DISCRETION

Recognizing and avoiding
words, actions, and attitudes that
could result in undesirable consequences

vs. simplemindedness

I WILL:                     Choose my words carefully,
                                                      Practice good manners,
  
                                                   Listen to criticism,
                                                     Not make fun of others,
                                                     Turn down any invitation to do wrong.
                                                                                                     
Used with permission of Character Training Institute
                                                                                                                                       www.characterfirst.com

"Discretion is using wisdom to avoid damaging attitudes, words, and actions and to give insightful counsel." (Power for True Success)

As we build discretion, couple it with discernment. Discretion looks further down the road to see possible consequences; discernment looks below the surface to see deeper issues.

THROUGH THE BIBLE: As we at CFM continue to read through the Bible, look for instances in Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Job where discretion was evident or lacking. What consequences were avoided or experienced? Here are a few starters:

Ezra 5-6: For a second time, a letter was sent to the king that threatened the work of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. When confronted by the local officials, the Jewish workers replied with discretion. Read 5:11-17 to see the attitude and words they used. What principles can apply to help us learn discretion? (told their story and reasons for building, did not blame or threaten others, told the truth and the authority they worked under, gave suggestions about how the king could verify their story, remained under the king’s authority, "let the king send us his decision in this matter). In chapter 6, what was the outcome? (they received the king’s permission to build as well as directions to the local officials to not interfere and to pay for their expenses)

Ezra 9-10: Ezra, the teacher of God’s law, learned of intermarriage between God’s people and the nations around them. Rather than berate them for their sin, what did Ezra do to lead them to repentance? (9:3-15) Notice in his prayer how he used "us" and "we" rather than "you" in confessing the sin. How did the people respond (10:1-4)? What could have been the consequences if Ezra had not handled this so discreetly?

Nehemiah 1-2:10: While in exile in Babylon, Nehemiah hears of the plight of the Jewish remnant that had returned to Jerusalem – no protection as there was no wall around the city. As a result of weeping, prayer and fasting, he formulates a plan to help. What would the consequences have been if Nehemiah had decided that this godless king he served would never give him permission to go, so he just escaped to Jerusalem on his own? Discretion revealed the consequences of such simpleminded action. Not only did God provide the opportunity for Nehemiah to tell his plan, but also to lead the king to give permission, plus providing Nehemiah with letters of authority, the protection of soldiers, and timbers with which to build. Staying under the authority of the king provided him with resources that he would never had had in rebellion. When we have a Kingdom cause, we must use discretion rather than barge ahead without regard for the consequences. Often we will get reaction and even opposition, but we must make sure it is for a Godly purpose and not because of our lack of discretion.

Nehemiah 6: Opposition to rebuilding the wall seemed relentless – and crafty. When the enemies wanted to sidetrack and harm Nehemiah, what discreet answer did he give (6:3-4)? Then they resorted to threats of a smear campaign and intimidation. Sometimes discretion requires that we just keep on with the work God has given us rather than answer.

Esther: this Jewish girl faced many situations that required discretion. How did she handle each of them in order to avoid undesirable consequences?
1. 2:1-16 Being in the harem of a king as ruthless as Xerxes was probably a very fearful prospect for Esther. But rather than resist and bring undesirable consequences, she placed herself under the guidance of Hegai. This discretion led to her being queen and in a position to later save her people.
2. 5-7 Uncle Mordecai pleads with Queen Esther to intervene and save her people from being massacred. Accomplishing this required discretion; how did she influence the king and have her request granted? What undesirable consequences would have happened if she had just barged into the king’s presence with her plea without thinking out a plan to prepare the way?

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS: Our goal is to become Christ-like in our character. So, how did Jesus show discretion? The scribes and Pharisees were repeatedly looking to trap Jesus into saying or doing things that would discredit and destroy him. Look up these scriptures from the gospel of Matthew and see how Jesus responded with discretion:

Matthew 12:1-13, 22-37, 38-45
Matthew 15:1-9
Matthew 16:1-4
Matthew 17:24-27
Matthew 19:1-12
Matthew 21:23-27
Matthew 22:15-22, 34-40

The greatest example of discretion (seeing the consequences of our actions) in Jesus’ life was in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-45). As He agonized over the prospect of suffering and dying, he could have refused to go to the cross, but what would have been the undesirable consequences of that action? Later in the chapter (vs. 47-54), Peter fails to show discretion and reacts to the impending arrest of Jesus by striking out with the sword. What is Jesus’ response (verse 52-54)? The availability of angels to rescue him did not overcome his commitment to do what was necessary. Like Jesus, discretion often requires that we lay our comfort and desires aside in order to obtain Kingdom consequences.

