"To give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion"
to give prudence to the naive
The word translated prudence is the Hebrew word arom which has both a positive and negative meaning. When used negatively, it means a crafty schemer – one who plans out destructive, sinful things. When used positively, it means prudence. The English dictionary definition of the word prudence is a quality which allows a person to always choose the sensible path. This is not what the average person today thinks of when they hear the word prudence. The Hebrew word carries the idea of thoughtful planning to a good end with an ability to choose that good end. Perhaps the word should be translated: planning ahead or preparedness. It is the ability to realize that if I want this thing over there, then there are a number of steps that I have to take to get there.
It could be thought of as planning or goal-setting or preparation. In order to achieve anything in life, there is more planning than the naive is usually willing to realize. Things don't just come together at the last minute. Sometimes the plans take a decade to come together. In fact, one of the things about successful people is that they are always planning for the next ten or twenty years into the future. What education, investments, relationships, and experiences do you need this ten years to prepare you for the decade?
One of the greatest things that a young person could realize is – what kind of planning do we need to do this thing we want to do?
Recently, my wife and I started putting a whole new level of prudence into our vacations, and the quality of the vacation has shot through the roof. We have started planning for a year or more for each trip we take. How much money will it take? What could we do? Where could we go? What is there to do at the various places? In fact, as I write this, I am enjoying a little trip with the family to Carmel, California, having ridden horses on the beach and kayaked in the ocean all because of prudence. Things go better with prudence.
We all like to be spontaneous and it can serve you well, but prudence or planning and goal-setting allows a much richer life. God prompted me when I was nineteen to lay out a basic plan for my life: what I wanted to accomplish, things I wanted to do, relationships I wanted to have, places to see, etc. That then allowed me to think through what kind of education I would need; when it might be appropriate to get married, have children, do various things. Through this general plan God has been able to guide me and prepare me to be more maximally useable for Him.
I am more alert to opportunities and possibilities that are little pathways to accomplish much larger goals. I know what to look for and alert to information I might need later. The plan keeps developing and I try and update it every ten years. This process of prudence has suited me extremely well and given me a general map for my life as well as clarity about when to deviate and when not to. I am deeply enjoying life because of God's gracious direction in providence. When I turned fifty a few years ago, I updated it for the next twenty to fifty years – what I hope will be the most productive years of life.
I have noticed that the more impulsive I get, the less wise I get. Now spontaneity is wonderful within the boundaries of a good plan.
Take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to plan. Take a few minutes at the beginning of the day to plan. Take a day at the beginning of the year to plan. Look into the future and ask God, "What is possible?" Then begin planning how to get there.
The quality of naiveté is simple-minded; taking things always at face value; only engaging in things that are right now in their pay-off; being simplistic in your understanding or planning. It means only thinking about today or the section of the day that you are presently living in. "Are we having fun yet?" is the motto of these folks. It is all about the “right now.” The Hebrew word peti comes from the idea of open or spacious. It is consistently translated simple or even foolish for the naive person is too open to the dangers and seductive allurements of the world.
In our day and age, those who are open to the pressure of advertising are completely in debt. Those who are open to the suggestions of others get taken advantage of and lured into sin.
The one thing that the naive or simple person needs is a plan and the realization that not everyone or everything is as it seems. There are people who will take advantage of you. There are products and companies and groups that do not have your best at heart.
It is interesting that God wrote a book to make sure His people are not naïve, and yet many Christians have done this to their children by not training their children in the importance of prudence and by not helping them realize that there are selfish people out there who will use and abuse them. In fact, it is almost considered axiomatic that Christian kids will be naive about the ways of the world. The Scripture wants us to be as harmless as doves but as wise as serpents. We must learn to plan ahead and not be duped by the selfishness of others.
to the youth knowledge and discretion
This is the Hebrew word naar which means boy or young maiden. It usually refers to a person who has not reached full maturity. In a girl it referred to a young maiden who was not married and, therefore, not into full adulthood. We would call this person the teenager.
This is the Hebrew word daat which is knowledge, information, perception, skill. One of the things that young people need is information that they don't have and the development of skills that will allow them to live a good life. The proverb declares if young people will pay attention to the inspired words in this book, they will gain two things they desperately need: information about the way the world really is and skills that will allow them to develop a great life.
It is a shame when kids do not grow up in these two crucial areas. They need information about the real world, not the world of the pre-adult. They also need life skills: how to get along with people; what kind of people to avoid; what must be done to succeed at life. All these skills and much more are taught in this book.
This is the Hebrew word mezimma which means purpose, plot, goal, aim. It is used on a number of occasions for the goal or aim of a project. It does also carry with it the idea of planning or a plan. So in this way it is not that different from the word translated prudence. But its focus is more on the goal than the plan.
It seems clear that what Solomon is saying is that the two things that young people need desperately are information/skills and goals. Without these two things they will not have a successful life. They will instead, most likely, fall into the impulsive wanderings of a fool – selfish, impulsive, rebellious.
Don't fall into that trap. Gain the information that you need. Take the tests you need to take to discover what God-given talents, abilities, and gifts He has given you. Then chart a course to utilize those abilities.
An awful lot of trouble has come because a young person had no goal for the weekend or the summer or afternoon. Build this quality of being purpose-directed rather than just aimlessly wandering through life, waiting and hoping that something interesting or exciting will come along. Commit to good things. I know that some other good thing may come along, but more joy will be created by developing goals and plans than if you just sit and wait.
That means volunteer at the church or charitable organization. That means to sign up to work. That means to agree to go to a particular place even though something better might come up. There will always be a next time if it is a good thing.