By: Steve Wilmot
Some words tend to change their meaning over the years. What may have been an insult in the past becomes a compliment today. What was considered a positive characteristic decades ago turns into a slam today.
An example of the latter is the word prude. It used to be a praise-worthy trait, but it is thrown at people today who won’t lower their moral standards or go along with the crowd.
For example, I found this sentence in my research: “He wants me to listen to naughty bits of fun out of them, but I will not. And then he calls me a prude and gets angry.”
People consider a prude to be a goody-goody, an old maid, a fuddy duddy. Not complimentary descriptions by any means.
But the truth is a prude is someone who has learned prudence. He is a prudent person. Far from a negative thing, it’s something every individual should aim for. We’d be far happier with a lot fewer regrets if we did.
The Bible book of Proverbs offers the best perspective on prudence and its value. Twice in Proverbs, Solomon repeats word for word the same thing. “The prudent see danger ahead and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 22.3, 27.12).
The New Living Translation renders it, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
Think about that for a moment. Prudence is the ability to see danger ahead and the wisdom to run away from it. It’s not one or the other — seeing danger or avoiding it. It’s both.
As you look back on your life, don’t you wish you’d seen danger ahead in some decision or action you took?
Knowing now the peril you didn’t see then; wouldn’t you have done things differently? Imagine how much pain and heartache you could have avoided.
What if Adam and Eve possessed prudence when Satan slithered up to them and lied about God, the fruit, and the consequences of disobedience?
What if they’d had the ability to foresee the dangerous consequences ahead and walked away from Satan?
What if David had gone back to bed when he saw Bathsheba bathing instead of watching her? What if he’d seen the danger lurking around the corner and foreseen the after-effects he and future generations of his family would suffer because of his recklessness?
What if Moses had realized before he killed the Egyptian taskmaster that he’d waste 40 years of his life alone in the wilderness with a flock of sheep as his only companions because of that single action? What if he had foreseen the consequences of that momentary outburst of anger?
What if the rich young ruler had foreseen what hung in the balance when he chose between Jesus and his wealth?
In John 6, we observe a vast crowd that walked away from Jesus after he defined a disciple as one who must die to himself. What if they’d seen the cost of their decision before, they made it?
And what about you and me? What if we’d had prudence when we were in that unhealthy relationship?
When we looked at that first pornography website? When we spent that money? When we took that first drink? When we walked away from Jesus because we thought following him was too hard?
If you had gained prudence from reading and taking to heart the wisdom of the Proverbs, you would have seen the danger ahead of you lurking in the shadows and taken steps to avoid it.
You could have dodged many of the emotional scars, toxic relationships, and lethal addictions that have stolen the joy and hope God intended you to live with. How different your life would be today.
In Proverbs, the prudent person is contrasted with the simple and the fool. The simple are those who don’t know any better.
They’re described in Proverbs 14.15 as those who “believe anything.” A simple person is gullible. They walk blindly through life with no idea of the danger they’re in.
Fools are those who know right from wrong. They know that doing such-and-such will result in unpleasant consequences, but they don’t care.
They’re going to do it anyway. They won’t listen to warnings. As we’ve seen, the prudent see danger ahead and avoid it.
Three kinds of people — simple, foolish, prudent. Which one do you want to be? For me, picking prudence is a slam dunk. What about you?
If you want the great advantages that come with prudence, you should read Proverbs. Solomon wrote it to teach prudence to his son. He’ll gladly teach you, too, if you want.
You may want to do what many others seeking prudence do — read one chapter of Proverbs every day. Go for it. Somewhere down the road, you’ll be happy you did.
Steve Wilmot is a former Edgerton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.