There is a marvelous chapter in the Book of Proverbs that ought to be studied by every young person who must live in this lustful world. It sets forth plainly the stance that any son or daughter of God should have regarding the lust so often celebrated by this age.
Many preachers and teachers wince at the Book of Proverbs on this topic since it tends to portray seduction and lust as coming from women.
However it must be recalled that Proverbs features a father speaking to his son. So the context is that of a young man experiencing seduction from a certain class of women (not all women).
The silence of this chapter of Proverbs on the problem of men seducing women should not be taken as a denial of this problem; it is simply not the context of the discussion. Any woman ought to be able to take the advice given here and translate it for her own sake as well.
With that in mind let’s look at this masterful advice from the Wisdom of God. The alliterations (on the letter “D”) are based on a talk by Rev. Adrian Rogers that I heard many years ago. While the alliterations are his, the content of this article is wholly mine.
I. The Discretion we should follow – 1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; 2 that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.
As we have seen, the Book of Proverbs takes up the form of a father advising his son. One of the most critical roles a father or parent has is to teach and hand on the preserved and tested wisdom that comes to us from God and from experience. Hence a father should teach his children at length regarding all matters of life, including sexuality. He should also insist that his children both listen (incline their ears) and apply (attend to) the wisdom that comes from God.
With the modern breakdown of the family on a wide scale, this basic function of fathers, specifically, and parents and elders, in general, is poorly executed in many cases. Children today are often without critical moral instruction, at least of a healthy sort.
Add to this problem the concept of the “generation gap” that emerged in the cultural revolution of the 1960s. During that time, young people widely believed that “old people” were out-of-touch, repressed, and without any real wisdom to offer. While this is a somewhat typical tendency in adolescence, it was powerfully affirmed in the popular music of the time, which reveled in rebellion against authority, the use of drugs, and the celebration of “free love.” Young people were encouraged to break away from the repression and outdated notions of their elders. Rebellion (almost for its own sake) was the key to ushering in a new reality.
But without respect there can be no teaching. Thus many foolish and destructive tendencies (such as the abandonment of self-control and personal responsibly) were ushered in, ones that more functioning cultures learned long ago were dead ends.
The opening verse encourages the son to hearken to the wisdom of the elders so that he may keep discretion. In this case discretion refers to the ability to exercise good judgment and to having cautious reserve. Discretion is the ability to make responsible decisions. Sound teaching is meant to assist sound decisions.
The son is also encouraged to hearken to wisdom so that his own lips may preserve knowledge. In other words, one day he will need to teach others. What comes from his mouth ought to be the tested wisdom of God, not the passing and often foolish slogans of the world.
Sadly, when one generation largely fails to teach wisdom, the next generation is not only poorly instructed, it is ill-equipped to teach, and this allows the problems multiply quickly. What was once common sense isn’t very common anymore. It does not take long for the whole culture to start crumbling if good sense cannot be restored.
Hence there is a discretion, a received wisdom that ensures sound judgment that we must receive, keep, preserve, and pass on.
II. The Deception we should avoid – 3 For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but 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; 6 she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
Here then is the description of “Lady Lust” by way of personification. Surely she is the antithesis of Lady Wisdom! Again let us recall that the personification, though feminine, does not mean that lust and seduction are unique to women (any more than wisdom is unique to women). Men, too, can seduce and surely can be lustful and draw others to lust. However, as a general rule, men are more immediately susceptible to lust, and even if you wish to debate that, recall that this book is a collection of teachings of a father to his son.
Note the description of sweet lips and smooth talking. Lust always plies her wares by emphasizing her sweet delights, never mentioning the cost. The bill comes later! And her smooth talk assures that this will all be OK, that those who object are sexually repressed, judgmental, and just don’t “understand.” She assures that “experts” have found “healthy” societies where free love is practiced. She cites statistics that almost everyone fornicates and thinks it is OK. And, after all, can the majority of people be so wrong? Yes, she’s a smooth talker all right.
But then comes the bill and the results are bitter as wormwood. Lust cuts like a sharp but jagged knife and in her deathly ways she drags souls to hell.
