Proverbs 5:1-14 | Wisdom and Sexual Temptation

3432013868_b9f1e9c84a_zToday we consider sexual temptation through the lens of wisdom. Sexual sin is not only morally wrong, it’s also foolish.

The following principles and practices regarding sexual temptation will not save you from sexual sin or earn you forgiveness (only trusting and following Jesus can do that); but they will help you live wisely in a world full of sexual temptation.

Principles

1. It starts with the ear.

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. (Proverbs 5:1-4)

You can either listen to the voice of wisdom or the voice of sexual temptation, but not both.

To listen to wisdom, you’ll need to “be attentive” and “incline your ear.” These two English phrases translate two similar Hebrew phrases. The first means to incline your ear; the second means to really incline your ear. Listening to wisdom is like listening to a quiet talker. You have to lean in, turn an ear toward them and concentrate.

Sexual temptation is the opposite. Her message is sweet and smooth, ice cream for the ears.

Now before we move on, I need to explain why I keep talking about sexual temptation in general when our passage talks specifically about “a forbidden woman.” The Hebrew word translated “forbidden” literally means “strange,” and carries the notion of “other.” It’s the idea of an intentionally alluring woman other than your wife.

The direct message of this passage is, “Young married man, any sexually tempting woman other than your wife is trouble.” The indirect message is, “Everyone, any sexual temptation other than your spouse is trouble.” It might be the sympathetic guy at work, the girlfriend to whom you are not yet married, the flirty neighbor or the images on your computer screen. Whatever form it takes, it’s trouble.

2. It starts sweet, but ends bitter.

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.
5Her 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. (Proverbs 5:3-6)

Have you ever binged on sugary foods? It tastes good at first, but feels awful after doesn’t it? Sexual temptation works the same way. Sexual temptation is a drip of smooth oil on a sword through your gut, a drop of honey on a mouthful of wormwood (which is an extremely bitter herb, by the way).

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,
11and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
12and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.” (Proverbs 5:7-14)

Follow sexual temptation long enough and you’ll lose honor, time, strength and the fruit of your labors. You’ll be left only with groaning regrets.

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3. It is a reckless driver.

5Her 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. (Proverbs 5:6)

Succumbing to sexual temptation gives it control of your life.

I once witnessed an accident in which a drunk driver lurched out in front of a church van. Immediately afterward, the drunk driver stumbled up to me and said, “Can you give me a ride? I can’t be here.” I assume he was on parole or something. What if I had said, “Sure, you drive and I’ll ride shotgun.” What a fool! Yet this is exactly what we do when we give sexual temptation the keys to our lives.

Sexual temptation “does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.” Listen to flirtations and you give her the steering wheel. Click the links and you give her your destiny.

Practices

1. Listen to wisdom.

1My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge. (Proverbs 5:1-2)

When sexual temptation begins to ooze her poisoned honey, turn your ear to wisdom. Write it down and post it where you can see it. Live by it. Let each interaction with “the alluring other” trigger meditation and follow through on a specific word from God. Otherwise you’ll say this later:

12“How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.” (Proverbs 5:12-14)

2. Look past lips.

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.
5Her 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. (Proverbs 5:3-6)

Smell the wormwood behind those sweet lips. Glimpse the bloody sword behind her back. Hear the groaning of the ruined beyond the flirtations of “the other.” The foolish fish takes the bait; the wise fish sees the hook and swims away.

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3. Learn to drive.

6she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.

8Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house… (Proverbs 5:6; 8)

Grip the steering wheel of your life and refuse to allow sexual temptation to drive. Decide now and every new morning that you will decide your path, not her.

Good News

Having considered sexual temptation through the lens of wisdom, let’s end by remembering the gospel. The principles you just read are meant to make you wise, not righteous. Only Jesus can make you righteous. God loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die for you so that you could be forgiven, cleansed and adopted if you trust and follow him. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

Trusting and following Jesus, we can walk in newness of life in regard to sexual temptation.

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Discussion Starters

I know this topic can be deeply uncomfortable. We all have unique sexual temptations and histories. Sexual regrets and wounds tend to hurt more deeply than other sorts of pain, and often generate more shame and embarrassment. 
 
So in this discussion, all are invited to be as open as they are comfortable with, using discernment and keeping things confidential where appropriate. No one should feel undue pressure to reveal private matters to the whole group. 
 
If anyone in the group is struggling with sexual temptation, sin or the consequences of sin, and does not wish to share these things with the group, I would encourage them to reach out to me or another trusted Christian friend or counselor so they can move forward in light of the grace of Jesus Christ.
  1. How is everyone this week?
  2. Based on Proverbs 5:1-2, what are the results of being attentive and inclining our ears to wisdom and understanding?
  3. What are some practical ways we can be attentive and incline our ears to God’s wisdom?
  4. Compare the lips of the wise person in verse 2 and the forbidden woman in verse 3. How are they different?
  5. Brainstorm a list of modern means of sexual temptation that did not exist in ancient Israel. For example: new media, new fashion, new cultural norms, etc.
  6. Work through verses 3-14, listing all the stated consequences of sexual sin.
  7. How might sexual sin lead to each of these consequences in our day?
  8. How does the gospel come to bear on all this?
  9. What are some practical ways we can live in light of this passage?
  10. Take some time to pray for one another.

 Photo by Rachel Pasch

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