What do you do when you see evil or sin coming toward you? Your answer might be that you don't often have evil coming in your direction. But the fact is that temptations come in two basic types. There are temptations that we will most likely not be able to avoid in life. They are going to happen so quickly that we do not have time to flee from them in advance. But there is a second type of temptation that is mentioned in this proverb. It is the temptation that we see coming - or the one that we just do not avoid or hide from in life. We just walk right into it. Those kind of temptations are the ones that we will most likely fall into - and pay the penalty in the process.
The prudent men sees evil - and hides himself from it. He sees that there is a situation where temptation and testing is coming - and he makes choices to avoid it altogether. The alcoholic knows when he is being invited to a party or to a restaurant where liquor is being offered to him. He knows this and avoids the situation. The man struggling with sexual temptation is smart enough to hide himself from the R or PG13 rated movies - and avoids situations when he will be exposed to sights that will only cause him greater temptation. There are numerous temptations that we can avoid by simply being wise enough to hide from them. Rather than proceed into situations that pose us with choices that we would rather not make, we stay away from them.
The proverb warns us what will happen when we do not make these kind of "choices-in-advance-for-righteousness." We read that the naive proceed and pay the penalty. I love the word for naive here. It is the Hebrew word "pethi" and it means to be simple or open-minded. The idea here is one who is so open-minded that they are naive about the evil that is in the world around them. They are simple in that they do not see the consequences of actions they are about to take. Contrary to this is the one who is spiritually mature. Hebrews 5;14 tells us about this person when it says, "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." Here is the wise man. His senses are trained due to exposure to the Word of God. The passage tells us that this man is feeding on the meat of God's Word, not just the milk. As a result, he has his senses trained from reading the "word of righteousness." Thus he knows what is right and wrong. That is why he can discern good and evil. He does so through God's Word, the Bible. And as he does - he makes sure that he avoids situations where evil is present.
Jesus taught us to pray, "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil." That phrase has within it this same passage. There are times when we will have to face evil - when we will have to face temptation. But our heart is not to be led into it. When we have to face temptation we long for God to deliver us from evil. But in some cases, God desires for us to learn enough wisdom to avoid tempting situations altogether. That is where we learn to see the evil and hide ourselves - rather the walk into it thinking we can handle it - and find out we cannnot.