Survival Tip #10: Discretion

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/23/2020
Proverbs  Wisdom 

Over the summer we have been plowing our way through Proverbs! Next week, we’ll wrap up this series talking about Righteousness and Justice. Proverbs has a lot of important, profound things to say to us during these times of societal unrest. At the beginning of September, we’ll start a new series were calling “Stand Firm.” We will be studying the letter of 1 Peter, exploring what it looks like to live faithfully as God’s People in God’s World.

But this morning our topic is “Discretion.” The opening verses of Proverbs tells that the Proverbs were written to cultivate “wisdom, discipline, and understanding”… “righteousness, justice, and integrity”… and also “shrewdness, knowledge, and discretion.” The Proverbs were written “to” young people, but not just “for” young people.

Another word for discretion is “good judgement”, “caution”, or even “decision-making skills.” Discretion is something that must be instilled at the youngest possible age and also maintained over a lifetime. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 5:1-2 says, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen closely to my understanding so that you may maintain discretion and your lips safeguard knowledge.” Our concern in life isn’t just to start off well, but to also finish well!

Here is the matter at hand as far as discretion is concerned. The days are evil. We live in an evil world. But how can we live in this world, without becoming of the same character of this world? How can we live in this world, without evil getting the best of us, or the best of others? Proverbs 5:22-23 says, “A wicked man’s iniquities will trap him; he will become tangled in the ropes of his own sin. He will die because there is no discipline, and be lost because of his great stupidity.”

For all the danger that’s latent or potential in the world—there is also great danger within each of our hearts. Remember what Jesus warned in Matthew 15:19-20a? “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander. These are the things that defile a person;” As much as we might want to help everyone else get their house in order (or get our nation’s house in order), we need to get our own house in order, and more specifically, our own hearts in order!

I have three broad themes I want to explore this morning. First, how do we guard our hearts from evil? Second, what kind of danger should we beware of? Third, (and we’ll spend the most time on this question…) how should we respond to evil people and circumstances?

First, How Do We Guard Our Hearts from Evil? There is such an overwhelming among of material in Proverbs, its practically impossible, to cover verse by verse! But here is the principle. Back when I was in college, Lara and I would drive down from Lincoln to Chick-fil-A (it used to be in the mall). The Interstate speed limit was 55 mph. Over the years they increased it to 65/70 mph. There have been some pretty nasty accidents through the years—so what did they do? A few years ago they installed cable “guardrails.” There are still accidents, but there aren’t as many head-on collisions and fatalities.

For all of us, life is happening faster than ever before. We’re bombarded with infinitely more amounts of information, opportunities, pressures, and temptations. Guardrails are like a safety net. They help guard us from succumbing to the worse part of ourselves or other people. I am going to rapid-fire popcorn a bunch of examples of guardrails in Proverbs. You can go on our website later and get this list, and you can hover over each guardrail with your finger or mouse and the corresponding Proverb will pop up!

Fearing the Lord is your #1 guardrail (Proverbs 1:7). Loving wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 1:29). Loving righteousness/justice (Prov. 13:6). Directing your heart to really understand what is behind wisdom (Prov. 2:2). So often we focus on the “what” or “how” without ever contemplating the “why” behind God’s wisdom.

Listening to your father’s instruction and mother’s teaching (Prov. 1:8). Seeking godly counsel when facing big/hard decisions (Prov. 1:30). Receiving correction/rebuke from godly people (Prov. 1:30). Not listening to sinners (Prov. 1:10)—just turn off your device, or turn away from an evil person. Not running with sinners (Prov. 1:15)—don’t put yourself in situations and environments in which you don’t have decision making power. Do not listen to malicious/destructive/inciting talk/political propaganda (Prov. 17:4).

Here are some other great ideas. Use critical reasoning skills. The whole of proverbs is about weighing was is useful/useless, what is profitable/unprofitable (Prov. 1:17). Carefully consider your paths in life (Prov. 4:26). Heed warnings from those who love you (Prov. 5 wayward woman). Avoid obvious dangers (Prob 7:6-27). Guard your mouth—that is typically our biggest snare (Prov 13:3). I really liked this guardrail—practice discipline outside the moment (Prov 3:11). The best time to strengthen yourself to overcome temptation is before the temptation ever presents itself!

