“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.” – Proverbs 5:3-4
Adultery is sometimes used as a springboard to talk about spiritual fidelity to God. God often invokes the charge of adultery to communicate the depth of our wrongs when we forsake him. But it is the specificity of an analogy, not its broad applications, which supply its force. If we gain a measure of insight into the particularities of sexual temptation and sin, then we can then more readily perceive broader patterns of spiritual adultery in our hearts.
These two verses stand at the beginning of a long section of “the talk” between a father and son. What’s curious here, as in other places, is that the strength of the appeal of the “forbidden woman” is not her raw sexuality. The picture drawn up is not one of a rather hapless young man striving to chain and harness his lower, animalistic instinct. There’s speech, persuasiveness, and reasoning involved. This seems counter-intuitive because sexual sin conceals itself under the cloak of impulse. The impulse is the sharp point of the attack, so it obscures the fact that the temptation to yield to the impulse is first built on the foundation of a dialogue.
It should go without saying that sexual sin does not require, in fact seldom involves explicit or articulate reasoning. The dialogue happens within. Sexual sin hooks on to us because it appeals to and flatters our pride. However dimly we may be conscious of it, we begin with the line: “I deserve…” and sexual sin fills in the blank. “A break, an escape, some fun, to be understood, to be appreciated.” The more inflated our sense of self-worth, the more irresistible the persuasiveness of this line of reasoning, with its resultant sexual compromise.
What’s more curious is how the son is equipped to resist. It is not by lowering his opinion of himself, but rather by appealing to his desire for self-preservation. Do you know your worth? Do you know who you are in Christ as a child of God? Then it stands to reason that you would want good things for yourself. From that point on, it becomes a matter of better engaging in the dialogue that is happening inside of you, or perhaps for the first time realizing that there is a dialogue, and that you are merely not a creature of instinct.
The son resists the lure of adultery’s dripping honey not by tightening his belt, shutting his eyes, plugging his ears and yelling: “No!” He resists by gaining better insight, being pushed to look a little closer, to pause, and examine a little more thoroughly. What at first appeared to be honey, he discovers is poison. What at first looked like a silk pillow to run his hand over, now turns out to be the blade of a knife. We are not called to chuck away our sense of self-worth or the pursuit of good, but rather to augment that search, and to reason with ourselves using the truth of reality found in God’s Word.