What should a person do when they see evil - or know that evil is in something that they are considering doing or seeing? Some say that in order for us to minister and to live in this world, we have to participate in some way in the activities of this world. Yet, when you read this Proverb, it counsels us to be careful what we watch and participate in as we live our lives. We may just do something that can cause great harm.
The Proverb speaks of the prudent. He is the one who is shrewd and sensible. It describes someone who sees deeper than just surface level. He sees into things and realizes there is an affect on him when he participates or looks at something. This prudent one sees "the evil" and hides himself. Evil here means soemthing bad or evil. It refers to a wicked heart - and actions that are in no way neutral.
First of all a wise man knows that there is evil - and it can be detected and considered from an objective point of view. The one who states that he can decide whether something is evil or good for him - is deceived. God has determined what is good or evil - and He is the One who lets us know these things in His Word. Our job then is to know His Word and through it to have a grid in our hearts as to what is good and what is evil. The pudent and wise one is the one who does this - then when he sees something evil - he reacts to it immediately. How does he respond?
The prudent man responds to evil by hiding himself from it. There are two interesting aspects to this. First, he just simply hides himself from the evil itself. He does not participate in it - and keeps himself from it. But there is another aspect of this that is important to recognize. He also hides himself from even seeing and knowing it. In effect, he hides his "mind" from certain things. There are those who say that in order to minister to those in evil, we need to know it in some measure. Yet Proverbs tells us to hide ourselves and our minds from evil. We can confidently say that Jesus did not have to experience evil in order to minister affectively to those caught up in it.
The naive though, have a problem. The problem starts with their naviette in which they don't even know the evil. They are ignorant of the Scriptures and thus are not even sure what to avoid. This is something important for us to grasp. Knowing evil through experiencing it is not wise - but knowing what is evil from that which is written in Scripture is very wise. It lets us know what to avoid and in what we should participate. The naive go on when they see evil - and they pay for it.
Here is an interesting thing to consider. The Proverb here says that when the naive proceed into evil they are punished for it. The word used here is "anash" and it means to fine or to penalize someone with a fine. It can mean an actual financial fine someone pays out - or it can mean a condemnation that rests on the wicked for their punishment. I don't think it is too far off to say that in some cases both of these are true. There is a fine we pay when we do not avoid evil. Some evil lifestyles are very socially and financially destructive. When we participate in them, we pay the price - literally and physically. There is also a spiritual cost when we ignore the Lord and walk into evil. There is a break in our fellowship - a polluting of our minds - and even at times a bondage that can begin that will punish us for days, weeks, months, and even years to come.
The prudent man avoids all this - because he watches and considers all his actions - and weighs what they will cost him - now - and far into the future!