Sexual immorality is part of the menu for dialogue, entertainment, and participation in today’s world. It is so pervasive—even in the church—that we have become insensitive to it. But Proverbs teaches that sexual immorality is a path that leads to death and destruction for ALL participants.
Very few people in America, if not the world, know what it is like to live a day free from the presence of immorality. It is broadcast into our homes on television. It fills our movie screens. It is in song lyrics and used to get ratings on radio and television talk shows. Our politicians and leaders are involved in it. Even Christians practice it—and often defend their immoral actions. Immorality is everywhere in our culture that we become numb to its impact. We stop recognizing how we tolerate it and how our own thoughts and actions are colored by it.
Several extended passages in the book of Proverbs address the issue of immorality. Though written nearly three thousand years ago, the truths of Proverbs are timeless. And since there is nothing new under the sun regarding immorality, Proverbs remains a standard to live by even for our modern age. The instructions on immorality, and especially adultery, are set in the context of a father instructing his son. Solomon, no doubt, was told of his own father’s failure. When King David violated the commandment against adultery, he set in motion a series of events which the royal house of Israel suffered from for generations.
How did your parents, role models or environment growing up establish your view of immoral actions and behaviors?
THE PROVERBS ABOUT IMMORALITY (5:1–10)
Solomon introduces the warnings about immorality in Proverbs chapter 2 by warning his son that the path to the adulteress’s house is the path that leads to death—and “none who go to her return.”
16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, 17who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; 19none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. – Proverbs 2:16-19 ESV
Then in Chapter 5 he warns his son against the seductive characteristics of the adulteress, and and then follows it in chapter 6, by predicting the harm which comes to the one who goes in to the adulteress.
1My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, 2that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. 3For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, 4but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; 6she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. 7And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, 9lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, 10lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, – Proverbs 5:1-10 ESV
24 keeping you from your neighbor’s wife,
from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes.
26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,
but another man’s wife preys on your very life.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.
34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
35 He will not accept any compensation;
he will refuse a bribe, however great it is. – Proverbs 6:24-35 NIV
All of these passages of Scripture are warnings. They teach us it is easier to avoid the pitfalls of sin if we avoid the path of temptation.
It is easier to avoid the pitfalls of sin if we avoid the path of temptation.
And that is not easy to do in our day since sex, the allure of immorality, is used to sell every imaginable product. It is easy to get trapped by the subtle enticements presented by a 30 second television commercial.
One of the reasons we don’t recognize temptations more readily is because we don’t think we’re looking at an adulteress. Many times our own sister in Christ is so wounded that she just wants attention. Yet, she turns to appearance to get the desires of her own heart. But in Proverbs, the adulteress and immoral woman are really translations of the term “strange woman.” To recognize the temptress, we must understand what Proverbs means by a “strange woman.” It is not what you might think—an unusual, confused, or weird person. A “strange woman” in Israel was one who lived outside the covenant of God with Israel, who worshipped idols and false gods and practiced the ways of pagan religions. Such a woman should have been a “stranger” to an Israelite man. Even within Israel there were some who had forsaken the covenant and were walking outside the commandments. Also, it could refer to a woman within Israel who had broken her marriage vows. In any of these three cases, such a woman was immoral, a “strange woman.”
How were you introduced to sex? Did you ever have the “birds and bees” talk with your dad or role model?
Lest you think the Bible is picking only on women, remember that Proverbs is written from the perspective of a father speaking to his son. Naturally, the examples in that context are going to refer to women. Had Solomon been addressing a daughter, he could have (and I’m sure would have) said the exact same things with reference to “strange men.” Certainly today, in our culture, the playing field is level when it comes to immoral men and women. There are dangers on both sides of the gender fence, and therefore the warnings of Proverbs should be interpreted and applied as necessary—to men and women.
THE PARABLE OF IMMORALITY (7:6–23)
One of the most fascinating passages in all the Bible, worthy of any modern screen writer, is the parable, or story, told by the father to the son in Proverbs 7:6–23. Here is one modern writer’s paraphrase of this profound and sad tale. See if you can relate to it, or know some characters that play out these roles today…
“It was early; the shadows of the night were just beginning to shroud the city with their darkening mantle. Solomon’s eyes fell upon a young man. This youth had turned his back upon all counsel. He was involved with the wrong crowd. He thought he had all the answers; yet he was untaught, immature, and unprotected. Apparently, he had no wise plans for the evening hours, having idle time on his hands. He was a sitting duck and an easy victim. Slowly walking the street, he is met by the temptress. She is an interesting, yet revolting study. She is a married woman, but an unfaithful one. She is dressed in sexy attire and has a subtle approach. She is talkative to the point of being boisterous, well-acquainted with the evil ways of the world. She is self-willed, brash, possessive and flattering. She inflates his ego, but deflates his resistance. She had her plans well staked out and attractively prepared. Her victim was chosen. He was flattered by her attention and was ready to yield.