And yet as the text says, Lady Lust has lost sight of her own lies. She has even convinced herself of her lies and deceptions. This occurs because of the way that sins, especially sins of the flesh, cloud the intellect. St. Thomas notes that the sins of the flesh (lust and gluttony) are not usually the most serious (sins of the Spirit such as pride are more serious), but they are the most disgraceful because of the way that they darken our mind. St. Paul says the same in Romans when he says that those who suppress the truth claim to be wise, but are fools and their senseless minds are darkened (cf Rom 1:17ff).
Thus, Lady Lust cannot even see for herself how foolish her own notions are. She believes her own lies and so do those who fall into her trap. Even middle school students can see how unhealthy promiscuity is. They can observe that homosexual acts violate the very design of the body and that the “parts don’t fit.” But this is because their hearts have not yet been blinded by lust, nor their minds darkened by it.
But Lady Lust and her followers soon become blind and fail to see even the most obvious facts before them; their minds are darkened. Jesus says, Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Lk 6:39) And so it is for Lady Lust: she is blinded by her lust.
III. The Distance we should keep – 7 And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house;
Yes, stay away. How many have been snared by her for merely coming too close! Today addiction to Internet porn has reached shocking levels. Many young men think it impossible to break free. Worse still, the addiction descends into ever darker and even unnatural places. What begins as sinfully looking at “ordinary” nudity soon descends to viewing depictions of some of the vilest sexual practices. Children today can find displayed before them practices that normal adults would not have even imagined just 50 years ago. Deeper and darker, many today descend into lust’s worst effects. Even animals do not do the things routinely pined for by those addicted to lust. There is a great debasement described in the literature and by experts who try to help those lost in lust. Even if they can break free, their minds may be sullied for years, even for life.
Hence, scripture says here to stay far away, to venture not even near the door of “Lady Lust.” Elsewhere, St. Paul writes, Flee Fornication! (1 Cor 6:18) There is to be no dabbling with her, no risk-taking, no testing of the limits, no teasing, no occasional looks at risky websites to satisfy curiosity. One must soberly, carefully, and prudently avoid any and all commerce with Lady Lust. Otherwise, she too easily gets her hooks in. And once that happens, for too many it is goodbye to innocence and healthy notions of human sexuality.
Keep a safe distance. Install web filters. Engage in prudent dating practices. There is a distance that we must maintain. If we do not, the damage that will come is powerfully described in the verses to follow.
IV. The Damage we will suffer – Many damages are described! 9 lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; 10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien; 11 and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, 12 and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! 13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. 14 I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” 15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you … 21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he watches all his paths. 22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is caught in the toils of his sin. 23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is lost.
The following damages can be listed:
A. Dissipation – 9 lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; 10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien … 15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you …
Practically speaking, many fornicators and adulterers find their income reduced by alimony, child support, etc. Those who flee these responsibilities are often pursued by the government and have their wages garnished. They must pay numerous fees and penalties for their lack of compliance. They assume the financial costs but without the benefits of a loving wife and children, a common home, and the shared joys that God intended to go with the challenges of marriage and family.
Hence the text speaks of the honors, strengths, and fruits of labor of the fornicator and adulterer going to strangers, to homes where he does not live or enjoy the warmth and love thereof.
Why should this be, O lover of lust, that your wealth and resources be scattered? Resist lust now or you will find your resources scattered to alien homes.
And this is the first damage that Lady Lust exacts: dissipation.
B. Disease 11 and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed,
Practically speaking, the text points to sexually transmitted diseases (from herpes to AIDS).
More spiritually and emotionally, the text can also refer to the emotional and spiritual damage that comes from giving your body over to strangers and to lust. There is the anger and depression of being used and discarded. Intimacy cannot be exchanged in a merely physical way; humans are just not made that way. Our soul and psyche are deeply connected to our body, especially in matters of profound physical intimacy. And to be joined in this way can never be as casual as the lustful say it is. There is a connection that sets up and is hard to break. There is a whole subset of deliverance ministry that is devoted to helping people break their “soul ties” to past sexual “partners.”
Add to this list of ailments the awful sorrow and gnawing guilt associated with post-abortion syndrome.
