Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 13:16
"Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly"
The power of prudence is underestimated in our day. I just heard of a father who rescued a daughter from a destructive path through an appeal to the goals, dreams, and plans that they had made together. She was being tempted to throw her future away through an unwise, selfish romance. Let's go back to the strategy we planned, he pleaded. She listened to his appeal to prudence and is getting back on track to a great future full of wisdom, knowledge, and blessing.
Selfishness is always enticing, but it creates a devastating legacy. This is what Solomon wants to teach in this proverb.
This is the Hebrew word arum which means crafty, shrewd, even sensible. In our modern use of terms it can probably best be summed up with the word strategic. This means that a person knows the goal they are trying to accomplish, and they have a strategy to accomplish that goal. They are not just heading anywhere with no plan or method.
Now what Solomon is trying to point out is that when a person is strategic in the pursuit of their goals, they learn lots of things and develop significant skills that they would not learn and/or develop were they not pursuing something strategically. The embrace of strategy (prudence) causes significant gain beyond just the goal being accomplished.
Prudence or strategy says if you want to get to that goal, then here are the steps to accomplish that goal. You then need to begin following the strategy and gaining the information and skill necessary to reach the milestones. It is this process of pursuing the intermediate steps of a long-term strategic plan that produces more information and skill. You and everybody gain by the strategic pursuit of godly goals.
This is the Hebrew word ashah which means to do or to make. It is a basic word which has been translated by dozens of different words to make them fit the context of the sentence.
The interesting thing is the contrast between the prudent person and the fool. The prudent person does or makes knowledge and the fool advances or spreads out folly. They are both producing or developing or advancing something. The one advances knowledge; the other advances selfishness.
This is the Hebrew word daath which means content, information, knowing, skill, truth. What is fascinating here is that Solomon makes a keen observation that is often overlooked. When one is strategic and goal-oriented, they gain or even produce information and skill that benefits themselves and others. When a person however is selfish, impulsive, and rebellious, they produce more people who are selfish, impulsive, and rebellious. It is your choice what will be your legacy: people learning selfishness from you and God being able to trace a host of selfish actions to your inspiration or, on the other hand, your contributing to what is known and or new abilities.
This is the Hebrew word paras which means to spread out, spread, disperse, extend, display, scatter. The idea clearly is that the fool is one who amplifies or extends or pushes further out selfishness, impulsiveness, and/or rebellion. It is much more than our word displays. This is the idea that folly is advanced through the actions of the fool. It makes progress in a family or society every time a fool does their thing.
I think of how children in a family will often follow the example of the oldest in the family. If he/she is a fool, then they will be a fool.
This verse in an interesting way deals with what legacy you are creating. I remember a young lady who thought life was passing her by in a boring marriage, so she decided to take advantage of her beauty and enjoy life before she was old. What she did not realize was that her selfishness would spread selfishness through her family and friends until most of her friends and her young daughters had followed her example of selfishness and destroyed their lives and emotional stability. They, too, used their beauty to get the attention of men and invited disease, heartache, and poverty to be a permanent residence in their life. I remember telling this thirty-something mother that this would be her legacy, but she would not listen. And now there is no going back. The seeds of folly have been sown and they are reaping a crop of bitterness, poverty, and victimization.
It does matter whether you choose not to be selfish today. It does matter whether you do the righteous thing today. It matters far more than you think. It does matter whether you are strategic in your pursuit of righteous goals.