Prudent. It’s not a word I use very often or hear used in “normal conversation” a lot. It even has a bit of an old fashioned ring to it. Prudent.
But this morning, reading in the Proverbs, three times in the first half of chapter 14, I encountered wisdom concerning the prudent. Caught my attention. And has me thinking.
The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
(Proverbs 14:8, 15, 18 ESV)
Interesting word for prudent. First time we find it in Scripture is pretty close to the beginning, Genesis 3. And there the word is translated “crafty” or “cunning” as in, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made” (Gen. 3:1). Talk about keeping your bad company. With the serpent it’s being crafty, but with the wise it is being prudent.
At it’s core, the idea is that of being shrewd . . . of giving careful thought . . . of recognizing and navigating nuance. Seems to me it is the opposite of being a bull in a china shop . . . the antithesis of fools rushing in . . . the safeguard against “ready, fire, aim.” At it’s worst, it is being sly and subtle. At it’s best it is being thoughtful and sensible.
The prudent discern their way. They give thought to their steps. And they are encircled with understanding, having great skill in applying knowledge. They are mindful of where they are going . . . they are careful as to how they get there . . . they are wisely assessing and evaluating all that presents itself as being helpful towards reaching their destination.
Thus, while the serpent cunningly and slyly nuanced Eve and Adam to think their way around God, the people of wisdom prudently, sensibly, and carefully give thought to how they live life. Perhaps in this lies some of the reason why Jesus, when he sent out his disciples, exhorted them to “be wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:15). Fight fire with fire. Combat craftiness with prudence.
At the other end of the continuum from prudence, it seems to me, is recklessness. Opposed to giving careful thought is acting on whatever feels good. And, if ultimately we are going up against the serpent who has mastered cunning and craftiness, then to ignore prudence is to place ourselves in grave danger.
Instead, we battle the serpent’s deceitful subtleness with Spirit infused godly thoughtfulness. We have been given the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16)f . . . we have been promised a resident Helper who will lead us into all truth (John 16:13) . . . and we have been given “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Tim. 3:15). All that we need we have been abundantly provided that we might be “the prudent” . . . that we might discern our ways, give thought to our steps, and be encircled with divine understanding.
All by grace alone. All for God’s glory alone.