Okay, two final guardrails and I’ll include the verses for these. One of our greatest guardrails is surrounding ourselves with godly friends at all times. Proverbs 13:20 says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Another guardrail is scriptural meditation and memorization. Proverbs 6:20-22 says, “My son, keep your father’s command, and don’t reject your mother’s teaching. Always bind them to your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk here and there, they will guide you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; when you wake up, they will talk to you.” Isn’t that great? When you meditate/memorize scripture… the Scriptures will talk to you! We should do everything we can to amplify the Spirit’s voice in our heart, mind, body, soul.

Second, What Kind of Danger Should We Beware Of? Again, there is an overwhelming amount of material in Proverbs on this question. If you want to be a person of great discretion/ good judgment… do everything in your power not to subject yourself to . . .

People who speak perversity (Prov. 2:12). Who have abandoned the right path in life (Prov. 2:13). Who enjoy doing evil (Prov. 2:14). Who celebrate perversion (Prov. 2:14). Whose hands that shed innocent blood (Prov. 6:17). Whose feet are eager to run to evil (Prov. 6:18). Who lie and give false testimony (Prov. 6:19). Who stir up trouble among brothers (Prov. 6:19). Who are rowdy (Prov. 9:13), gullible (Prov. 9:13). Be wary of know-it-alls (Prov. 9:9). People who conceal hatred with lying lips/false flattery (Prov. 10:18). People who spread slander (Prov. 10:18). Who speak rashly (Prov. 12:18). Who display stupidity (Prov. 13:16). Who are easily angered and careless, or quick-tempered (Prov. 14:16,17). Who are always scheming (Prov. 14:17). That Person who narrows his eyes plotting (Prov. 16:30), who compresses his lips (Prov. 16:30). Who loves to offend, to create chaos/strife (Prov. 17:19). Who provokes anger (Prov. 20:2). Who shows no consideration for others (Prov. 21:10). You can go through Proverbs with a pen underlying all these kinds of ideas. There are hundreds and hundreds.

Be very careful who you subject yourself to. Who you befriend, run around with, hang out with, date, court, get engaged to, marry, build a family with, live with, live near, associate with, work with, work for, partner with, do business with. Again Proverbs 13:20 says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Third, how should we respond to evil people and circumstances? First, Make Your Bed Wisely. Proverbs 3:29, “Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you.” The value of trust in relationships cannot be overstated. Once its gone, its virtually impossible to restore.

Second, Be Completely Sober Always. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler; whoever goes astray because of them is not wise.” There is absolutely no way to exercise good judgement when you’ve impaired your faculties chemically.

Third, Maintain Emotional Composure. Proverbs 16:32, “Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions, than captures a city.” Proverbs 17:14, “To start a conflict is to release a flood; stop the dispute before it breaks out.” Proverbs 17:27, “The one who has knowledge restrains his words, and the one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding.” Proverbs 24:19a, “Don’t be agitated by evildoers. . .” Proverbs 25:28, “A person who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down.” If you are not in control of your emotions, step back, step away

Fourth, Stop Reacting to Everyone or Everything. Proverbs 11:12, “Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person of understanding keeps quiet.” Proverbs 12:16, “A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible.” Proverbs 17:9, “Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends.” Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person holds it in check.” Proverbs 26:17, “A person who is passing by and meddles in a quarrel that’s not his is like one who grabs a dog by the ears.”

Fifth, Seek First to Understand Before Being Understood. Proverbs 14:29, “A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered person promotes foolishness.” Proverbs 15:18, “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife.” Proverbs 15:28, “The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering, but the mouth of the wicked blurts out evil things.” Proverbs 19:11, “A persons’ insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.”

Last, Plot Goodness and Kindness. Proverbs 11:17, “A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel person brings ruin on himself.” Proverbs 14:21, “The one who despises his neighbor sins, but whoever shows kindness to the poor will be happy.” Proverbs 14:22, “Don’t those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.” Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Proverbs 25:21-22, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Scripture Verses

Matthew 15:19-20a; Proverbs 22:6; 5:1-2, 22-23

Worship Playlist

Only King Forever by Elevation Worship

Oh Our Lord by Paul Baloche

Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

King of Kings by Hillsong

Study Questions

  1. Read Proverbs 1. Why are injustice and violence often associated with a person lacking discretion?
  2. Share the story of a Bible character who lacked good judgement and face a Proverbs 6:12-15 type result.
  3. In what areas of life do you need greater direction? Where can you get help?

Apply It!


Our In the Wilderness sermon series booklet provides a place for sermon notes, questions for reflection, and a challenge to read through the book of Proverbs in 31 days. You may pick up a booklet at Lakeside on Sunday mornings or weekdays between 8:00 am & 4:00 pm.