Many groan under the physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional weight of their sins. And even for believers who know somehow that God has forgiven them, it is often harder for them to forgive themselves. It is a weight of guilt, embarrassment, and shame that for many is hard to shake. Lady Lust does not like those who have discovered her lies, and she taunts them with guilt and shame.
The verse also points to the end of life. And though at the end of our life we are meant to be surrounded by loving children and grandchildren, many who served Lady Lust will die far more alone than they should.
C. Disappointment – 12 and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! 13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors … ”
At some point, if the sinner ever wakes up, his disappointment with himself is often colossal. He feels foolish and regrets that he pridefully rejected instruction and regarded it as stupid or old-fashioned. I meet people like this all the time who “wish they had it all to do over again.”
It is so easy to scoff at instruction when we are young, and even when we are not so young. And in a culture fixated on adolescent rebellion, a culture that thinks it knows better than Mother Church, there are still some who finally grow up and realize what a mess they have made of their own life and that of others.
The promises that sexual and other sinful pleasures make are cast on the rocky shore of disappointment and betrayal.
D. Disgrace – 14 I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.
Our private sins have a way of going public. The Internet porn addict discovers that his browsing habits are known by search engines, the FBI, and even prospective employers who do background checks. Security clearances are threatened. The adulterer is found out. The boyfriend running from his duties to the pregnant girlfriend is summoned to answer for himself. The sinful priest is turned in, arrested, and loses his parish and ministry. The sexually abusive stepfather is arrested. The public school teacher has her escapades with the teen boy displayed on the nightly news.
At some point it would seem that even Lady Lust and Satan himself tire of the sinner and like to see him suffer before Hell comes. Though Satan risks having the person repent and ultimately be saved, it would seem he can’t quite resist making an early “snack” of some of his followers.
And thus what is done in the darkness will be brought to the light.
Even a world that says sexual sin is “no big deal” turns on its own at some point. The sinner cannot escape the special shame and scorn that goes with sins of the flesh like sex, drinking, and gluttony.
On account of envy, many fellow sinners delight in pointing to someone in worse shape than they are. Somehow they think that this will make them feel better. Maybe, but only for a moment; envy is the sin that keeps on taking.
E. Domination – 22 The iniquities of the wicked enslave him, and he is caught in the toils of his sin.
There is an addictive quality to lust and especially to Internet pornography. Many reach a point where they feel enslaved. They want to stop, but feel incapable. And though their habit is costing them dearly in all the ways already described, even this cannot motivate them to stop. They are enslaved and dominated by Lady Lust.
F. Death – 23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is lost.
The death described here is surely a spiritual death. However there are those, not few in number, who have physically died from syphilis, gonorrhea, and AIDS.
St. Paul says, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). We were made to be alive in the Lord and free, but sin (in this case indulged lust) drags us to death and Hell.
Jesus also warns, but He advances a solution as well: Therefore I say to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Only the grace of God, working through our faith and God’s mercy, can cancel the death that will ultimately come upon the unrepentant slave of lust (or of any of her nasty sisters, cousins, and aunts). Scripture says, The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God … Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life … (Gal 5: 19-21; 6:7-8).
The text says that this death comes upon one who lacks discipline. The word discipline is rooted in the Latin word discere (to learn). In English, the word discipline also speaks to applying what one has learned as a way forward. And thus one can be said to engage in the discipline of learning or the discipline of science. To lack discipline is to reject sound teaching or to refuse to apply it.
The text adds that it is a great “folly” to do so. Folly is related to the word “fool.” Who is the fool? The one who refuses received and taught wisdom.
Make no mistake then, to refuse or reject God’s wisdom, handed on through the Church, is foolish, shows a lack of discipline, and brings death.
V. The Design that we should follow – 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 A loving doe, a graceful fawn–let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. 20 Why should you be infatuated, my son, with a loose woman and embrace the bosom of an adventuress?
Yes, here is God’s design: that a man should leave his father and mother, seek for a wife, and having found her, cling wholly to her in an embrace of growing and fruitful love. This plan has its difficulties and requires sacrifice, mercy, and mutual forgiveness. But, unlike lust, God’s plan gives life. Fruitful, faithful, and lasting matrimony is God’s answer to a lustful world.
Lady Lust is no lady. And as another proverb says, Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised … An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain (Prov 31:30, 10-11).