An Admonition Against Lust from the Book of Proverbs

There is a marvelous chapter in the Book of Proverbs that ought to be studied by every young person living 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.

The Direction we should follow – My son, be attentive to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.

As we have noted, the Book of Proverbs takes up the form of a father advising his son. One of the most critical jobs a parent has is teaching and handing down the preserved and tested wisdom that comes to us from God and from experience. A father should teach his children at length on 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. Children today are often without critical moral instruction, at least of a healthy sort.

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, and what comes from his mouth should be the tested wisdom of God, not the fleeting and often foolish slogans of the world.

Sadly, when one generation fails to teach wisdom, the next generation is not only poorly instructed, it is ill-equipped to teach; this allows the problem to multiply quickly.  What was once common sense isn’t very common anymore. It doesn’t take long for the whole culture to start crumbling without good sense.

There is a direction, a received wisdom, that ensures sound judgment; we must keep it, preserve it, and pass it on.

The Deception we should avoid – For the lips of a loose 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. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.

This describes a woman inciting lust in men. Surely such a woman is the antithesis of Lady Wisdom! Again, though this describes a woman, seduction and the incitement of lust is not unique to women (any more than wisdom is unique to women). Men can seduce and draw others to lust as well. However, in general, men are more susceptible to lust. 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 trade by emphasizing her sweet delights without mentioning the cost. Her smooth talk assures that everything will be all right, that those who object are just sexually repressed and judgmental. She assures that “experts” have found “healthy” societies where free love is practiced. She cites statistics that nearly everyone fornicates anyway. How can the majority of people be wrong? Yes, she’s a smooth talker all right.

Then comes the bill and the results are bitter as wormwood. Lust cuts like a sharp but jagged knife; she drags souls to Hell.

Lust has lost sight of her own lies. She has even convinced herself that her lies and deceptions are true. This occurs because of the way that sins, especially sins of the flesh, cloud the intellect. St. Thomas  Aquinas noted that the sins of the flesh (lust and gluttony) are not usually the most serious (sins of the Spirit such as pride are more so), but they are the most disgraceful because of the way that they darken the mind. St. Paul similarly wrote that those who suppress the truth claim to be wise but are fools and their senseless minds are darkened (cf Rom 1:17ff).

Lust cannot even see for herself how foolish her 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 recognize that homosexual acts violate the very design of the body: the “parts don’t fit together.” They can do this because their hearts have not yet been blinded by lust, nor have their minds been darkened by it.

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)

The Distance we should keep And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house;

Yes, stay away. How many have been snared merely by coming too close! Addiction to Internet pornography 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 degrades 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. Even animals do not engage in the things pined for by those addicted to lust. There is a great debasement described in the literature by experts who try to help those lost in lust. Even if these addicts can break free, their minds may be sullied for years if not for life.

Hence, Scripture advises us to stay far away, to venture not even near the door. Elsewhere, St. Paul wrote, Flee fornication (1  Cor 6:18). There is to be no dabbling with lust, no risk-taking, no testing limits, no teasing, no occasional looks at risky websites to satisfy curiosity. One must soberly, carefully, and prudently avoid any and all commerce with lust. Lust easily gets her hooks in. Once that happens, 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 or we will suffer great damage.

The Damage we will suffer – Many damages are described: lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien; and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you … For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he watches all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is caught in the toils of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is lost.

Note the following damages:

Dissipation lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien … Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you

Practically speaking, fornicators and adulterers can find their income reduced by alimony, child support, and other expenses. Those who flee these responsibilities are often pursued by the government and can have their wages garnished. They can be subject to penalties for lack of compliance. They assume the financial costs 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.

Disease … 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.

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. 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. An entire subset of deliverance ministry 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. Even for believers, who know that God has forgiven them, it is often hard to forgive themselves. The weight of guilt, embarrassment, and shame is hard for many to shake. 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. Although at the end of our life we are meant to be surrounded by loving children and grandchildren, many who served lust will die far more alone.

Disappointment – … and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors … ”

If the sinner ever wakes up, his disappointment with himself is often colossal. He feels foolish and regrets that he pridefully rejected instruction, regarding it as stupid or old-fashioned. I meet people like this all the time, those who wish they could do it all to do over again, differently.

It is so easy to scoff at instruction when we are young, and even when we are not so young. In a culture fixated on adolescent rebellion, a culture that thinks it knows better than Mother Church, many 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 broken on the rocky shores of disappointment and betrayal.

Disgrace – I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.

Our private sins have a way of becoming 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 teenage boy displayed on the nightly news.

At some point it would seem that even Lust and Satan himself tire of the sinner; they like to see him suffer before Hell comes. Though Satan risks having the person repent and ultimately be saved, he can’t quite resist making an early “snack” of some of his followers.

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 go with sins of the flesh.

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.

Domination – 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. 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 lust.

Death – He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is lost.

The death described here is surely a spiritual death, but there are those, not few in number, who have physically died from syphilis, gonorrhea, and AIDS.

St. Paul wrote, 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  free and alive in the Lord, but sin (in this case indulged lust) drags us to death and Hell.

Jesus warned, but He advanced 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 His mercy, can cancel the death that ultimately comes 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. 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; it shows a lack of discipline and brings death.

The Design that we should followLet your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, A loving doe, a graceful fawn—let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. Why should you be infatuated, my son, with a loose woman and embrace the bosom of an adventuress?

Yes, here is God’s design: 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.

Lust is no lady! 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).

6 Replies to “An Admonition Against Lust from the Book of Proverbs”

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  2. When I was 14 and knew nothing of sex other than girls were pretty, my father sat me down for the talk!
    Asking me questions about things that would otherwise get me knocked off my feet and seeing stars.
    Needless to say, all I wanted to respond was whatever would avoid a beating.
    He danced around the topic and accomplished nothing more than embarrass us both.
    If he wanted to help me or guide me, he had to start guiding me when I was about 2. He lost the game long ago.

