One of the problems with the proverbs in this book is the obvious simplicity of so many of them. You’d think that would not be a problem, but it is. Because, when we think we know a subject thoroughly, we don’t take the time to refresh ourselves in it. We have sipped so many thousand glasses of water that it doesn’t appeal to us any more. Now the water we drink must contain a lemon, or some bubbly carbon, something else. But the reality is, we need the water whether it has been flavored or not. And our digestive system probably ignores the flavor and feasts on the pure H2O.
I can’t tell you anything about Proverbs 14:15 which most of you don’t already know. But that doesn’t mean either of us have stopped lately to sip slowly of the truth which is here. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” How should we apply the two truths which are here? Here are a few suggestions.
“The simple believeth every word.”
Consider the word “simple.” and the simple truth it describes. The Hebrew word is used 19 times and we have it translated “simple” on 15 occasions. It is one of those morally neutral words – it doesn’t necessarily describe someone negatively. For example, David says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. “The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me,” indicating that he was simple. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” The word refers to someone who is naive – untaught – someone at risk perhaps.
David’s son Solomon comes along puts a slightly more negative tone upon the word. “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” I “beheld among the simple ones I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding.”
The words “child” and “childish” might be used as synonyms for “simple,” and so might “naive.” The definition of “naivete” is “lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment;” it is an “innocence” of sorts. This simplicity can be easily applied to children. It is not a bad thing in itself. I believe that it was to this simplicity that Jesus referred in Luke 18 – “Jesus …said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
Paul referred to same simplicity before moving on the way Solomon did. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?
Because children are simple they are naturally vulnerable to a variety of dangers. Solomon spends several chapters exposing the weaknesses of young adults who remain simple. Simple young men are prone to fall to wicked women, for example. But more generally, “The simple believeth every word.” Another synonym for the simple is “gullible.” The simple can trip and fall either by someone’s evil intent, or they can fall accidentally when people say and do things without thinking. This should remind us all to be careful when it comes to the words and ideas we feed young minds.
For two summers when I was still in high school, I worked in Wyoming with a group of uranium prospectors. They were a rough and sinful group of men, whose language was somewhat less than Christian. Without any intent on my part, my mind picked up and echoed the vile curse words they used. It took months to get them out of my head when the summer ended and I went back to school. Be very careful what words your children hear. Do they hear hateful words and names for Democrats, Catholics, Muslims and Arminians? Do they see your hatred in your face or gestures?
I was appalled when twenty years ago, I heard that parents were letting their kids have televisions in their bedrooms. Didn’t those parents know what awful words they were letting their simple ones hear? Did they really have control over what their children were watching? But of course, the TVs have been replaced with internet access which exposes those naive children to unlimited wickedness. 4 hours in church each week cannot undo the 60 or 80 hours of lies and wickedness kids hear.
This week I re-read a book from my library on Bible versions. Indirectly it pointed out how millions of simple Christians have heard corrupted translations of the Bible and gullibly believed those words to be the Word of God. “The simple believeth every word.”
“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
The word “prudent” is essentially the antithesis to “simple.” Notice that the verse doesn’t say “the simple CHILD” or “simple MAN” – it is just “the simple.” But the word “prudent is attached to someone who is mature – a “prudent MAN.” He is capable of discerning between good and evil, because he has familiarity if not experience in both. He has been around the block, across the tracks and into the high desert of Wyoming. He has been stung by temptation and sin; he has learned the lessons. There may be people his own age who still are “simple” – because this “simplicity” has nothing to do with age. This particular man has learned from his experiences and has, by the grace of God, become more “prudent.”
He “looketh well to his going.” The Hebrew word “going” is translated twice as often “steps” as it is “going.” Knowing that he is constantly walking through spiritual and moral mine-fields, he is careful where he puts his feet. But actually, he is not just “careful” where he walks, he is VERY careful – he “looketh WELL to his going.”
How many of us believe that we have escaped the label “simple”? Here we have a comparison between the “simple” and the “prudent,” and we have all passed into the prudent group. We have read this verse a hundred times and it no longer teaches us anything. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” You have learned many lessons through the years and by God’s grace your experiences have been well-used so now you are among the “prudent.” But wait, before you reach that conclusion, patting yourself on the back, ask yourself this question – Do you look well to your goings, or do you simply trust your instincts and experiences to keep your feet from the land-mines?
If “looking well” is the criteria for judging and defining “prudence” are you truly “prudent?” Most of us, myself included, think that we’ve got our lives and our steps under control. But do we begin our day with prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide our every step? Do we scrutinize ourselves throughout the day, making sure we are walking the Lord’s chosen path? If we are not truly diligent, are we truly prudent? And if we are not truly prudent, are we where the Lord wants us to be in our spiritual lives?