Today’s reading: Proverbs 4-6.
The heart of the moral wrong of adultery is that a covenant, a sacred commitment, has been broken. The one-flesh union which set this relationship apart from all others has been torn asunder by one of the spouses and by a third party that has now entered into the oneness of the relationship. Dennis P. Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex
The wisdom of Proverbs is not theoretical but practical. It means nothing if it isn’t practiced. God’s word hits the nitty-gritty of our wishes and wham! Choices must be made. One of those choices married couples must make is whether to remain faithful to their partner, or give in to the temptation of adultery. Proverbs leaves no doubt about the outcome for those who give in to the temptation:
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. Proverbs 6:27-29
Many give in to the temptation in spite of the warning, so it’s worthwhile to consider why. Here’s my list, but I doubt it’s complete.
- Passion overrules reason.
- People don’t believe the warning.
- People choose the immediate reward of pleasure and discount any future costs.
- People are selfish.
- People feel entitled.
- People are lonely and seek connection by whatever means.
James put it this way: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” The desire comes first. It may be a desire for pleasure, for love, for excitement, or some other want, but the desire fuels the chase. Proverbs is honest about the enticement, the allure, of the adulterer. Her lips are like honey, her words smooth as oil, her beauty leads to lust, and her eyes are captivating. The writer is also detailed about the consequences of adultery.
- It leads to spiritual or physical death.
- Your wealth is lost to another.
- Your health will suffer.
- You will groan in regret.
- You suffer disgrace and shame.
- The offended spouse will seek revenge.
Fortunately, Proverbs offers advice on avoiding the trap of adultery. Putting distance between you and the temptation is the first step. “Do not go near the door of her house.” Finding love, satisfaction, and pleasure in your own spouse is equally important. “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Finally, keep the wise counsel of God’s word, letting it direct you straight ahead through the minefield of temptations.
Sometimes we fail and give in to the lure of sin. If you have committed adultery and find yourself groaning in regret, the good news is that God offers forgiveness. Turn away from your practice of adultery, turn back to God by confessing your sin to him, and by faith accept that Jesus has paid the penalty by his death on the cross. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery when everyone else wanted to stone her, but he also told her, “Go, and sin no more.”
“Man’s wickedness is now such that men are more ashamed of chastity than of lechery. Murderers, thieves, perjurers, false witnesses, plunderers and fraudsters are detested and hated by people generally, but whoever will sleep with his servant girl in brazen lechery is liked and admired for it, and people make light of the damage to his soul. And if any man has the nerve to say that he is chaste and faithful to his wife and this gets known, he is ashamed to mix with other men, whose behavior is not like his, for they will mock him and despise him and say he’s not a real man; for man’s wickedness is now of such proportions that no one is considered a man unless he is overcome by lechery, while one who overcomes lechery and stays chaste is considered unmanly.” Augustine
Image by Steve Mohundro on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0