DISCRETION IN PROVERBS: In Proverbs, discretion is synonymous with prudence. In the opening verses of this book, Solomon gives the purpose for writing down the proverbs. Make a list of these reasons from verse 2-6; prudence and discretion are mentioned three times, so it must be important to learn. Look up the rest of these Proverbs and write down insights about how the definition of discretion is true in that verse. It would be a good home or church visual to write a few on cardstock that are most pertinent to your life, display them, then work at memorizing them.
Proverbs 2:11
Proverbs 5:1-6
Proverbs 8:12
Proverbs 11:22
Proverbs 12:16
Proverbs 12:23
Proverbs 13:16
Proverbs 14:8
Proverbs 14:15
Proverbs 14:18
Proverbs 15:5
Proverbs 19:14
Proverbs 22:3
Proverbs 27:12

SIMPLEMINDED? Follow up your study of Proverbs about discretion with a study of the "simple" from that same book (note that the opposite of discretion is simplemindedness). Each of these scriptures passages gives a picture of the simple; learn what characterizes a simpleminded person.
Proverbs 1:22-33                                Proverbs 14:15-18
                              Proverbs 7:6-27
Proverbs 19:25; 21:11
                         Proverbs 9                                        Proverbs 22:3; 27:12

How are the simple (naïve) led astray? Romans 16:17-18
What is the remedy for the simpleminded? See Psalm 19:7 and 119:130.

MEN OF DISCRETION: Read about George Washington Carver and see how his discretion allowed him to not get sidetracked by prejudice or obstacles that faced him. What consequences did he avoid? What consequences did he cause? Reading a full biography of this great Christian will be good "hero" material.
Look at these Bible leaders and see how they displayed or how they lacked discretion and what the consequences were. Why is discretion especially important for those in leadership?
Gideon: Judges 8:1-3 – When confronted by angry Israelites, Gideon replied in a way that soothed their anger rather than brought on further division.
King Saul: I Chronicles 10:13 – A man who began so well ended so poorly; why?
King Uzziah: II Chronicles 26:16-21 – a Godly king to whom God gave great success, but a lack of discretion due to pride led him to overstep his jurisdiction and do what only the priests were to do. Consequences of his lack of discretion remained until he died (v. 21).
King Asa: II Chronicles 16:1-14 Note how a lack of discretion is seen in Joash and Asa rejecting criticism and rebuke, rather than taking time to discover any truth in it.
King Joash: II Chronicles 24:17-25
King Josiah: II Chronicles 35:20-25 – after a long and Godly life and an amazing reign, Josiah chooses to go to war with someone unnecessarily. When he was shot in the battle, all the nation mourned for him, including the prophet Jeremiah.

SEASONED WITH SALT: The Christians in Colossae had the same challenge we do – how to impact a culture that did not hold Christian values. Think about this as you read Colossians 4:5-6, then discuss how our conversation can be "full of grace and seasoned with salt", responding wisely to everyone. Christians can make an impact for Christ by being discreet in our interaction with non-Christians, so we can as much as possible avoid undesirable consequences and give Godly counsel. Does our lack of discretion ever turn people away?

MANNERS, ANYONE? Discretion is exhibited in good manners, honoring others and avoiding unnecessary offense. How can Romans 12:10 guide us in developing good manners? Consult an etiquette book or children’s manners guide and discuss some examples of good manners that show honor to others (opening the door for a lady, rising when older people enter the room, walking on the street side of a lady, taking a hat off in the house or when praying, etc.). When we go to another country or culture, how can we show discretion in regard to their customs and way of life, thus escaping undesirable consequences and opening the way for the gospel?

KEYS TO DISCRETION: Using the character bulletin, page 3, build the five keys on scripture such as the following (the questions on the card and at the bottom of page 3 are helpful in discussion):
1. Consider consequences: Proverbs 14:8, 15; Proverbs 22:3.
2. Choose words carefully: Proverbs 10:19; 12:23; 16:24; 25:11; Ecclesiastes 10:12; Isaiah 50:4; Colossians 4:6. Consider not only if it is the truth, but how it is best communicated and with the best timing.
3. Practice good manners: The essence of good manners is thinking of others and how to honor them. See Philippians 2:3 and Romans 12:10.
4. Learn from mistakes: Proverbs 26:11; II Peter 2:17-22. See the example of Peter who betrayed the Lord at his trial, but went on to become a mighty apostle and leader of the church.
5. Avoid trouble: I Thessalonians 5:21-22; I John 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:33-34; Proverbs 1:10-19; 13:20; II Corinthians 6:14-18.

Helps developed by Deanna Guy

Check www.christianfellowshipministry.org for further helps.