Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
Are you safe? Are you protected? King Solomon wrote his proverbs to preserve and keep you from pain and trouble. Most men get into difficulties or temptations in life that cost them dearly in many different ways. Discretion and understanding can keep you safe.
Men take many precautions to protect themselves from danger. They use seat belts in automobiles, take vitamins, lock the doors at night, exercise and/or eat nutritiously, regulate elevators, buy medical insurance, listen to weather warnings, avoid dangerous parts of town, visit doctors often, avoid motorcycles, and so forth and so on.
They also make efforts to protect their children. They make sure they eat three balanced meals a day, avoid risky playground equipment, do not play with knives, avoid strangers, do not ride their bikes in the street, bundle up in cold weather, get to bed on time, do not climb too high in trees, stay away from the bully down the street, and so forth and so on.
But all these efforts are of little value and only protect the body. What are you doing for the soul? For your own soul and the souls of your children? What efforts are you making to acquire discretion and understanding yourself and to instill them in your children? Worldly institutions or the media certainly do not teach them, and they are rarely taught in modern churches. But God has made them available for you in Solomon’s proverbs.
Preserving and keeping your soul requires different efforts than those described above. And you must consider, which is more important, physical health or your soul? Which is more important, financial assets or your soul? Jesus Christ valued your soul more than gaining the whole world (Matt 16:26). He has clearly set your priorities for you.
Discretion and understanding will not only preserve your soul; they will also preserve your life and your assets. As the Preacher wrote elsewhere, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (4:7). The whole book of Proverbs is dedicated to the value of acquiring discretion and understanding.
Discretion knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it in various circumstances. Understanding is discerning a situation, its hidden dangers, subtle errors, and the right course of action. These terms overlap in meaning, but they also have their own shades of meaning. The context shows they are related to wisdom and knowledge (Pr 2:10).
Additional benefits of acquiring discretion and understanding are also found in the context (Pr 2:12-22). They will protect you from the lifestyles and choices of the evil man and the strange woman, both of which are on their way to destruction and seeking to take as many with them as they can. Discretion and understanding are important for you.
Proverbs teaches discretion (Pr 1:4). It teaches when to speak and when not to speak (Pr 26:4-5; 15:28; 29:11), when to be angry and when not to be angry (Pr 25:23; 19:11). Discretion is guiding your affairs well (Ps 112:5). A woman without it is like a sow (Pr 11:22; Tit 2:5). The knowledge of how to plant, harvest, and process various grains is discretion (Is 28:26). And Joseph was promoted highly because of it (Gen 41:33-40).
Proverbs teaches understanding (Pr 1:2). Animals do not have it (Job 39:17; Ps 32:9). Its foundation is the knowledge of the holy (Pr 9:10), and it is built by God’s word (Ps 111:10; 119:98-100,104,130). It is dependent upon a man rejecting his own understanding (Pr 3:5). Adultery, listening to vain persons, and being an easy surety prove a lack of it (Pr 6:32; 12:11; 17:18). It involves ruling your spirit (Pr 14:29) and pursuing knowledge (Pr 15:14). It is a source of happiness (Pr 3:13), leads to the good life (Pr 13:15; 16:22), and causes a person to be of an excellent spirit (Pr 17:27). Daniel clearly had it (Dan 1:20; 5:11-14; 6:3-4), but the world of Gentiles does not (Rom 1:31).
Discretion and understanding will preserve and keep your soul and life. They are aspects of godly wisdom that will protect you from foolish errors, wicked persons, and sin. They will keep you out of all sorts of trouble, spiritual and physical. They will bring you peace, security, success, and happiness. Life without them is hard and difficult (Pr 13:15; 22:5).
They are easy to obtain, if you will apply yourself to learning the Word of God. You need to be in a church where the Word of God is taught faithfully and frequently, and you need to apply yourself in personal reading, meditation, prayer, and study. Then you must apply your learning to the life situations that God will bring your way (Heb 5:12-14).
God has given you the means to protect your life from pain, trouble, and difficulty. He has given instruction for happiness and success. Are you applying yourself as diligently and regularly in acquiring these two things as you do in protecting your body and money? Make sure your priorities are God and Solomon’s priorities for your maximum success.