    The author is astute to say that if the father has lost his way, he will be helpless to help his son, or not even interested in the first place.
    I’ve found the way to God through decades of tragedy. Ha! the value of suffering.!! Suffering teaches us compassion. Among other things. I know of a couple of kids who have good parents, and they have had amazing good and prosperous lives. But they are in their middle twenties and starting to slip into things they know are not right. Modernism,

  3. Solomon’s father, David, was a man who seduced a woman, Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba. If a man cannot seduce a woman, he can always rape her: Shechem and Dina. Probably, seduction is more frequently a woman’s business, and rape is more frequently a man’s business. Confer Joseph and Potifar’s wife: she cannot seduce him, so she accuses him of rape. This plays on common prejudices. Often, a man and a woman can seduce one another, in a simple exchange of power for sex. This also goes both ways between genders: the male and married teacher and the young female student, or the female teacher and male student. But in both cases, the man wants sex, and the woman wants power, so it is really not gender symmetrical. I guess. Sigh. Conclusion: Church said, a man must be sexually abstinent, and a woman must bear children (cf. Joseph and Mary): this paradox was resolved by God in marriage (cf. Gen 1 – 3). But school says, the best thing a woman can do to a man is sex, and the worst thing a man can do to a woman is pregnancy: this paradox is resolved with contraception. Sigh, sigh, sigh. P.S. By the way, my faith respectively life is still divided between Church said respectively school says. Monday night, I enjoyed sexual fantasies about Japanese women. Simultaneously, on Facebook, I received a friendship invitation from a Japanese, almost nude woman, and causal connection is ruled out. Obviously, what I could have done, was to accept God’s grace, to help myself out of my fantasies and her out of her sad business. If I had not declined that friendship invitation, she and I could have communicated as regular friends, with Google translate, e.g. on my favourite Japanese movie, Umamachi Diary. But I was so afraid to annoy my regular friends with such a dangerous liason. How could anybody else than God know about my Japanese fantasies, and the debts I owe to God in terms of regular friendship, probably to that almost nude woman. As a consequence, I have now deactivated my Facebook account.

  4. P.P.S. The moderator is free to not see my little story of declined friendship on Facebook fit for the public reader of this eminent catholic blog. The incident, which cannot be explained by causality, due to the simultaneity of my private fantasy and the friendship invitation on FB, has a precursor in real life: then it was me as volunteer helper in math, science, and English, and my single mother, native Chinese student. Then, too, regular friendship helped me out of my selfcentered sexuality, and her out of (this I did not of course know until many years later) Danish prostitution (to Chinese tourists and Danish men), but my friends said that she abused me, and I broke our regular friendship. Many years later, I realized that she returned to Danish prostitution (which I did not know was her motive to seek my regular friendship to get out because all I knew was that she was single mother). That was in real life: my self centered sexuality was better of with such a dangerous liason, to practice friendship, and my friends made the false decision for me. This week, on Facebook, with miraculous coincidence, similar story: anticipating that my friends would unfriend me if I did accept her (the Japanese almost nude woman whom I had fantasized about before I knew she existed): O declined her. But I am worse of with my self centered sexuality than with any friendship. Regular friendships between both sexes can stimulate sexual abstinence and real growth. So once again, I obeyed humans, spited God. When God entered, I chickened out, as always. My Facebook account is deactivated. The end.

  5. Conclusion to my adult life was that my Danish protestant, homosexual, or communist friends praised me as a young man, when I cohabitated with my Danish girlfriend, but condemned me, as a grown up man, when I made regular friends with a Chinese single mother (whom nobody knew was a prostitute). Because, my friends praise the sexual revolution, and that I can give my time without receiving sex, simply because friendship helps both, is to Danes betrayal of “holy egotism.” That is why I immediately declined said FB invitation from the woman of my fantasy. Despite supernatural coincidence, my allegiance is to my Danish friends, not to God. That is why my faith is the Church’s (Humanae Vitae) but my life is the school’s: sexual revolution, which was and is taught in school. The FB incident (Japanese) and the real life story (Chinese) both tell the story of a woman who seduces a man for benefit of both, because regular friendship benefits both better than the sexual revolution of each camp. But I failed, then and now, because people demonize women. I am worse off alone. My Danish, protestant, homosexual, or communist friends all demonize poor people. They demand that friendship is quid pro quo. So nobody in need must seduce anybody, but everybody must sin between Danish equals. However, seduction needs not result in sex, and then regular friendship is forbidden by bigot Danes who say they protect you from abuse. Try to understand that what my Danish friends forbid is friendship without sexual quid pro quo, because they believe in selfishness. Well, my old story in real life, repeated on FB. In both cases, I turned down a dangerous liason. But in both cases, I was better off with danger than with self centered sexuality, and so was she. The danger was only risk of loosing friends. Her camp that wants money, and my camp that wants sex. Not she, not me, but our respective camps, by these rivers of Babylon. To condemn friendship for bad appearances. Well, the FB Japanese event simply came out as the real life Chinese story: I was loyal to my false Danish friends who praise self centered sex, and who condemn women who live on it. Both camps can continue business as usual.

  6. By the way, saint Paul and saint Mary Magdalena probably saw one another as brother and sister (according to tradition depicted on the altar piece in my native town Thisted church c. 1500 pillaged c. 1536 restored c. 1900 so I grew up with this catholic interpretation). They seduced one another into chaste friendship, despised by the other apostles, and although they barely met, their friendship must have been God’s comfort.

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