Wisdom and Sexuality
While Benjamin Franklin may have made famous the quote: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it is clearly the message of the Proverbs writer when warning of the dangers of sexual immorality and its consequences.
The Proverbs teacher places great emphasis upon wisdom and how it should dominate one’s whole life and attitude. Specific is the instruction as to how wisdom should be applied to relations between the sexes. Wisdom’s purpose is preventative (Proverbs 1:24-30; 2:10-13; (8:32-36), and there is a general recurring theme throughout the book of Proverbs that identifies the wise as those who obey God. Such will live longer (9:11) as well as prosper and enjoy the goodness of God (3:13-18). In contrast, it is the fool who does not call into question his moral and ethical choices (3:35; 10:21; 28:26). It is the wicked who ignores how he thinks, lives and manages his daily life (12:15; 18:2; 26:11-12).
In so many areas of life we have all played the fool – some of us more times than we can count. But far too high is the number among the Lord’s people - including elders, preachers, and deacons who have disdained wisdom’s counsel and reproof (Proverbs1:25) regarding divine instruction as to maintaining sexual purity.
In Proverbs, the writers deal not only with warnings about the dangers of improper sexual behavior, but also advises on the benefits of following the God-ordained practices for sexual fulfillment. There are four categories we will consider in this article: 1) loose women; 2) the blessings of marital purity; 3) the peril of adultery; and 4) youthful inexperience.
The “loose” or strange womanis a figure that appears often in the book (2:16; 6:24; 7:5; 20:16; 23:27). The consequences of associating with her may initially tantalize like the taste of honey, but in the end it holds no memory of sweetness when the deep penetrating pangs of guilt and bitterness takes one’s heart to the gates of hell (5:3-5).
The victim of the immoral woman finds his honor has departed, his bodily strength sapped, and his emotions in utter ruin. And if that is not terrible enough, he will find himself with desperate recurring spasms of remorse, which unmercifully bring no relief (5:9-14). His sorrow is intensified by the knowledge that all has been done in the sight of the Lord (5:21), before whom he shall not be innocent (6:29).
From this warning of the bitter consequences of sexual impropriety, the teacher of wisdom treats his readers to the happy instruction of finding sexual fulfillment in the joy and sacredness of a pure marital relationship (5:15-19).
The divine gift for the gratification of human sexuality is the marriage relationship. The purity of married life is designed to satisfy one’s sensual longings in a holy and sacred union. Such a blessing is comparable to fountains of running water that fully quench one’s thirst (5:15). The fountain is blessed when enjoyed with the wife of one’s youth in conjunction with respect for the laws of God (5:15-18). Wisdom admonishes married couples to save their devotion for each other, and to seek only to be enraptured by the sweet embracing love of their spouse. God has given us His intent for the sex act, and it is a beautiful thing when confined to His rules.
The peril of adultery is the focus of the warnings beginning in Proverbs 6:20. This time wisdom is delivered from the mouth of a parent instructing a son to abstain from sexual misconduct with the wife of another. The manner in which the warning is relentlessly driven home is with such detail that one might assume this wisdom comes from first-hand experience of the writer. Wisdom affirms that one who consorts with another’s wife runs the risk of losing his life through the fury of the betrayed spouse (6:34). For his sin, the adulterer is more despicable than a thief because he can never recompense for the evil that he has done (6:30-31, 35). His reproach will never be wiped away, and his lewdness will dishonor him all the days of his life (6:33).
Wisdom cries out so that adultery can be prevented (6:26, 29, 32). To contemplate adultery is like playing with fire (6:27) and thinking that you will not get burned, or like walking on hot coals and trusting your feet will not be seared (6:28). The decision to be sexually active outside of the authorized marriage union has bitter lifelong consequences. Not only does one sin against the spouse of their youth, but in doing so they sin against God and break the covenant relationship with Him. Anyone who takes to himself someone else’s spouse will not be innocent (6:29), and will result in mental and emotional torment (6:26). He destroys his own soul (6:32). No one will ever forget his sin – it will dishonor him all the days of his life (6:33).
Proverbs 7 abounds with a father’s teaching directed toward his son who is inexperienced in the ways of the world (7:7). The detailed account reveals a scenario of how such a young man can fall prey to the seductive advances of a shameless woman. She is lustful, restless and quite crafty (7:10). She entices with her attire, her defiant spirit (7:10), and even sports a spiritual philosophy that justifies her conduct (7:14-15). Her perfumed influences and enticing promises of dramatic pleasure, coupled with confident assurance that her husband is away for several days (7:10-20), is more than the young man can handle. He is consumed with her seductive advances and immediately responds (7:22). His fate is as certain as an ox standing in the slaughterhouse (7:22), or a deer with its liver pierced by an arrow (7:23).
The wise father in the text repeatedly urges his children to pay attention to his counsel and learn from the mistakes of others, for many who thought themselves to be strong have been slain in the seducer’s arms (7:24-27). The father pleads for his son to make wisdom his closest confidant (7:1-5). Parental wisdom must be imparted to one’s children about the dangers of entertaining unchecked sensual desires, lest they find themselves going beyond the point of no return and falling headlong into the abyss of sexual immorality (7:6-21).
In chapter 8 it is as if the speaker is wisdom herself, crying out, pleading from every conceivable vantagepoint for men to listen and keep her ways. Perhaps the most profound thought of all is found in 8:36 – “He who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death.”
Wisdom is not hard to understand, but it is hard to receive because it conflicts so often with our will. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered”(Proverbs 28:26). How pathetic that we can so deceive ourselves into thinking that we are smarter than God’s wisdom! The instruction contained in these proverbs offers great wisdom that can prevent a lifetime of grief – if we will but listen.