Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leave Your Simple Ways and Live

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Prov. 22:3)
The contrast between wisdom and foolishness, prudence and simplicity is emphasized over and over in the book of Proverbs. In the very first chapter, Solomon declares his purpose for writing: “To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.” (Prov. 1:4)

What can we learn from this particular verse in Proverbs 22?

Prudence & Simplicity

A “simple” man is a man who lacks wisdom (Ps. 19:7), sense (Prov. 9:4), is gullible (Prov. 14:15) and displays little foresight (Prov. 22:3). He careless, naive and self-occupied, rendering himself weak against temptation, oblivious to spiritual danger, and prone to all sorts of foolish imaginations. Webster’s 1828 dictionary describes the simple man as “unsuspecting.”

The prudent man, on the other hand, possesses wisdom, understanding, and discretion (Prov. 8:12). He is responsible (Prov. 10:5), restrained (Prov. 10:19), long-suffering (Prov. 12:16), and careful (Prov. 14:15). Seeking to “work out [his] salvation with fear and trembling,” he surrenders his thinking to Christ, that he may recognize evil in all its subtleties, realize its peril, and flee while there is yet time. The Hebrew word that is here translated as “prudent could also be translated “beware,” implying constant awareness and caution.

I think it’s helpful to clarify the difference between “wisdom” and “prudence.” Webster’s 1828 dictionary offers a good definition:
Prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good. It is sometimes mere caution or circumspection.
Some Application

How can we avoid the “danger” mentioned in this verse? The obvious thing to do is to “leave our simple ways” and pursue prudence, but what does that look like?

First of all, we must seek the Lord for wisdom and prudence.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. (Prov. 2:6-8)
We must love God’s Law.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. (Ps. 19:7)
We must recognize the craftiness of sin, and be vigilant against it.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
We must not invite temptation or make ourselves available to the lust of the flesh. There are some places we simply should not go (movies we should not watch, music we should not listen to, etc.).
I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. (Prov. 7:7-9)
We must make no allowances for sin in our personal lives, and must strive to be “spiritually-minded.”
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6)
Realizing the danger that lies ahead, we must hide ourselves or flee altogether, in order to preserve our purity.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)
Combs and Toothpicks

Remember, we’re not just talking about the difference between the man who sees the freight train coming and responds by jumping on the track, as opposed to the man who keeps his distance because he “sees the danger.” Sin is rarely as obvious as a freight train hurtling down the track at 140mph — but it is far more dangerous.

The battle against sin is never easy (nor did God promise that it would be). You may need to pull out your microscope and do some serious thinking and praying, but remember, you are not alone.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

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