A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Danger ahead! Proceed at your own risk! If you saw this warning on a bridge, you would find another route to be safe. Foolish drivers, some drunk – some texting, would speed ahead and possibly die. How cautious are you with life’s other warning signs?
Wise men are farsighted and foresightful – they look ahead for potential trouble. They avoid a painful future by altering their decisions today. Fools are nearsighted – they confidently rush on with little regard to the risk and future consequences of their actions. The warnings they ignored turn into real trouble that punishes them, often severely.
Prudent men, those with discretion and wisdom, see the danger ahead, so they avoid it. They do not want to be hurt, so they change course. Simple men, the foolish and hasty, move forward without due caution and get hurt. Caught up in the moment, they fail to protect their future. This rule is so important it has an identical twin (Pr 27:12).
Wisdom soberly looks ahead before making decisions. It knows pessimism is safer than optimism. You have heard the true saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Paul described this cautious approach as being circumspect – the inspection of every angle in every direction, a full circle of careful caution (Eph 5:15).
Shortsightedness is dangerous, for what might work or be safe now may have bad future consequences. Hindsight may see 20-20, but it is worthless. Who cares what you should have done after the results are in? Success depends on seeing results in advance. Foresight in a wise man, with God’s blessing, can foresee the future in broad terms.
After several plagues, some Egyptians brought their cattle into barns, when they heard Moses had threatened hail (Ex 9:20-21). They looked past their hatred of Israel to see great danger. But foolish Pharaoh took his chariot into the Red Sea in passionate folly. The one saved their cattle from certain destruction; the other was punished by drowning.
Haste makes waste! Slow down! Think! What might happen you need to see? In what areas do you bull ahead against warning signs? If you tend to haste, you need this rule more than most. If stubborn, you must humble yourself. Have you carefully assessed all options for their potential consequences? If you have not, do it. Or you will be punished.
Consider war. A wise general weighs a battle and withdraws to fight another time under better circumstances. The enemy, his own men, and his heart may call him a coward. But he knows discretion is better than valor. He wants the odds in his favor before fighting. A foolish general marches on, with a grand display, to the annihilation of his army.
Consider business. Foolish managers make short-term decisions for current profits, ignoring the coming changes in the economic or political environment that will cost them in the long run. Wise men have a sober strategic plan for future growth and safety, even though it may hurt short-term profits. They hide their companies from coming trouble.
Consider investment opportunities. A wise man laughs at stories of quick riches, as he knows there is no free lunch. He looks for fine print, lying testimonials, and promotional tricks. Fools, in eagerness to avoid labor and be important, simply want to know where to sign and make a deposit. They believe every word they hear. Their punishment is certain.
Consider marriage. Fools follow beauty and emotions with little regard for proving a spouse. They end up in a painful marriage and are punished for the rest of their lives by their impatient, impulsive, and ignorant choice. Wise men use many counselors and God-given criteria to avoid faulty character and find worthy candidates for a great marriage.
Remember, the odious woman and strange woman are only known by looking past their present impressions (Pr 6:25; 30:23). Their appearance during courtship is very desirable, but their future is miserable suffering. Ask seven wise married people for their honest assessment before you plunge into a lifelong relationship out of infatuation or necessity.
Consider education. If a man does not prepare himself adequately for a profitable field of endeavor, he must endure the punishment of working harder for less money than his wise peers. The long-term pain of underemployment obliterates the short-term pleasure of playing basketball or video games, driving a fancy sports car, or taking life easy.
Consider finances. Fools spend their money and have no safety net for trouble or capital to invest in business opportunities. Wise men, by limiting spending and setting part of all income aside in saving, have both for the protection and prosperity of their family and estate. Only the man looking ahead will make the right choice with cash flow today.
Consider child training. Wise parents assess their children and alter training to head off trouble down the road. Foolish parents, too lazy to assess or train, stay in their parental rut and suffer the painful consequences of rebellious children. A wise man chooses the difficulty of training to gain the future reward of successful children (Pr 22:6; 29:15,17).
Consider sin. Wise men avoid temptations that lead to sin (Rom 13:14). They stay away from even the appearance of evil (I Thess 5:22). But fools rush on, like Samson and David, into sins that punish them horribly in the future. A wise man knows that watching television tonight could have painful consequences for his soul and family in the future.
Consider the Day of Judgment. Wise men see the terror coming and live a holy life in light of it (II Cor 5:10-11). But fools love the pleasure of sin for a season, ignoring the eternal pain of their actions. The short-term “pleasure” brings long-term punishment. The whole world is insanely simple – they totally ignore this coming day of eternal horror.
The Lord Jesus Christ will soon appear. His coming will be a day of dread for those who lived in pleasure here. But it will be an eternity of pleasure for those who lived for Him here. Reader, be wise. Humble yourself, see the coming evil, and hide yourself in Christ.