“The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.”
In the 1500s there was an English seaman and privateer named Sir Martin Frobisher. He made numerous voyages to the new world. On his first voyage he stumbled across what he believed to be gold. As you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of excitement to folks back in his homeland. Before long, he was sending copious amounts of this “gold” back to his home country. He was a rockstar. He was even garnering the Queen’s attention!
Before long, though, it was discovered that the mineral that he was mining was not gold. It was nothing more than a bunch of invaluable minerals combined to make up a rock that looked like gold. As we would say today, it was fool’s gold. Sir Martin Frobisher learned the hard way that all that glitters is not gold.
And from the proverb above we learn that all that is said is not true. Nevertheless, like Sir Martin Frobisher on his first voyage, the simple man has not yet learned this lesson. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the simple man is the one who lacks godly wisdom and understanding. This causes him to be easily deceived and persuaded. Since he does not have enough godly wisdom and understanding to discern the truthfulness of a statement, he believes everything that anybody says.
This is certainly the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living. The Bible teaches that false teachers will always exist. The first false teacher, Satan, appears in Genesis three. Other false teachers rise up throughout both the Old and New Testament. Many false teachers appear throughout church history. Today, countless false teachers continue to spring up.
Paul warns that these false teachers will arise from within local churches “speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:26). The author of Hebrews warns Christians not to “be led away by diverse and strange teachings (Hebrews 13:9). Peter told the churches he was writing to that false teachers will be among them “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:10). As one reads the Bible, it seems inevitable that Christians and local churches will meet with false teachers at some point.
And the simple man does not stand a chance against these false teachers. As he hears twisted things that are contrary to the clear testimony of the Bible, he will believe them. He will mistake the elaborate doctrinal innovations of man as the revelation of God. When this occurs, it will be just as the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4. The simple man will be “tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, and by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Ultimately, just as the Spirit said through Paul, the simple-minded Christian will “be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
This is not the case with the prudent. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the prudent man is the one that has godly wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 13:16; 14:18). This goldy wisdom and understanding allows him to act in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Proverbs 13:16; 14:15; 27:12). This is especially the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living.
The prudent man has learned that all that is said is not true. As our Proverb says, “the prudent gives thoughts to his steps” (14:15). Like the Bereans of old, the prudent man eagerly listens to a teacher all the while “examining the Scriptures daily” to see if the teaching lines up with the Bible (Acts 17:11). He is aware that he needs to test a teaching before he trusts it (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). For the prudent man, this is not a matter of unhealthy skepticism. Rather, it is a matter of prayerful and careful consideration. Unlike the simple man, he knows that his soul is at stake so he “gives thoughts to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).