“The temptation was giving every promise of success. Instead of running from it, the youth remained to enjoy it. The delight of temptation was about to become the tragedy of indulgence. She insinuated that her husband had gone away, taking plenty of money so that he could ‘have a good time.’ So why should she be left alone? She not only flattered this young man, but she played upon his sympathy. As she downgraded her husband, her victim was becoming elevated in his own thinking. Five words tell us the graphic story of the moral collapse of this young man: ‘She caused him to yield.’ And thousands of men today have fallen like this in battle. With decayed character, destroyed morals and diseased souls, they have become like department store merchandise: ‘slightly soiled’—greatly reduced in price.”
Reading that parable may bring to mind someone you know who has fallen victim to the allure of immorality. When it happens, it doesn’t end “happily ever after” like on television and in the movies. It is a life-destroying event—not beyond forgiveness and restoration, but leaving scars which are never erased.
What are your personal reflections on this story? What wisdom is revealed to you?
THE PRICE OF IMMORALITY
Proverbs portrays the price of immorality with numerous metaphors—word pictures—scattered throughout the key passages we’ve mentioned. The price of immorality is high, Hollywood portrayals notwithstanding. It is not all luxury and pleasure with no aftereffects. Proverbs gives a much more realistic picture.
Here are some of the pictures or the effects of immorality painted by Proverbs.
For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead. – Proverbs 2:18
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword – Proverbs 5:4
Her feet go down to death – Proverbs 5:5a
Her steps lay hold of hell – Proverbs 5:5b
His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin – Proverbs 5:22
Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? – Proverbs 6:27
Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? – Proverbs 6:28
Wounds and dishonor he will get and his reproach will not be wiped away – Proverbs 6:33
Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As the bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life – Proverbs 7:22–23
That is the price one pays for adultery and immorality. As a man in ministry, I have come face to face with the wounds of immorality many, many times. I see it all around—crying children being swapped between divorced parents as they are shuttled between two different “homes.” I see it in the pain and anguish of betrayal, the humiliation of having been used and abused, and the shadows of broken dreams which are still there every morning. Babies having babies. The tragic results of immorality afflict the church in almost the same proportions as they do the world. Perhaps the pictures of the effects of immorality in Proverbs will help to awaken our senses to the dangers that lie in wait.
God can forgive our immorality, but He does not remove the results. There are repercussions and consequences in five areas of our lives which do not go away even though we are spiritually forgiven:
If you do, you will lose your honor and will lose to merciless people all you have achieved. – Proverbs 5:9
When you give your honor to another, you give your whole self away. You will never again be a person who has not given their honor away. You pay a price personally and emotionally.
11 And at the end of your life you will groan when your flesh and your body are wasted away. 12 And you will say, “How I hated discipline! My heart spurned reproof! 13 For I did not obey my teachers and I did not heed my instructors. 14 I almost came to complete ruin in the midst of the whole congregation!” – Proverbs 5:11-14
When a person rejects counsel and instruction and disobeys the voice of his parents and teachers, his sin falls into the category of presumptuous sin. I have many people tell me they knew they were disobeying God but were counting on Him to forgive them. Those people don’t know that the grace of God will not automatically heal the emotional anguish they are about to experience.
lest strangers devour your strength, and your labor benefit another man’s house. – Proverbs 5:10
for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman[b] hunts down a precious life. – Proverbs 6:26
A lifetime of work and savings are often eroded completely in the wake of divorce resulting from immorality. I know plenty of men, the majority of whose salary goes to alimony payments, child support, and legal bills because they couldn’t resist the temptation of immorality.
18for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; 19
none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. – Proverbs 2:18-19
When Proverbs says that those who partake of immorality do not “regain the paths of life,” it doesn’t mean they aren’t forgiven. It simply means that the stature you had worked hard to develop in the community, in your church, in professional circles, is taken away. People never have the same degree of influence they had before such choices were acted upon.
