In high school I had a serious girlfriend for about two years. As serious as a relationship can get in high school, I suppose. By the way, this relationship is one among myriad reasons for not allowing our girls to date until after high school.
During the course of this relationship, I worked at McDonald’s for a stretch alongside another girl I’ll call Renee. I should just call her the adulterous woman, like Solomon does here in Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. (I decided to read these chapters in succession since the running theme is counsel concerning adultery.) Renee was quite attractive even in her McDonald’s garb and she seemed to have eyes for me. Well, I wasn’t anything special; she had her eyes on just about every guy.
One day — a winter day it must have been, though it could have been the summer where businesses in Yuma, Arizona, crank up the air conditioning — during a slow afternoon shift she nestled close to me and complained of being cold. It certainly felt nice to be her choice as a sort of blanket, but at the time I was pretty devoted to my girlfriend. So I encouraged her to go stand next to the French fry warmer.
I don’t remember much about Renee, except that she liked The Cure and tended to wear dark lipstick. She might have been the closest thing to a seductress I’ve ever encountered. No, I haven’t known many Jessica Rabbit types over the years.
Proverbs 6:23-29 (NLT)
23 [Your father’s commands are] a lamp and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline is the way to life.
24 It will keep you from the immoral woman,
from the smooth tongue of a promiscuous woman.
25 Don’t lust for her beauty.
Don’t let her coy glances seduce you.
26 For a prostitute will bring you to poverty,
but sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life.
27 Can a man scoop a flame into his lap
and not have his clothes catch on fire?
28 Can he walk on hot coals
and not blister his feet?
29 So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife.
He who embraces her will not go unpunished.
The imagery throughout these three chapters (5 – 6) has stuck with me, especially since at one time I’d memorized the entire fifth chapter. Lips and speech smoother than oil and sweet as honey. Solomon expresses his desire for his son to “keep discretion,” to be of sound judgment, to think with his head and not … well, not his … heart (or whatever else might desire the adulteress). A man must be vigilant not only toward outside influences, such as the advances of an adulteress but also regarding what he allows himself to desire.
I don’t know if it’s because I have tended to keep appropriate physical boundaries with women, but I have never encountered the adulteress Solomon warns against. (I’d also like to think it isn’t because I’m not a handsome man, unworthy of pursuit, but because they’ve seen my gorgeous wife, with whom they would be foolish to try to compete.) Perhaps if I’d worked outside the church, this would be different.
The danger for me personally has always been in my own heart and how I might allow it to lead me to paths of adultery in my mind, which Jesus warned against. I would guess that those who stumble into affairs committed adultery in their hearts long before anything physical took place.
I’m obviously not a woman, so I can’t speak for them; but I imagine that discerning the adulterous man might be more challenging, considering women tend to drawn into an adulterous emotional relationship before it becomes physical. Women need to be equally as vigilant.
Consequences: Bad to Worse
Solomon lists many reasons in these chapters for avoiding sexual sin, ones that are consequence driven:
- loss of money
- loss of reputation (and honor)
- health risks
- the cost of restitution
- the ire of her husband
- death (with references to Sheol and the grave)
His reasoning reads to me like that of a rich man a friend of mine knew. He said he would stubbornly resist a young woman’s eye because he couldn’t stand to lose all the money it would cost him in an ensuing divorce.
Solomon does offer good counsel, but he failed to heed it himself. One of the words he uses for adulteress is the “foreign woman,” and the wisest man who ever lived unwisely had many, having taken them as wives and/or concubines. I don’t know when Solomon wrote these words to his son, whether before his moral downfall, though if after, I could imagine an old man wanting the younger to learn from his mistakes.
Learning from David
Solomon’s father, as many of you are aware, fell victim to the adulteress, though he was the pursuer in that case. After he was confronted regarding his sin with Bathsheba, David wrote a beautiful song of repentance in which he cites none of the losses Solomon described. The loss he desired to be restored was the joy of God’s presence. David desired to be restored to God, not to his position, not to regain his honor.
My love for wife and my family will keep me from the adulteress, but even more, my devotion to God will help me to resist lips smoother than oil and from becoming enraptured “with her eyelashes” (6:25 ESV).
Next week I’ll write about a woman who stands on the streets and beckons all that would hear, and one we’re encouraged to pursue. Get a jump and read Proverbs 8.