You'll Pay a Heavy Price
(Unless noted, all references are from Proverbs).
Solomon uses the style of a father-son talk in Proverbs and in this book he urges his son to seek the wisdom of God and the benefits it will bring. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her” (4:7, 8). Listening to and embracing the wisdom of God brings one honor as he finds “favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man” (3:4), but one who foolishly rejects the knowledge and wisdom of God will pay a high price.
As we might expect, the wise man had many concerns for his “son,” but in the first nine chapters, other than repeated exhortations to seek wisdom, nothing receives greater emphasis than the importance of avoiding adultery. The absolute folly of this sin is the main theme of chapters 5-7 and is also discussed in 2:16-19 and 9:13-18. In this article we will focus on the high price of adultery and other sexual sins, especially premarital sex. In a later article we will seek to better understand the path that leads to sexual sin, along with how we can find the path that leads away from it. Please understand that while Solomon directs his teachings to a married son, many of the same principles would apply to the unmarried and the price they will pay for immorality outside marriage (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).
The High Price of Adultery
“Can a man take fire to his bosom,and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (6:27-29). Unrepented of and unforgiven adultery and fornication keep one from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21) and there is no greater price one could pay. But while these sins can be forgiven and there will be those in heaven who were once guilty of these immoral acts (1 Corinthians 6:11), the emphasis in Proverbs is the price one pays in this life. Many a forgiven adulterer has learned the hard way that “whoever touches her shall not be innocent.” May God help us listen to the voice of wisdom and avoid having to learn our lesson through painful experience.
Adultery and fornication can be financially costly sins. Sexual sin can lead to divorce, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, diseases, and a host of other things that can in turn lead to attorneys, alimony, child support, medical bills, and other financially costly things. Solomon warned his son to be pure, “Lest aliens be filled with your wealth,and your labors go to the house of a foreigner” (5:10). Though money is not the most important thing in life, it is foolish and shortsighted to allow one’s lustful desires to put him in a position where “by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread” (6:26).
Sexual sins can also be destructive to one’s physical well-being: “And you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed” (5:11). The most graphic illustration of this today is seen in one ravaged by AIDS, but there are other more common sexually transmitted diseases that can also rob people of their health. Syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis B, etc. can cause great suffering, and in some cases lead to death. Far too many young girls have found that an unwed pregnancy is not nearly as glamorous as it is made to appear on television and in the movies. Sexual immorality would not be as prevalent as it is if it did not offer pleasure to the participants, but be aware that when the pleasure has ended, destructive forces are often left behind.
The Costs of Jealous Anger
Unwed pregnancies and disease are not the only physical dangers associated with adultery. “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding….Wounds and dishonor he will get,and his reproach will not be wiped away. For jealousy is a husband’s fury; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” (6:32-35). Men and women have been assaulted and even killed because of their sexual wrongdoing. We are certainly not condoning such anger and jealousy, but these are realities people must be prepared to deal with when they take that which another claims as his or her own.
The jealous anger that can be generated by adultery is directly connected with another part of the price we pay. Though we usually think of sex as a physical act, in order to understand the devastation fornication and adultery can cause we must realize that the sexual relationship as God intended it brings a man and woman together in an inseparable union. The so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s sought to divorce all emotional attachment from the sexual act, but as one cannot walk on hot coals without searing his feet (6:27, 28), neither can one pervert this blessing from God without paying a price. Paul used this principle in 1 Corinthians 6:15-17 to help the saints at Corinth see the folly of thinking one could casually consort with harlots. If we join ourselves to one to whom we do not wish to be bound, we may leave ourselves with emotional pain that is hard to get past. Our very nature will protest that we have left something behind, some part of us, and even when forgiven by God (and such is both possible and essential), we may still hurt. And…
If we commit adultery the one we leave behind as we seek our own pleasures will be left with a pain deeper than we can imagine. It is significant that though our Lord decreed that marriage is to last a lifetime (Matthew 19:6), He granted one allowance for the dissolution of marriage. As bad as drunkenness, laziness, and abuse (both physical and emotional) may seem, it is only sexual betrayal that allows one to divorce the adulterous partner (Matthew 19:9). The momentary pleasures of adultery may leave us without a lawful marriage and no hope of one in the future. Of course, one is not required to divorce their partner because of adultery and many marriages have survived (and even prospered) after an adulterous affair, but not without great difficulty and tremendous emotional pain. If we break the promise we made before God and man and commit adultery, we may not lose our partner for good, but we will certainly inflict upon them a pain no one should ever have to endure.
“Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) lest you be heard to say: “How I have hated instruction,and my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! I was on the verge of total ruin, in the midst of the assembly and congregation” (5:12-14).
John R. Gibson
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Nelson Publishing Co.