29So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. 30People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, 31but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. 32He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. 34For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. 35He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts. – Proverbs 6:29-35
Two people think they can break God’s laws and keep it private. But there is a whole network of people who are affected by one person’s sin. There are no private sins. In time, every sin impacts the lives of those living in proximity to the one committing it.
What has your immorality cost you and/or your family?
THE PREVENTION OF IMMORALITY
Proverbs gives wise counsel for preventing immorality and its consequences from touching your life and the lives of those around you.
Respond to the Counsel of God’s Word
The pleas of the father to the son in Proverbs to listen to his counsel and heed his advice are a picture of God’s pleading with us to obey His Word. The father tells the son that wisdom will keep him from giving in to the temptress. It is the father’s words, spoken over and over to the son (5:1–2; 7:1–5), which are a picture of God’s words to us. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Let the Word of God be your constant companion. Saturate your mind daily with the admonitions and commands of Scripture.
Reject an Arrogant Attitude
Every person is a candidate for sexual immorality (Proverbs 7:26). The one who thinks he is too good to sin or to big to be leveled by temptation is one who is positioned to fall (Proverbs 16:18; I Corinthians 10:12). One of my seminary professors has carried a list with him daily of those he has known in ministry who have fallen into sexual sin. Once when reviewing the list of more than 100 names, it dawned on him that the common thread shared by all of them was a haughty, proud spirit. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Believe it can and humble yourself before the Lord for protective grace and strength to resist temptation.
Recognize the Danger of Improper Conversation
With more and more women in the workplace, and the privacy of things like Internet chat rooms, inappropriate (intimate) conversations between married men and women are just an impulse away. Do not cross the line of inappropriateness with a member of the opposite sex, especially if you are married. It is all too easy, if your marriage is not all you think it should be, to seek intimacy and understanding with another person through intimate conversation. If you are engaging in such conversations, you have crossed the line and I urge you to go back before it is too late.
Run Away from Temptation
As many times as preachers say this in their sermons it apparently is not being said enough: Flee temptation! It has been said that the best equipment for maintaining moral purity is the best pair of running shoes you can afford. Wear them and use them! Proverbs 5:8 says to get away from the adulteress’s house. Proverbs 7:25 says don’t wander into her paths. The Apostle Paul said to flee sexual immorality and youthful lusts (I Corinthians 6:18; II Timothy 2:22). If you are in a situation at work where temptation is present, request a transfer if you have to. Do whatever you have to do to remove the temptation—or remove yourself.
Realize the Fulfillment of Your Marriage Relationship
Proverbs 5:15–23 contains some of the most explicit language in the Bible on maintaining your marriage as a defense against immorality. While many people are surprised to find such graphic sexual language in the Bible, it only goes to prove that God is all for sexuality—within the bonds and bounds of marriage. And it is the fullest expression of that sexuality which will serve as a safeguard against temptations to be immoral. As some have expressed it, Why would I go out looking to drive a Volkswagen when I have a Cadillac at home? Unfortunately, too many marriage partners have allowed the daily pressures of life to throw a wet blanket instead of a warm, cuddly blanket over their marriage bed. And so they go out looking for fulfillment elsewhere. The great deception is, of course, that true satisfaction is found only one place: within the faithfulness of the marriage relationship.
Resolve to Guard Your Heart
Following the advice of Job 31:1 (make a covenant with your eyes), Proverbs 4:23 (keep your heart pure with all diligence), and Proverbs 6:25 (do not lust after the beauty of another) is a good way to guard your heart. And being forewarned is to be forearmed. The sign of the house of adultery that says, “Nothing to pay” is only true for getting in the door. But to get out, you will have to leave all you have and all you are. Resolve today to guard your heart with all diligence.
If you have come to the end of this lesson with a heavy heart because you have been sexually unfaithful in the past, I pray you will be encouraged. It’s true—you can’t undo what’s already been done. But you can be forgiven by God and rebuild a life of faithfulness and integrity that will serve as a foundation for future joy and success in life, for yourself and for others. Remember, those who have been forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47). You are in a perfect position to grow in your love for Jesus Christ on the basis of what He has done for you.
What areas of your life need some additional attention?
- wandering eyes
- social events
- manly discussions
- internet/phone use
- social media (Facebook, Instagram, twitter, google, etc.)
Jeremiah, D. (2002). Powerful principles from proverbs: Study guide. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Pr 2:16–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.