Proverbs and Avoiding Immorality
(Unless noted, all references are from Proverbs).
“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” (Proverbs 6:27-29). While all sin can keep us from heaven and fornicators and adulterers, like anyone else, can be forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), we are giving special attention to sexual immorality because it tends to produce more suffering in this life than many other sins. As noted in our previous article, there are often physical, financial, and emotional costs associated with fornication and adultery. In this article we will continue our look at the first nine chapters of Proverbs and consider some of the things that may lead to sexual sin and how we can avoid those paths.
Listen to Instructions
After exhorting his son to keep the commands of his father and the law of his mother, Solomon added, “For the commandment is a lamp,and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life, to keep you from the evil woman... (6:20-24—please look up and read the entire passage). If we are to avoid paying the high price of adultery and fornication, we must listen to the teachings of God’s word, the counsel of parents, advice of godly friends, warnings of preachers and teachers, etc. When God and the people who love us instruct and warn us, they are not seeking to keep us from having fun, but instead seek the best for us. Listen!
Four times in this section of Proverbs we see flattery mentioned as that which leads to adultery (2:16; 6:24; 7:5, 21). Solomon also writes of lips that drip honey and a mouth that is smoother than oil (5:3). Though we tend to think of sexual sin as a result of the lust of the flesh, in reality it is the pride of life that often provides the opening by which the devil ensnares us in this costly sin (1 John 2:15-17). Pride can cause us to enjoy and revel in flattery, and as we dwell on the sweet words of flattery our resolve is being weakened and a door is being opened for the lusts of the flesh. To avoid this trap we must diligently maintain an awareness of the wages of sin, both now and in judgment to come, and we must develop a sense of humility that will not be deceived by flattering words. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly…” (Romans 12:3).
Don’t Be Allured by Physical Beauty
“Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids” (6:25). If we would avoid sexual immorality, it should be obvious that we must guard the desires of the heart, which themselves are sinful if they reach the point of lustful, illicit desire (Matthew 5:27, 28). But how do we prevent the physical attractiveness of another from stirring lust and ultimately leading to fornication or adultery? Solomon’s counsel to his son on this matter was simple—understand the consequences. After warning his son not to be enticed by physical beauty, he immediately turns to the suffering and dishonor adultery brings. If we ever find ourselves beholding a beautiful Bathsheba, it would behoove us to recall the suffering David brought to himself, his family, and his nation through his sinful, selfish, momentary pleasure (2 Samuel 11, 12). Let us by faith learn to see the ugliness of sin and not merely the physical beauty of one to whom we have no right. (Please see the previous article entitled You’ll Pay a High Price for more on the consequences of immorality).
“Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door her house” (5:8). Many an act of immorality has been committed by good people who never intended to “go that far,” but they lacked the determination, resolve, and courage to remove themselves from places and relationships that were obviously dangerous. If your boyfriend or girlfriend does not share your determination to be pure—end the relationship. If a friend, especially a married one, shows an inclination to be a little too friendly—stay away. It may or may not be necessary to sever all ties, but it is folly to remain in situations where one is going to be subject to “innocent” flirtation, subtle hints, suggestive or risqué comments, etc., for, as already noted, such flattering attention may in time break down our resistance. And if we think we are strong enough to deal with any situation without having to remove ourselves from it, we need to hear the words of Paul, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Appreciate Your Partner
“Rejoice with the wife of your youth” (5:18-20). In 5:15-20 Solomon points to a good marriage relationship, with emphasis on the sexual aspect, as a key to the prevention of adultery, but he did not say what some seem to think he said. Solomon did not tell his son that he could commit adultery without guilt if his wife were not all she should be. Instead, he exhorted his son to realize he had both an opportunity and an obligation to find pleasure within his own marriage.
But isn’t it true that some husbands and wives deprive their partners of the physical and emotional satisfaction that should result from the sexual union of marriage? It is, and it was an issue addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, but two wrongs have never made a right. No one should ever commit adultery and lose their own salvation because of the sin of their partner. And if one find himself feeling deprived of physical affection, it could be that he is perfectly innocent in the matter, but it would behoove him to be sure he is being the husband of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3:7 who seeks to nourish, cherish, and honor his wife. And wives who feel unloved, should honestly examine their commit to being the submissive, respectful wife described in the same Scriptures.
Every Secret Will Be Revealed
The first section of Proverbs concludes with a foolish man being led to his doom by the words, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (9:17). For many the illicit nature of immorality, rather than keeping them from sin, is part of the appeal. They love the thrill of “getting away with” something, forgetting that though parents and spouses may be “in the dark,” God is not and every secret thing will be revealed (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14). With God nothing is actually done in secret, and the truth is that the shameful acts of fornication and adultery are hard to keep secret from others and often have a way of coming to light in this life.
Sexual immorality approaches us in various ways, but it can be resisted. Like Joseph in his dealings with Potiphar’s wife, we can overcome. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
John R. Gibson
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Nelson Publishing Co.