
So how do we develop prudence?
There are two ways to develop this attribute: instruction and example.
In terms of instruction, the focus is on learning from books and classes: school, scouts, church, Sunday school, college or vocational training in a trade for specialized skills.
The other is by watching how older, mature men behave. Seeking out friendships and acquaintances with adults to ask them questions and to listen to their stories of their own lives. There’s a lot of wisdom available to you if you engage in respectful conversation – do you want to learn the hard way and end up an old man who wishes he could have made better choices when he was younger, or would you like to learn to make better choices now while you are young?
In Titus 2:6-8 it gives direction to older men to teach the following: “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” In short, older men should be models of behavior for young men. They should show the attributes, and encourage the young men to become disciplined.
At the same time, Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim 4) – “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” This is an encouragement to youthful men to be brave and be an example for others.
How is being prudent related (if at all) to scouting ideals?
Our motto is to “be prepared” The first edition of the BSA Handbook says; “The motto, “Be Prepared,” means that the scout is always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do his duty. To be prepared in mind, by having disciplined himself to be obedient, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that may occur, so that he may know the right thing to do at the right moment, and be willing to do it. To be prepared in body, by making himself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and then to do it.” That sounds a lot like being prudent — being ready, wise with foresight.
It is possible to tie “prudent” back to several traits of the scout law (thrifty in particular), and to being mentally awake as part of the oath.