Prudence, Wisdom Applied

apple tree in bloom


Wisdom Applied


Many of us are trying to reclaim the lost things of the past.  Some of us have taken up a hobby like knitting or calligraphy.  Many are also beginning to incorporate old homemaking skills like entertaining guests, canning, gardening, and baking.  We are just now beginning to understand the values of such forgotten things, and many of us are finding great joy in reclaiming these slivers of the past; gluing them into the mosaic of our modern lives. I have one more shard to lift out of the rubble, to dust off and reapply into your daily life.  This one does not require a skill or some other time requirement.  This is simply a word: prudence. 

 Learn it, begin using it and embrace it as it is a key component to complete world view as well as to daily life.  It is so key, that it shares the stage with justice, restraint, and courage as one of the “four cardinal virtues”.  St. Augustine gave this definition of prudence: “love distinguishing with sagacity between what hinders it and what helps it.” 

Webster minces few words with this prudence definition, “wisdom applied to practice.”  Did you catch that?  Wisdom shows you the way that is right; prudence will keep you cautious and deliberate in attempting to complete your task at hand.  It is the practical implication of how something must be done, not just the wisdom that it does need to be done.  For instance, you may know that you are supposed to do something differently in regards to your children’s education, but how will you go about it?  So many of the other moral virtues reside in the heart; prudence requires intellect. 



Solomon listed prudence as one of his main reasons for writing the book of Proverbs; it was the reason for dispensing the wisdom in the first place (Proverbs 1:4).  He gives the meaning of prudence, calls his listeners to understand what prudence truly is, and then explains the symbiotic relationship between wisdom and prudence in Proverbs 8:5-12:

 O you simple ones, understand prudence, And you fools, be of an understanding heart.

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things;

For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.

They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge.

Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold;

For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion.


We must pray for wisdom, and wisdom will often answer what is good.  Prudence is seeking knowledge and discretion to apply that wisdom.  Prudence will guide us to apply that wisdom so that we go about it the proper way.  Solomon personified wisdom here, saying “I (Wisdom) will find out knowledge and discretion by living with prudence.”  I think of my three-year old toddler on this one; the other day I heard screaming and saw him sitting on his baby sister.  When I questioned him, he was trying to strong-arm a marker out of her grip, because she is not allowed to have them.  He had the wisdom to know that a sixteen-month-old should not have markers.  He had no prudence to cautiously approach the situation to know how to go about it.  I think we always lumped this into the “wisdom” category, and they are truly inseparable virtues.  There are times, however, when we know what should be done, but are at a complete loss as to how.  You have a name for that which you seek—prudence.

 The apostle Paul says that God gives us prudence through the work of Jesus on the cross.  God does not leave us lacking, and thus we can now wrap our arms around what truly gives prudence meaning.  In Ephesians 1:3, Paul says that God the Father has given us every spiritual blessing through the work of Jesus Christ.  He continues to say that God chose to adopt us and so we should strive to live blamelessly.  He follows (v. 7-10):

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.


God uses both wisdom and prudence as the currency through which He bestows his blessings upon us, how wonderful!  He uses them to make the “mystery of His will” known to us so that we can give Him pleasure.  God implemented wisdom and prudence in the great plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.  God is truly a God of love.  And as St. Augustine so aptly reminded us (in my words), prudence is love’s use of wisdom to determine how to further the cause of love.  God has given us His love, and His plan was indeed prudent. 




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Prudence Sign

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