Day 5: Prudence, Knowledge, and Discretion
To give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth.
Like many parents, I cannot count the times I’ve shouted after my retreating boys, “Shut the door!” Always in a hurry to reach their destination, they neglect to finish the task behind them. Certainly their folly is a symptom of forgetfulness, but an even greater folly concerns me as their father. I must teach them to shut the door of their mind after truth has entered in. Thus Proverbs 1:4 introduces still more blessings in God’s Word: “To give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” This verse describes two types of people who most need wisdom: the simple and the young. And dads, you must realize that your children are both.
As simpletons, their gullible minds are a literal open space to be crammed with anything and everything (see 14:15a). Being “open-minded” may sound virtuous to a pluralistic society, yet according to Scripture is a dangerous condition. Picture a house with the front door swinging wide open . . .
Any manner of pest might fly through the gaping doorway, while trespassers could enter unhindered. So also, the open-minded child lets in evil thoughts without discernment and allows good thoughts to escape without retention. He is untrained, inexperienced, and unprincipled in his ways. For the mind of the simple is open on both ends, creating a wind tunnel between the ears.
The second category of “youth” could refer to any age from infancy to young adulthood, but the main idea in Proverbs is one who lacks maturity (see 7:7; 20:11; 22:6, 15; 23:13). I once caught my boys trying to down a whole jar of gummy vitamins because they thought it would help them grow up. I had to explain it doesn’t work that way. Wisdom is necessary for both the simple and the youth—the naïve and the immature. Solomon presents the remedy for both.
The simple need “prudence,” an old-fashioned term meaning to be “clever” or “crafty” with godly shrewdness and spiritual insight. As Jesus told his disciples, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16b). So “in everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly” (Prov. 13:16). Prudence is a Spirit-born cleverness to see the trends and dangers of life before they arrive. For example, Joseph foresaw the danger of adultery with Potiphar’s wife (e.g., Gen. 39) and again displayed shrewdness in preparing Egypt for the famine (e.g., Gen. 41). The simple need prudence to know when to open and close the gates of the mind.
Youth must learn “knowledge” both personally and experientially. Here lies the difference between medical school and residency; the bar exam and the courtroom; seminary and the pastorate. So dads, let your children observe God’s wisdom in your everyday life before applying it to theirs. Study the Proverbs so you can discuss wisdom at the dinner table as you address particular problems your family is facing. For children acquire knowledge both through observation and practice.
In addition, youth must learn “discretion”: the ability to plan wisely and to avoid dangerous folly. According to 2:11, “Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you.” Youth need the protection of Proverbs, for they live in a fallen world where foolish decisions lead to disaster. So dads, are your children gullible and immature? Are they young and naïve? Then study the Proverbs to teach them prudence, knowledge, and discretion.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I am simple in my understanding of your Word and still a youth when it comes to wisdom. Teach me prudence, knowledge, and discretion as I grow in my faith as a father. Then show me how to pass on these truths to my children, so I might spare them future harm. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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