Discreet

Missionary Danny Foss has supplied us with this Gem.


Discreet adj. [3x., Gen. 41:33,39, Titus 2:5], discreetly adv. [1x., Mk. 12:34], discretion n. [9x., OT only, 1st in Ps. 112:5] – [Latin discretus, Ital. & Span. discreto, “discreet, wise, wary, considerate, circumspect”; in English discreet(ly) goes back to c. 1340, and discretion to c. 1303, per the OED] It is associated with being wise (Gen. 41:33,39), with sound wisdom (Prov. 3:21), knowledge (Prov. 1:4, 5:2), and understanding (Prov. 2:11). It is something that must be learned (Isa. 28:26), as well as honed, if you will, and is especially important so as to guide our personal affairs (Ps. 112:5), to preserve ourselves from harm (Prov. 2:11), and to get a hold of ourselves lest we do something wrong (Prov. 19:11). According to all of that, discretion is a synonym to prudence and circumspect, yet distinct from them since it is evidently a combination of them, as many old dictionaries prove in having those two as the top meanings of the term. It is wisdom, yes, but cautious and careful, reserved, harnessed.


Many times it is a great positive, as with the Lord God using discretion when He stretched out the heavens (Jer. 10:12), or with Pharaoh looking for the right man to oversee the efforts of collection of grain in the harvest years before the years of famine (Gen. 41). Likewise with Titus 2:5, what the older women are to teach the younger women, to be discreet, prudent and cautious about what they are doing. That is important for young women to be careful, reserved, not latch on to the first boy that gives them attention, but be cautious about things, subject to proper authorities, making reserved, careful decisions. This can also be said in that context to refer to being modest, as in how they dress, which is an important thing for young women (and men, and all ages) to learn! As already said, discretion is related to knowledge. If people would be taught why dressing or behaving licentiously is wrong, it ought to lead to prudent, circumspect behavior about it as a result, i.e. discretion.


However, sometimes it is a negative, as in Mark 12:34 when the scribe answered Jesus discreetly. That was no commendation of how he answered, but a criticism since he was too cautious there about the top two commands of loving God and loving our neighbor by not going and connecting the dots and coming to the right conclusion. That is shown in how that the Lord Jesus said there that he was not far from the kingdom of God because of his cautious answer. He was too reserved. Thus, the lesson is, act with discretion toward the insecurities and uncertainty of the future, toward other people you do not know yet, and toward yourself regarding conduct and clothing, but never with discretion toward the Lord God. We are to give ourselves unreservedly to Him and to what He tells us to do. But, people by and large do the opposite of that, sadly!


Modern versions especially take away the stigma that comes from the context in Mark 12:34 by putting either “wisely” (RSV, NRSV, NIV, NKJV) or “intelligently” (ASV, NASV) instead of “discreetly.” Because of that, they completely obliterate the strong lesson as we just showed with making sure we do not behave toward God with discretion. Their versions will not teach that since they gloss right over the meaning there by their wrong choice of term. They do not get such a reading from Greek since the term there (νουνεχως, or nounechōs), used only in that one verse, is not simply “wisely” (in Lk. 16:8 it comes from a completely distinct term in Greek) or “intelligently.” It appears they instead get their meaning from the Latin Vulgate which has sapienter, meaning wisely or sensibly, which is what the Douay-Rheims followed.



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