“For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.” – Proverbs 7:19-20
In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the protagonist, Raskolnikov, rationalizes his way into the perfect crime: the murder of a greedy, cruel, isolated pawnbroker, whom no one will miss. His well-ordered plan and philosophically-soothed conscience explode when he is compelled to murder her younger sister as well, who enters the scene of the crime minutes later. As the story unfolds, Raskolnikov becomes a case study on the power of conscience and the inevitable emergence of truth like a seedling forcing its way up through the soil.
This proverb is located within one of the longest narratives in the book (tied with the Proverbs 31 woman), and as such, it sheds light on the circumstanials accompanying the deadly spiral of temptation down into death. In these verses, the married woman is attempting to persuade a young man who wants to be persuaded. The information she shares about her husband’s journey is her indirect but not so subtle way of saying: “No one will know.”
The speech is seductive because it taps into one of the most powerful lies of sin: I’ll get the benefits without the consequences. Sin always casts about for a way to conceal itself. The more eruptively scandalous the crime is, such as in cases of adultery, murder, and theft, the more important it is to keep it hidden. Sin is a bacterial growth which thrives in the dark.
This means that the more likely a sin is to be concealed from public exposure, the more seductive that sin is. That’s why pornography is typically a greater temptation than an affair, and embezzlement is typically a greater temptation than shoplifting. Our hesitation at larger sins does not indicate a tender conscience, but a pragmatic fear of exposure.
The end of this chapter and story provides the beginning of the solution. Despite the promises of hidden pleasure, the pathway to this woman’s house is, if the young man could see it, no less than a staircase descending to a mass grave. We live all our lives before the face of God. Even darkness is light to God. (Ps 139:12) The security of concealment is a laughable illusion. It’s as if, sitting in a bright and crowded room, you were to imagine that no one sees you take the last cookie because you close your eyes as you do it.
Jesus said that whatever you whisper with the doors shut will be shouted from the housetops. (Lk 12:3) This is good news if we receive it the right way. If you live in relationship with God, it banishes the myth of distinct public and private lives. We have one life – the one lived before God, whether we remember He’s there or not. It will benefit us to remember He’s always there. As we walk more continually in connection with God, it will push us to live more of our lives in the light, because we remember there’s no such thing as darkness. We will see more of our sin and need of forgiveness, and the temptation of “no one will know” will lose force.