As a rogue NSA employee and an eager media have shown us as of late, we still do not know the depths of how much of our private lives are under the surveillance of the government. Was that phone call you just made, email you sent this morning, or text message you just zipped off heard or read by someone other than your intended recipient? Could be.
In the barren nakedness of modern life, where cell phone cameras, Facebook walls, and YouTube either trespass on our privacy or encourage its lack, it might be good to meditate a moment on the forgotten quality of discretion.
Our God is discreet. Though He has revealed some things to man, He also hides others (Deuteronomy 29:29). Even now He dwells with the heavens like a curtain hiding Him from our sight (Psalm 104:1-2). Often in Scripture the Lord reminds us of His supreme power in how He controls the world’s affairs in ways man cannot fathom, causing the prophet to declare in humble wonder, “Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!” (Isaiah 46:15). As this exclamation indicates, even in salvation discretion is present.
We know the Father sent His Son to reveal grace and truth to the world, and His gospel is to be preached to every creature under heaven. Yet Jesus’ very incarnation was not only revealing in nature but veiling also, as his humanly tabernacled divinity (John 1:14) and rather plain appearance (Isaiah 53:2) kept many from seeing Him for who He was. He spoke in parables, in part, to veil His glory to some (Matthew 13:10-17). Even the cross, a rock of salvation for the elect, is a stumbling block to the reprobate because its beautiful truth is veiled by its ugly reality. The Spirit, whose presence in this world is clear to all who believe on the gospel, is still like the wind – blowing invisibly where He will. To far too many, it seems, the gospel is still veiled (II Corinthians 4:3-4). As an aspect of His holiness, God’s essential discretion means He acts in this manner.
Because this Triune God has created this world, from the farthest reaches of space to the smallest of particles scientists are continually discovering truths God has wrapped up. When we finally happen upon them, their discovery creates awe when we realize what was right before us all the time. Thus, living in this world works best when this careful balance of revelation and veiling is maintained. Nakedness can be a wonderful thing when shared behind closed doors between husband and wife, but becomes an awful disgrace when viewed anywhere else. Secrets and private matters should only be known by a few trusted intimates. The best drama, mysteries, and jokes maintain the proper tension by concealing and then revealing the story or punchline. Indeed, a little secret about good preaching is that it is best when it holds hearer’s attention by slowly – but not too slowly! – unveiling Christ in a given passage. All around us God is employing and blessing discretion.
Thus, one reason God urges wisdom upon us is “to give prudence to the naive, (and) to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:4). For, as these same Proverbs teach us, one who shares everything about his or her self is vain; one who shares everything he or she hears is a gossip. Others can help us learn this wisdom. Being more of the open-faced, blabbering one in the family, I am so thankful for the quiet helper the Lord has given me in my wife. From anything to her private counsel to her hidden taps on my leg that cause me to lower it so I will not yet again stick my foot in my mouth, she is the Lord’s chief instrument to help me learn more and more the beauty of the discretion that He so highly values (I Peter 3:3-4).
The church needs to model modesty for this vain world, yet how do you discreetly show discretion? Consider this little application. Think of a mature believer or two who is a bit of a mystery to you, for he or she is practicing this wisdom. Quietly observe them and find a way or two to imitate them. Pray that God would help you be more like them. Then, and this is the most important part of this exercise, do not tell another soul what you are doing.
For keeping a few secrets between God and you is at the heart of learning the wisdom of discretion.