"Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you."
This proverb is obviously in the middle of a longer sales presentation on the virtues of going after wisdom. This whole chapter is about why you should make wisdom a life-long pursuit.
Every day you will instinctively know what you want to do selfishly but to find out that which will promote the common good – the choices that are the everybody-wins choice – will take much more searching.
In fact, the first parts of this section tell us that if you don't highly desire the wise Triple-Win choice, you will not see it when it comes by. If you miss the wise choice, then all the benefits that this chapter speak of will also not be a part of your life.
The two benefits that this verse speaks of are particularly potent benefits:
The word discretion is the word mezimma in the Hebrew which means purpose or plot. When it is used of the Lord, it is called His purposes; when it is used of wicked men, it is called schemes. We would understand this as plans, goals, designs.
What this means is that wisdom causes a person to plan a future and have goals and plans. It is these goals and plans that become major driving forces in the life of the person and keep them from many wicked involvements. This is a truth that we need to be constantly aware of. When do we get into the most trouble – when we have nothing planned and are just at the whim of our own impulses or those of others.
Young people can throw their lives away in a heartbeat if they do not have plans for the future: college, development of a skill, pursuing a dream, great marriage, good job, entrance to a military academy. Who has not seen a young person start resisting temptation because it would affect the accomplishment of the dream in their head? Having that dream is an essential part of having wisdom.
This is not just true for young people. At every point in our life we become more susceptible for temptation when we have nothing planned; when we are not reaching forward to what lies ahead, as the Apostle Paul says. When the past or the present is stronger than the future, we become more susceptible to temptation.
Let me ask you: Do you have plans for this year? For the next five? Do you have goals that will take a number of years to complete or attain? Are you still stretching to accomplish something in your life? If the answer is "no" then you need to get some. What would God want you to accomplish during the next five-year period of your life? If you were to go back to school, what would you study? What dream have you always had that you could start pursuing at this point?
Remember, it is having the goals and the plans that guard you from the pull of the temptations that are going to come.
The word understanding is the Hebrew word bina, which means understand, discern, insight. It is a different word than the word for knowledge or raw facts; it means to realize the connection between two or more sets of facts. The key idea in understanding is the connection between things. In this proverb, understanding is seen as a huge angelic guarding watching over your life. Another way of seeing it is like a chess match in which you keep your hand on a piece and move it where you are thinking about moving it and see all the moves and countermoves that are possible from that point. You gain an understanding of the new possible position and can decide if you want to do it.
The person who has wisdom is able to think a number of steps ahead. They realize connections that others do not make. If I enter into a deal with this person, I will ultimately be swindled because this person is selfish. If I enter into a relationship with this person, I will be wounded because they have shown no capacity to care for anyone other than themselves. Do I want to have this size of loan following me for ten or so years? If I go to this college, I will do well because it has a student body like me; if I go to this other college, I will probably not do well as it is cutthroat and spiritually much darker.
It is understanding that allows you to realize what is going on in the world and, in many cases, to fairly accurately predict what impact things will have on your life. In this way understanding watches over you.
With this in mind, are you about to enter into a relationship which understanding is warning you about? Are you about to make a purchase that you have not really sat down and looked at all the connections? Is your insight detector going off about a group or individual in your life and you need to perceive more about this group or person?
Remember, if you are going to have these benefits as a part of your life, you have to be willing to fight to find wisdom. Do not just do what seems right to you. Look hard; investigate for the choice or action in which everybody but the wicked wins.