Ladies Corner

Ladies Corner

Being Discreet

In Titus 2:5, one of the things we are told that older women are to admonish younger women to do is “be discreet.” Often we think of being discreet as being secretive, or not easily noticed. The word that is used by Paul here, though, is one that means, “of sound mind, self-controlled” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary. The first definition of the word “discreet” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is “having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech: prudent.” There is a woman described in the Bible whose attitude, speech, and actions reflect this characteristic of being discreet. Her name is Abigail.

We are told about a man named Nabal and his wife Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 (I encourage you to read the full account there). Nabal was a rich man who is described as “harsh and evil in all his doings,” while Abigail is said to be a “woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance” (1 Samuel 25:3). David, who had been anointed by God to be Israel’s next king, was hiding from King Saul who was trying to kill him. David sent ten of his young men to peacefully ask Nabal for provisions for the coming feast day, because they had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds while they were in that area. Nabal refused, acting like he did not know who David was or who these servants really were. When David’s men reported to him, he told them to get their swords ready and took 400 men with him to attack Nabal (1 Samuel 25:4-13).

One of Nabal’s servants told Abigail what had happened, and attested to the fact that David’s men had been good to them and protected them. He asked Abigail to “know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.” Nabal’s own men realized that he was not a man with whom one could reason. He pleaded with Abigail to find a way to stop the coming attack (1 Samuel 25:14-17).

At this point, consider what Abigail’s reaction might have been. More importantly, consider what your reaction might have been. Fear? Panic? Hysteria? It is easy for emotions to take over when we receive news that shocks and scares us. We may “lose our minds,” as the saying goes, instead of maintaining a sound mind. We may lose control of our emotions instead of being self-controlled. Those reactions, however, will not result in good decisions. When we are of sound mind and self-controlled—discreet—we can make good decisions. We can implement calm, wise, thoughtful action.

Abigail was of sound mind and self-controlled. She did not panic and become hysterical. She quickly organized the provisions needed by David and his men, gathering food and wine and having it loaded onto donkeys. She sent servants ahead with the food, and she came along behind them. We are told that David had said he would kill Nabal and all the men in his household, so Abigail was setting off to meet a very angry group of fighting men (1 Samuel 25:18-22)!

When she saw David, she dismounted from the donkey and bowed down before him (1 Samuel 25:23). Do you see the courage this action required? In his anger David was ready to kill, but Abigail went to meet him instead of running the other way. When we are of sound mind and self-controlled, we can have the courage to act, not flee.

Abigail then spoke to David, asking him to listen to her and disregard Nabal. She asked him to accept the provisions from her for his men. She acknowledged that he was fighting for God and showed that she had faith that God would protect him from Saul and make him king. She continued to point out that when he became king, he should not have guilt over unnecessary bloodshed (1 Samuel 25:24-31).

Do you see the wisdom in Abigail’s actions and words? When we are of sound mind and self-controlled, we can speak words that are beneficial and wise. Abigail showed respect to David in the way she approached him and in the way she spoke to him. She reasoned with him. Her words were sincere, but not based on emotions. They were based on her ability to think clearly about what needed to be said. Notice that she essentially told David that what he intended to do was wrong, but she did it in a respectful and logical way. Can you imagine some women screaming out, “Please take the food and don’t kill us!” while crying hysterically? Discreet does not describe that type of behavior.

David was grateful for Abigail. He praised God for sending her to meet him. He said that she had kept him from bloodshed and from avenging himself. He accepted her gifts and told Abigail, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person” (1 Samuel 25:32-35). When we are of sound mind and self-controlled, we can accomplish important work and gain the respect of others. Obviously not all people will listen and do the right thing as David did, especially if it means admitting they were wrong. However, we have a much better chance of convincing people of what is right if we approach them as Abigail approached David—with respect and reason.

When Abigail returned home, Nabal was having a big feast and was drunk, so she did not tell him anything until the next morning. When she told him what had happened, “he became like a stone” and after ten days God struck him dead (1 Samuel 25:36-38). God was clearly not pleased with Nabal’s behavior! When we are of sound mind and self-controlled, we can do what is right even in hard circumstances. Abigail lived with a harsh, wicked husband. She maintained her faith and obedience to God despite her difficult situation. Do you think she feared what Nabal might do to her when he found out she had helped David? She did the right thing anyway (by providing for God’s anointed and saving her own household from his anger), then told him what she had done. Again we see her calm, courageous disposition. When David heard that Nabal was dead, he sent a proposal to Abigail and she became his wife (1 Samuel 25:39-42). 

Christian women are taught to be discreet. When we are of sound mind and self-controlled, we can make good decisions, have courage to act, speak wise reasonable words, accomplish important work, gain the respect of others, and be obedient to God even in difficult circumstances. Let us learn from Abigail’s example and develop in ourselves a greater ability to be discreet.