One of Aesop’s fables concerned a turtle who envied the ducks who swam in the pond where he lived. As he listened to them describe the wonders of the world they had seen, he was filled with a great desire to travel. But being a turtle, he was unable to travel far.
Finally two ducks offered to help him. One of the ducks said, “We will each hold an end of a stick in our mouths. You hold the stick in the middle in your mouth, and we will carry you through the air so that you can see what we see when we fly. But be quiet or you will be sorry.”
The turtle loved the idea. He took hold of the stick and away into the sky they went. The ducks flew up above the trees and circled around the meadow. The turtle was amazed and overjoyed at his new perspective on the world. He marvelled at the flowers on the hillside. Just then a crow flew past. Astonished at the sight of a turtle flying through the air carried by two ducks he said, “Surely this must be the king of all turtles!”
“Why certainly…” the turtle began—but as he spoke, he lost his grip on the stick and fell to the ground below.
While there are times when we need to speak out and take a stand, more frequently we find ourselves in trouble because we talk too much.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
What is discretion?
A man who lacks discretion quickly becomes acquainted with regret. Discretion works hand in hand with wisdom. Wisdom will lead us to know what to speak and act. Discretion cautions us on when we should speak and act.
A great example of the two is found in Proverbs.
‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.’
In the NASB, it is rendered, ‘Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.’
In this example, wisdom is the ‘word’ and discretion is the ‘right circumstances’.
How many times have you been in a situation when you said a true thing, but it all went horribly wrong because it wasn’t a truth spoken in the right season? Using sound judgement of when and where to speak or act is paramount in the life of a Christian, especially during perilous times.
When we read Ecclesiastes 3, we see that there is a time for everything under the sun. Discretion helps us to know when and where that time is. Discretion is the use of sound judgement.
It will not only deliver you from embarrassing situations, but damaging or dangerous ones as well. Discretion will watch over you in all your ways.
...discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech...
When we read the entire chapter, we see that discretion will also assist with keeping us from walking down paths of evil and will preserve us from being stained by those with wicked intentions. Discretion along with understanding, will lead you to paths of life.
On Easter Sunday, 2013, the southbound side of I-77 near the North Carolina-Virginia border was closed for hours following a massive chain of accidents. Police later reported that seventeen different collisions involved ninety-five cars and trucks. The wrecks left three people dead and more than two dozen injured, many of them seriously. The cause of the accidents was people driving into a thick fog that descended over the Interstate that Sunday afternoon. A police spokesman said, “Visibility at the time this accident occurred was down to about one hundred feet or less.”
As people continued to blindly drive forward, they could not see the danger that was just ahead until it was too late.
Prudence reminds us to be on guard for danger—not just in the present, but in the future as well. Because of the way our minds work, we often tend to discount what may happen in the future simply because it hasn’t happened yet.
'The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it'.
What does discretion look like in action?
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
The man of discretion judges ahead of time, where and when his feet will be at any given moment. His face is set like flint, his legs are sturdy and sure. He does not look left or right. His gaze is fixed upon the narrow road that leads to life.
The man of discretion does not get entangled in foolish controversies for he sees them coming and avoids them. He knows when to speak and when to be silent. Such a man will not keep company with those who have loose lips - idle talkers who delight in gossip, slander and foolish chatter – for he knows these spread like gangrene and infect the whole body.
The man of discretion will speak God’s Word more than anything else. He takes preventative action so as not to get caught up in situations that are ungodly. If his enemy digs a pit for him, he discerns it and moves on safely – knowing his enemy will fall into the pit himself. He discerns the fruit of those who are entrapped by the enemy and avoids falling prey to their schemes.
The man of discretion is prudent in studying God’s Word, intent on understanding the path. He is like a warrior going into battle, studying the terrain, the typography, the weather and conditions that are not within his control. He then studies the battle plan that his chief has devised. He accustoms himself with the knowledge, wisdom and understanding that is required to navigate around any obstacles and opposition that he may encounter. He relies on the battle plan, the captain’s instructions, which form an essential ingredient to his armour. He considers all factors and makes a sound judgement from facts, not feelings.
The man of discretion follows the Good Shepherd, not other sheep. He knows the Shepherd’s voice and another he will not follow (John 10:5). He is eternally minded, focussed upon the Kingdom of God, not selfish ambition and therefore he is willing and able to exercise discretion. Through self-control, he is not entangled by selfish ambitions. His aim of life is much higher than the pursuit of happiness from the world, therefore his judgments are clear and unconfused. Common sense reigns in his life and all that he does will prosper. If his foot slips, the good sense that guards him will see that he never returns to that path again – unlike the fool who repeatedly travels down the same path and makes the same mistakes.
The man of discretion relies upon the grace of God, knowing that all wisdom, knowledge and understanding comes from Him and He gives it freely to those who come and drink from the well of life.
-- By Judah Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.