Summary: Topical Sermon on Prudence

A Portrait of Prudence

Proverbs 1:4

33-year-old Larry Walters was an ordinary guy who one day decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a new perspective. He went down to the local army surplus store in a suburb of Los Angeles CA one morning and bought 45 used weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair, and persuaded several of his friends to tie the helium-filled balloons to the lawn chair. He took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.

Mr. Walters assumed the weather balloons would lift him about 100 feet in the air, and give him a bird’s eye view. He was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 11,000 feet into the sky--smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. Too frightened to shoot any of the balloons, he stayed airborne for more than two hours, forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon, causing long delays in flights from across the country. They had to send a military helicopter to rescue Larry, who was, by that time, ready to come back to earth. Soon after he was safely grounded and arrested by the police, reporters asked him three questions:

"Were you scared, Mr. Walters?"


"Would you do it again, Mr. Walters?"


"Why did you do it, Mr. Walters?"

"Because," Larry Walters replied, "you can’t just sit there."

You probably think that Larry Walters was not the sharpest guy in his neighborhood. But you also have to admit that it took some ingenuity just to think up this scheme. It took some thinking, along with a little too much time on his hands, to plan his journey to the sky. The problem was, he didn’t think enough. He did not consider all of the consequences of his actions. Larry Walters failed to exercise a virtue known in the book of Proverbs as prudence.

Prudence may not be a word you use too often. You might instead talk about “common sense; thinking things through.” One dictionary defines “prudence” as “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason; shrewdness in the management of affairs; good judgment in the use of resources.” Prudence is one of the main aspects of wisdom and Jesus even commanded His disciples to be prudent when He said:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

The Bible has a lot to say, especially in the book of Proverbs, about our need to be prudent. Prov. 1:4 tells us that one of the things wisdom does for us is to make us prudent. Tonight I want us to look at 6 areas where you and I need to exercise prudence.

1. Prudent people know that some things are best covered up. (Prov. 12:16)

Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.

The idea behind this proverb is that prudent people are able to keep from reacting hastily or harshly to insults or mistreatment. To cover shame= to ignore an insult or slight. Prudent people do not let other people’s criticism get them steamed up. They take it in stride, and overlook the harshness of others.

Most of us are too sensitive, too touchy, and too easily offended. We’re like dry sticks, waiting for a spark of criticism to ignite the blaze of our anger. When you exercise prudence, you remember that it’s often better to laugh off a criticism and complaint, to have a “duck’s back” attitude about the rudeness of other people. Many of the folks who say critical things don’t really mean them the way they sound; others might say offensive things just to get a rise out of you. Prudent people don’t take themselves too seriously. Instead of loosing their cool, they learn to ignore snide remarks and subtle jabs.

The alternative is to act the fool, and blow up. Some of the most unwise things you will ever do or say will be done or said in anger in reaction to an insult.

Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.

Don’t be foolish, but be prudent. Make up your mind you are not going to react to criticism or insults with anger, but with self-control. Prudence will save you many an apology and a lot of embarrassment.

Robert A. Cook, former president of King’s College in New York, told a true story from the early years of his ministry. He had been receiving some rather pointed criticism, and he sought the counsel of a friend, pastor Harry A. Ironside. Pouring out his heart, Dr. Cook asked what he should do about the accusations being made against him. Ironside responded, “Bob, if the criticism about you is true, mend your ways! If it isn’t, forget about it!”- Our Daily Bread, July 16, 1997

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