The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Prudence



Street Smarts


For giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.

Proverbs 1:4


Prudence is a word that has almost fallen out of contem­porary usage. Partly that is due to some unfortunate connections with concepts of cleverness and undue cau­tion that have been associated with it. However, prudence was first on the list of the classic virtues, combining confi­dence, wisdom, enterprise, and ingenuity.

Essentially, prudence is the ability to make wise choices in the midst of your daily affairs. The word pru­dent means to be shrewd and clever in a positive sense. It means possessing street smarts. If you have a problem, you know how to get out of it. A person who has pru­dence is clever and shrewd in the ways of the world. He knows how to do things that need to be done. Solomon defines this in verse 3 as “doing what is right and just and fair.” So it’s not just how to do things, but how to do the right things in the right way.

Notice the two groups in verse 4. There are the sim­ple and there are the young. Who are the simple? This term does not refer to IQ or overall mental ability. In the Bible, the word simple refers to people who are naive or gullible. Here’s a short character profile of biblical sim­pletons. They are easily tricked because they lack discernment. They have “sucker” written all over their faces. And they make the same dumb mistakes over and over. They get into the same bad relationships over and over. They make the same bad investments over and over. They say the same foolish things over and over, they hurt their friends the same way, they make promises they break, they start out trying to do something but bite off more than they can chew and then have to back off. Maybe you know somebody like that, or maybe you are like that. If you gain prudence, you will learn how to break the cycle of making the same mistakes over and over.

If you follow the Lord from your youth, by the time you’re old you’ll be wise. You may start off foolish, sim­ple, and gullible, but by the end you’ll be prudent and disciplined and wise. By the time you’re forty or fifty, you ought to have some street smarts. There is no excuse for being gullible when you’re forty-five. It is not a matter of age, for I have known some seventy-five-year-olds who are really quite gullible. They are making the same mis­takes they made when they were twenty-five. It’s not strictly chronological, but the older you get, the wiser you ought to become. When you are young, you just don’t know enough yet, you haven’t lived enough, you haven’t seen enough of life yet to be really experienced in street smarts.

No one becomes prudent overnight. But there is hope for all of us, especially for the young. You may be a gullible fool, but you definitely don’t have to stay that way.


Lord, help me to learn from my mistakes so that I won’t have to make them all over again. Amen.


Name someone you know who makes the same mis­takes over and over. What seems to be at the heart of the problem?

What mistakes are you continuing to make? What do you need to do about it?


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