The Wisdom of the Prudent
1. Once again, Solomon contrasts wisdom and folly… and once again, in a unique way.
2. This time he contrasts their understanding of where they are going.
3. The wise man understands his way. The fool is deceived.
1. Wisdom: this term covers the whole gamut of human experience.
• Wisdom is seen in the skill of technical work in making garments for the high priest (?Ex. 28:3?), craftsmanship in metal work (Ex, 31:3?, 6).
• The execution of battle tactics (Isa. 10:13?).
• Wisdom is required from government leaders and heads of state for administration (Deut. 34:9; II Sam. 14:20?).
• This is wisdom, which we all need for life… wisdom for the average Joe… for daily living… for making decisions day in and day out.
• This is the kind of wisdom we especially need in our pilgrimage here on earth… as we journey toward the heavenly city.
2. Prudent: shrewd; crafty; sly; sensible—used in a good sense.
• It can be used in an evil sense too—translated “crafty or subtle”—used of the devil in Gen.3:1
• Prudence is used in a good sense in this proverb.
• It refers to the man, woman, or child who is shrewd in good things; sensible; balanced; level headed; skillful.
• II Sam. 20:22 – this woman had wisdom. Her actions were prudent.
» She convinced the people of the city to kill the troublemaker in order to save perhaps thousands of them from being killed!
» She could FORSEE what would happen if she did nothing.
» She chose to do the sensible thing. Her actions were prudent.
• Like a village in Pakistan where Osama was hiding, surrounded by coalition forces about to invade—and one wise person handing Osama over rather than see the whole city blown up. That is wisdom… prudent action.
• The actions, decisions, and choices of a wise person are prudent… shrewd in a good sense… sensible… skillful.
• The wisdom of the prudent is DIFFERENT from the wisdom of the “learned.” This is wisdom in a practical rather than an intellectual sense… a sensible and practical use of wisdom.
3. The prudent man understands his way.
a. WAY: way; road; distance; journey; manner; course of life.
b. The prudent man knows where he’s going… where he’s headed…
c. He isn’t just meandering through life… wandering aimlessly… drifting along wherever the current takes him…
d. Wandering, meandering, and drifting do not involve any thinking or planning. That’s the way of the fool.
e. But the prudent man THINKS ahead. He PLANS.
f. Prov. 4:26 – He PONDERS the path of his feet.
g. The road he is traveling is the road he CHOSE to take… because he THOUGHT about the direction it would take him.
h. Understanding one’s way also implies that he knows WHERE he’s going. If you don’t have a destination, there’s no point in planning your course or your pathway. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
i. The prudent man KNOWS where he wants to go… where he wants to be… therefore he THINKS about his way… the best road to get there!
4. THE WAY…
a. Of course, one could apply this passage to making wise decisions concerning college, career, business decisions, etc.
b. But it should also be applied to our MANNER of life along the way.
c. The prudent man demonstrates wisdom in his own personal ways… his attitudes… his goals… his character… the kind of person he is.
d. The way speaks of our walk—both in the sense of where we are headed… and HOW we live along the way.
e. The direction our life is taking is far more than cold, calculated, shrewd business decisions.
f. The direction our life is taking also (and more importantly!) involves how we live… how we treat others… whether we are KIND… forgiving… gracious… humble…honest… fair… just… holy. (That’s one walk.)
g. Another person’s walk might be characterized by cruelty, selfishness, deception, greed, bitterness, impulse, lust.
h. That’s no way to walk… that’s not a good road to be headed down.
i. The wise man THINKS about his way… he thinks about the direction his life is taking… and makes adjustments as needed.
j. His ship is not drifting through life… he is at the helm, observing the navigation instruments, and actively steering it.
5. The wise man thinks about where he is headed SPIRITUALLY…
a. He thinks about where his family life is headed…
b. He thinks about where his church life is headed…
c. He thinks about where his personal life is headed…
d. Just as some folks drift through their careers without any planning or preparation, some drift through their spiritual lives too… without thinking about where they are headed.
e. A runner in a race needs to KNOW the course of the race…which way to go…to run… for if he runs off course, he is disqualified.
f. Hence, as believers, we need to know the way God wants us to be running… so as not to find ourselves disqualified for service.
g. The way we should go is recorded for us in the Word.
