A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Be careful! Be cautious! Do not get surprised! What could happen that might hurt you? Optimism is risky; pessimism is safe. Learn wisdom. Prudent men look ahead and adjust their lives to avoid loss, pain, or trouble. Wise men are vigilant to spot changes coming that could cost them, and so they avoid them. Foolish men live day by day without regard to the future and get caught by life’s frequent changes, and so they are hurt by them.
Do you believe most of what you hear or read? Are you decisive and opinionated? Be careful! Wise men are cautious, critical, pessimistic, and skeptical about unproven assertions or situations. They do not believe all they hear or read, and they do not make decisions without carefully analyzing possible danger (Pr 14:15). Only foolish simpletons naively view the future and rush forward optimistically. And they get punished for it.
Prudence is the power of discernment. It is the discretion or practical wisdom to detect problems or dangers in any situation and avoid them by altering actions to find the most profitable course. Obviously, prudent men move more slowly than fools, because they know that hasty or heady decisions are risky (Pr 14:29; 19:2; 21:5; 25:8; 29:20; II Tim 3:4). This rule for wise living is so important that Solomon repeated it for you (Pr 22:3).
A prudent man – one with cautious discretion – looks ahead and sees fallacies or risks. He hides himself from their danger by altering his beliefs or his actions. He will never be caught believing lies or walking into a trap. On the other hand, simpletons blithely let life happen to them. They do not question what they believe or what they are doing. They keep going forward and get clobbered repeatedly by dangers and risks they overlooked.
Of course, your foolish spirit wants to do what it wants to do, and it wants to do it now! Foolish companions and peer pressure further encourage this insane approach to life. It is prudence – a component of wisdom – that slows men down to consider what they are doing. Only wise men look at every angle in a complete circle – circumspection – before making decisions (Eph 5:15-17). Fools rush ahead in blind zeal and ignorant confidence.
Some get laid off with savings, a transferable skill, and another job waiting. Others lose their jobs, have no financial cushion, are untrained, hurt their families, and do not know what to do. Some manage the number and timing of their children to be excellent parents. Others reproduce like rabbits not considering the cost, effort, time, or wisdom to get them all to adulthood with Christian character, productive careers, and godly spouses.
Wise men will not believe anything or do anything until they prove God’s truth or will in the matter. The Bereans were commended for testing even Paul’s preaching, and the Thessalonians were commanded to do it (Acts 17:11; I Thess 5:21). It is fools that believe the evening news, Ben Spock’s childcare hallucinations, testimonials of any kind, think tanks of the left and the right, or any man because he calls himself a reverend or a doctor.
If it is not a matter of religion or morality, they practice the wisdom of Solomon’s proverbs (Pr 1:1-4), they seek safety in a multitude of counselors (Pr 11:14; 24:6), and they hide like the coney from risk (Pr 30:26; 6:1-5). They do not trust their own opinions (Pr 26:12; 16:2,25; 21:2). They could not care less what everyone else is doing (Ex 23:2). They do not believe anything without strong and tested evidence (Pr 14:15; 13:16).
The best way to become prudent is to learn the Bible (Ps 19:7-11; 119:98-100; II Tim 3:16-17). It contains the truth of God and His will for successful living. The book of Proverbs is Solomon’s inspired rules for a prosperous life. Without God’s truth and precepts, you will be vulnerable to the folly of feelings and vain ideas of men. Without instruction from God’s ministers, you will be tossed to and fro by crafty deceivers (Eph 4:14). You need to be in a Bible-preaching church to fully grow in prudence and wisdom.
Are you prudent to save some of all income, so future financial difficulties can be avoided (Pr 30:25)? Do you insure major assets against catastrophic loss, so you cannot be wiped out (Pr 22:26-27)? Are you very cautious about marriage, either your own or your children’s, to prudently avoid the odious woman (Pr 30:21-23; 31:30)? Have you looked ahead to see if your job, profession, or business will be needed in the future (Pr 27:23-24)? Have you trained your children to avoid them ruining your future (Pr 29:15)?
Have you acquired a transferable skill, or are you unskilled and subject to layoffs (Pr 24:27)? Do you invest in high-yield opportunities, or do you question deals that sound too good to be true? Have you been reading some new version of the Bible without examining its origin, text, and fruit? Do you prove everything you hear at church, or do you assume it to be right? Have you vigorously examined the training of your children to maximize its potential? Do you treat your spouse God’s way to build a lasting marriage?
Did you fall for Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” or did you recognize it as an animated crucifix for Roman Catholicism? Are you a purpose-driven Christian, or do you see the horrible compromise of seeker sensitive Rick Warren (II Tim 4:3-4)? Have you read the “Left Behind” novels, or do you know the antichrist comes before Jesus Christ’s return (II Thess 2:3)? Do you endorse Jim Dobson’s permissive child training, or do you stick with the old paths of inspired Scripture (Pr 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; Jer 6:16)?
The book of Proverbs was inspired by God and written by Solomon to teach you wisdom. The rule of wisdom in this proverb is to be prudently cautious about everything you believe and do, lest you believe a lie or expose yourself to danger. Only fools press forward without critical and skeptical analysis. The Lord is offering safety from frauds and risk, if you will slow down and prove all things (I Thess 5:21). If you continue to let life happen to you without cautious inspection, you will be repeatedly punished.
The greatest future danger you face is the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, when He will examine everything you have done in life (Eccl 12:13-14; Rom 14:10-12; II Cor 5:10-11; Heb 9:27; Rev 20:11-15). It is time to wake up from sleeping and begin living a holy life to hide from that day (Rom 13:11-14; Eph 5:3-7; I Tim 6:17-19). Only a wicked fool eats, drinks, and makes merry without regard for the Day of Judgment that is fast approaching. Those obsessed with the foolish pleasures of this life will soon be punished for eternity.