“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps…The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 14:5; 22:3)
In 2017, Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries added the word “cringeworthy,” along with a bunch of other new words. The Official Scrabble Dictionary added a total of eight thousand new words last year-I know because I am an avid Scrabble and Words with Friends player. I like words, as do many of my friends. And yet, with all these new words, many have been in use for hundreds if not thousands of years that we hardly use today. “Prudence” is one of those words that you never hear today. The Bible in Basic English provides these substitutes for prudence: “good sense” (14:5) and “sharp” (22:3).
Prudent is the opposite of “simple” in our verses above, so we can safely (prudently) say that there is more to prudence than good sense or reasonableness. The simple person is the one who does not give thought to his movement or pay attention to danger to protect himself. I imagine walking on a sidewalk and tripping over a very obvious irregularity, which I have done many times. It’s simple to avoid a bump, by merely looking down. The analogy to spiritual matters is easy; when tempted by worldly occupations or distractions, be careful to recognize them and steadily fix your gaze and attention on Christ. But it’s not that simple to avoid being “simple,” is it?
Prudence not only means having and using good sense, caution, and wisdom but also includes the idea of being able to manage oneself. Practicing self-discipline and self-control is one of the hardest things for people to do. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and is essential for spiritual growth. Those who are “simple” do not have this fruit, and many Christians merely suffer from a lack of practice. Good fruit is given to us by God, through the work of the Holy Spirit in followers of Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:22-23). However, if one does not put the fruit to use, it will spoil on the tree, unused and of no benefit to anyone. The simple do not use the fruit given to them by God and therefore are caught in many traps because of their complacency. “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.” (Proverbs 1:32)
The opposite of prudent is imprudent, meaning unwise, incautious, or thoughtless. In what ways are you complacent or foolish with strangers? Do you make inaccurate assumptions about people in your home, extended family, your circle of friends, coworkers, or church relationships? Will you ask God to help you practice prudence today, avoiding the danger of taking people for granted?