» It is our wisdom to understand it and DO it! (Eph. 5:17)
» The prudent man will SEEK to understand the will of the Lord… the way he should go. (Prov. 2:3-6) (Ps. 143:8,10)
h. The spiritually prudent man understands this way… he studies it… he lives it…
» There are spiritual dangers along the way—we should understand how to avoid them!
» There are spiritual difficulties along the way—we should understand how to work through them!
» There are spiritual temptations along the way—we should understand how to flee from them!
6. The wisdom of a prudent man causes him to:
a. Look well to his going… (Prov. 14:15)
i. He thinks before he acts…
ii. He looks before he leaps…
iii. He measures the ice before he skates…
iv. He does his math before he makes a purchase…
b. Foresee evil and hide himself (Prov. 22:3)
i. If you are looking well to the road ahead of you, you are able to foresee the potholes and avoid them!
ii. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you can tell when a group of friends is up to no good. When you foresee that coming… hide yourself!
iii. The fool might see evil straight ahead—but plunges in anyway.
iv. The wise man sees it—and hides from it! He stays away… he wants to be nowhere near it!
v. Young people: if you know kids who seem attracted toward evil… find a new friend! He’s a fool.
vi. The wise man sees evil and is repulsed by it.
vii. God wants us to learn to foresee evil—and flee from it!
viii. When Joseph understood what Potiphar’s wife was up to, he ran and hid himself from her… that’s wisdom.
c. Deal with knowledge. He wants to know the facts. (Prov. 13:16)
i. A truly wise man wants knowledge; he wants to KNOW what is the right way to go… the right thing to do…
ii. A wise and prudent man devotes his attention to understanding his way…
iii. Knowledge is a friend to the wise man. He wants as much of it as he can get. He’s never afraid of the facts.
iv. He doesn’t change the direction of his life on hearsay… or feelings… or what others are doing… or fads. He deals with the facts.
d. Regard reproof. (Prov. 15:5)
i. If he’s headed in the wrong direction, he WANTS to know…
ii. He doesn’t get mad when someone tries to point out error… or a misstep!
iii. The only people who regard reproof are the ones who genuinely WANT to head down the right path.
e. He has insight… because he stops to think… he listens… he wants to know the facts…
f. The ostrich is an example of an animal with NO wisdom or prudence. (Job 39:13c-17)
i. She lays her eggs, and leaves them unattended.
ii. She does not foresee the danger and acts irresponsibly
iii. She doesn’t seem to realize that a beast could come by and break the eggs and eat them…
iv. She does NOT have wisdom or prudence.
v. The proverbial ostrich buries her head in the sand. (really?)
7. Note also that the prudent man understands HIS way…
a. He is not a critic of the way of others. He is more concerned about his OWN way.
b. He ponders the path of HIS feet…
c. Prov. 14:15 – he looks well to HIS going…
d. He is not a busybody in the affairs of others…
e. He realizes (wisely and prudently) that taking care of his OWN way is enough to keep him plenty busy!
1. The fool is DECEIVED about his way…
2. Prov. 12:15 – he THINKS his way is right… so why bother pondering the path of his steps?
3. The fool thinks his way is right… so he won’t listen to correction… he won’t turn from his ways… he misses the right way… and continues on in his false way…
4. He is deceived… by his own pride… his own “know it all” attitude.
5. This person is headed for disaster!
6. He is too proud to realize that he NEEDS God’s wisdom…
7. The fool doesn’t care about his “manner of life.”
a. Perhaps he is cruel—and will not admit it.
b. Perhaps he treats others with no kindness… no compassion.
c. Perhaps he is driven by greed and selfishness…
d. Perhaps he is motivated by a love of pleasure and fun, fun, fun…
e. But if he THINKS his way is right… there is no helping such a person. He will have to learn the hard way. He’s a fool.