The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Proverbs 14:8, ESV
Many of us use a GPS when traveling. We do that so we do not get lost. Most of the time, that system works well, and it gets us where we want to go. The same is true for life, as Solomon points out in this verse. This wise saying mentions two types of people: the wise man who is prudent in his activities, and the foolish one who is led astray by the folly of his errors. A few observations may be helpful as we meditate on these words.
First, the wise person exercises prudence in his life. What does it mean to be “prudent.” It can mean, ” the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.” It can also mean, “caution or circumspection as to danger or risk.” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). The Hebrew term carries the idea of being “shrewd or sensible.” The point is that a wise man considers his actions (“his way”) and contemplates the road as well as the end of that road. A wise person considers the end as much as the means and reflects on it in such a way as to keep himself from danger. Second, the wise person does not rely on his understanding of matters in this life but, instead, heed the directions given by the Word of God, and those appointed to shepherd his soul. Imagine you plugged an address into your GPS but then ignored it because you think you know better. In most cases, that leads to getting lost. A wise person does not rely on his experience (as helpful as that can be) but on the Word of God written and preached to guide his life. Third. The wise person discerns his way because this life is wrought with great danger. The wise person knows that he lives in a fallen world, and the reality of indwelling sin mars his understanding of things. Furthermore, the wise person knows that he faces a mighty Enemy who desires to see him fall from the way of righteousness to the pit of ruin.
On the other hand, the fool has no regard for any of these things. He rarely, if ever, contemplates his path, considering the means and the end. Instead, he focuses on his understanding of matters, often justifying them in such a way that his heart becomes deceived by his thoughts. The fool rarely listens to the counsel of the Word of God or those men charged with his care. After all, why should he? He knows better. The fool does not contemplate the danger of this life and thinks he is above the efforts of the Evil One to ruin him.
God’s people must be wise and prudent in all their actions. Therefore, meditate on the treasures of the Word of God and seek to apply them to your current circumstances. Do they agree with the guidance given by the Holy Spirit? If not, alter your course. Listen to the wisdom of counselors, especially those charged with the care of your soul, as those who will give an account to the Lord for the guidance they offer you. Do not dismiss them easily. Indeed, contemplating one’s ways is hard work, but it is necessary if you desire to avoid ruin and destruction. Don’t be a fool. Discern your ways and your actions.