Thursday, November 27, 2008

Don't Call Me Prudence


One of my favourite films is “Support Your Local Sheriff” with James Garner. The love interest is a rather clumsy woman called Prudence, who is anything but prudent.

The dictionary defines prudence as “wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense.” I think my mother was prudent in not calling me Prudence, because quite often I am anything but prudent.

I am thinking about prudence because this morning I was reading Amos 5 and came across verse 13 “Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.”

The chapter is about the rich trampling on the poor and denying them justice. Righteousness was “cast down to the ground”. Courts were rife with bribery and corruption.

Good judgement and common sense led people to keep quiet during evil times. When is it the right time to be prudent and keep quiet? When is it not the right time? Amos obviously wasn’t being prudent because he was speaking out against the evil doers of his day. Maybe prudence wasn’t an option for him anyway, because God’s message pressed heavily on his heart. Maybe given the choice to speak or keep quiet, Amos might have chosen to be prudent!

I suppose there is a time when, like casting your pearls before pigs, you know that not only is it not going to make any difference to how anyone behaves. Your words, and perhaps you yourself, will end up getting trampled on. Is that sufficient reason to say nothing? Does that count as self-protection, or cowardice, or prudence or what?

I encounter some mildly “evil times” in my work place – very mild episodes. On the Richter Scale they would probably not register at all in comparison to ethnic cleansing or genocide. I have wondered whether I just ought to keep quiet. It seems at times that my expressing any opinions about things just makes it worse and achieves very little. I prefer to think that my words might be chipping away, little by little, and my silence would be even worse!

Who was it that said that all it needs for evil men to prevail is for good men to say or do nothing? Or something along those lines.

Prudence, if it is silence when times are evil, is not really an option.

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