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Sensibility and Sense

January 18, 2011

2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 1 Timothy 3:2

It’s easy to blow through Paul’s qualifications due to similarities in the English words. They almost appear to be synonyms. But they’re not. Each has to be mined for meaning.

Compared to more modern translations, the list in the New American Standard Bible remains just about as stilted as the King James. Where have you heard the words “temperate” and “prudent” used lately, unless in a BBC  Jane Austen mini-series (yes, real men do watch these shows)? Furthermore, the traits of temperance and prudence are nearly unknown and unlaudable in today’s society. Perhaps Paul should say, not “bodacious” dude to get his point across.

Temperate means sober. A the heart of this word is the idea of abstinence. Immediately sex comes to mind given the modern movement to keep young people pure. More appropriate in this case is the use of alcohol. The would-be leader has the sensibility and willpower to resist imbibing in something that is not forbidden in the Bible, for the sake of his relationship with God and his testimony to others.

Behind prudent is the concept of playing it safe. A biblically prudent man is not going to spend his emotional capital without much care. He’s got the good sense to keep his passions under control. 

Neither temperence or prudence are possible without the governing power of the Holy Spirit.

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