As we prepare for mid-term elections in our country, I encourage everyone to vote. But there is always the question of whom to vote for. That is a prayerful decision between you and God, and as you pray, there are seven virtues to look for in a leader. Here’s the second virtue: prudence¹.
He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them.
Too many leaders, or I should say non-leaders in leadership positions, are like the ones Solomon describes in today’s passage. They fall into the very pit they just dug. They know snakes hide in the crevices of a wall, yet they ignore the danger. They are hurt by the very stones they quarry and logs they split. We need prudent leaders.
Prudence is the ability to exercise sound judgment in practical matters. Prudence is not about being intelligent. Many intelligent people make very foolish decisions. Solomon says that they dig a pit and fall into it. Prudence is not just about being knowledgeable. There are a lot of impractical people with a head full of knowledge. Solomon notes that the workman knows snakes hide in the crevices of a wall, yet he ignores the danger. Practical wisdom is the ability to put knowledge into practice. A prudent person does not endanger themself by quarrying stones or splitting logs.
We have many important issues in our country. Illegal immigration calls for the need to control our borders and determine what to do with those already living in this country. There are economic challenges and high prices at the pump. We all want security, but we differ on the proposed means to reach that goal. We all use energy, but we differ on what we should do to get it. Many political problems present no good choices. Whatever the decision, some will disagree.
Prudence in a leader is critical. And quite honestly, it’s an area where one’s personal life is fair game. It is very reasonable to want to know how a person seeking office has demonstrated wisdom in his or her personal life. Blaise Pascal said, “The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary course of action.”
Father, first, help us be people who are prudent. We are far from perfect, but Jesus has transformed our lives. By your Spirit’s control, help us always exercise sound judgment in practical matters. And give us leaders with prudence, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
¹ These seven virtues are taken from my book, Picking a President: Seven Characteristics to Evaluate, (Back to the Bible, 2016).