A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.Proverbs 27:12
Or is that Proverbs 22:3?
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.Proverbs 22:3
Until I was teaching a class on travel preparedness with a group of missionaries recently, I don’t think I had ever noticed that these two verses are identical (with the exception of one punctuation difference).
At least, they are identical in English. Looking at the Hebrew text, I can see some visual differences between the words, but I don’t know how those differences affect the meaning. If you know the underlying Hebrew distinctions, please feel free to leave a comment and explain it to us.
Either way, the English is clear enough for us to understand the meaning of this verse.
A prudent person is one who is crafty, sensible, cunning and shrewd. Certainly there can be negative connotations to some of those English words, but the positive side of those words means being ready and prepared for whatever comes around.
Another way to think about this prudent man is that he is paying attention to what is going on around him. Beyond being aware, you also need to prepare and practice what you are going to do when things get topsy-turvy. That is what a prudent man does.
A quick word about the simple man. This word simple means foolish, seducible, silly, and easily enticed. A modern word we could put in here is naive (or naïve). This is someone who does not pay attention or who disregards the danger.
This is not necessarily someone who is incompetent. It is just one who is inexperienced and has not thought through the possibility of danger. Therefore, they are not prepared like the prudent man.
Illustration: Kicked Out
I want to carefully offer an illustration. I say “carefully” because it is easy to make judgments on what we think should have happened when God may have other plans.
I recently heard a story about a young missionary in a closed country who was kicked out when the officials found out he was working in the country as a missionary.
When he arrived at church one day, there were police outside. The missionary knew who they were. Yet, instead of walking on and alerting other church members to the situation, he boldly stepped by the police, opened the building and started setting up for the service.
Now the missionary is out of the country and not allowed to return. His direct ministry in that country is over. I have no knowledge of what may have happened to any church members who arrived that day. Did they get arrested and beaten? Were any targeted by other extremist groups who may have assassinated them because of their association with this bold missionary?
Here is where I want to be careful in my assessment of this story. Certainly none of this took God by surprise. This may have been exactly how God wanted these events to play out. However, from my human perspective, I have to wonder if this was a case of the simple walking right into danger because he was not prepared for what might have happened.
If this missionary had been a prudent man and took time to foresee the evil, then he might have spent the next 40 years of his ministry in that country.
Not Fear, But Vigilance
I don’t think missionaries should live in fear and spend all their energy trying not to get kicked out of a country; but, I also think they should be wise in their dealings with hostile governments.
We too need to be vigilant and not fearful. Be aware of the dangers present around you. This could be physical, philosophical or spiritual dangers. Know they exist and prepare so that when they do come, you will be ready.