Today we are going to talk about the cardinal virtue of Prudence and where example of it can be found in the Bible.
To begin, what is a virtue?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in the Glossary that a virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. So they are habits of doing good.
The Catechism in the glossary also has the Cardinal virtues defined –four pivotal human virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; the human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith'
Let’s begin with prudence; what is it and where do we see examples of it in the Bible
CCC 1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.
This virtue is called the charioteer of all the virtues. A charioteer is one who drives a chariot of course. So how do we acquire this virtue? Where do we get it from?
We get it from listening to good people and putting what they say into practice. For example the Bible specifically Jesus.
Listen to the Book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and reject not your mother's teaching; 9 for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck.
Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. 21 Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck. 22 When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.
And as we read the book of Proverbs, and Wisdom, and Sirach they are filled with very good day-to-day advice and tell us how to be good and avoid evil.
Let me continue reading that Chapter 6 from Proverbs
Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adventuress. 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26 for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread, but an adulteress stalks a man's very life. 27 Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. 30 Do not men despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry? 31 And if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. 32 He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33 Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. 35 He will accept no compensation, nor be appeased though you multiply gifts.
So this is the trouble that one goes through on the outside when you commit adultery. Jesus talk about the inside.
Matthew 5:27 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
So now that we are informed from a reliable source we can use prudence to help us avoid a situation that might lead us to commit adultery and other such sins.
We have all heard people say to us after we make a poorly thought out decision – why did you drive through a snow storm just to pick up a movie – that wasn’t smart. This person should have been more prudent and thought through the risks before acting.
Prudence is really a call to constantly keep a clear mind about you. St. Peter puts it into perspective.
RSV 1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.
He is saying that we are only here for a moment so in a spiritual sense – stay awake.
Proverbs 14 gives more advice on prudence.
Proverbs 14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent looks where he is going.
16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is careless.
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient.
18 The simple acquire folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
Remember Solomon from the Old Testament – God appears to Solomon in a dream and says – ask of me what you will – and this is what Solomon asks for:
1 Kings 3:9 Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?" 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.
This is Solomon’s prayer for Prudence and God was pleased by this prayer.
We end with the words of our Lord.
Matthew 7:24 "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."
We need to take our Lord’s advice and make our decisions based on his commands and wisdom and this will lead to happiness.