Saturday, July 28, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (17)

According to Jenna Birch at Women’s Day, more than 60% of adulterous liaisons get started via the workplace. Business trips are the most common settings. The Telegraph reports that a recent American study showed women who travel for work are three times more likely to have had concurrent sexual relationships in the past five years than women in general. And the Huffington Post reports that 46% of women who cheat do so with someone they met at work.*

Keep these claims in mind as we jump back three thousand years or so.

8. Wisdom Applied: More Warnings Against Adultery (Proverbs 7:1-27)

Picking Up Speed

I’m going to try to cover this whole adultery thing faster than I’m covering the rest of Proverbs. If I attend to chapters 6 and 7 in the same sort of loving detail I’ve been devoting to the rest of the book, I might succeed in roughly approximating the percentage of the God’s word that Solomon devoted to the subject, but — sue me — I just don’t have the stomach for writing a six- or seven-parter on adultery. In defense of my choice to make haste through this chapter, however, I’ll point out that Solomon is addressing his advice here to young, single men, and my purely anecdotal sense of our readership at CU is that most of us are well past that stage of life. Sure, there are important things for other wisdom-seekers to learn, wives and older men included, but the emphasis in this passage is on the sort of mistake you make early in life, and which affects the rest of your days.

The chapter divides neatly into three sections:
  • Intro (vv. 1-5)
  • An anecdote (vv. 6-23)
  • The moral (vv. 24-27)
The Introduction

I’m going to skip past Solomon’s re-introduction to our subject because it’s something we’ve seen in Proverbs many times before, including in our last post on this subject, in almost identical wording. The differences between these intros might make for an interesting study some day, but for now let’s just say that Solomon uses them to link back to the idea of wisdom as a way of life (v4-5), and to stress that the previous generation is the primary source of that wisdom (v1-2).

Today, of course, we rightly put our emphasis on the written word of God as the primary source of wisdom, not least because of the authority that comes with it. Solomon occasionally does this too, though less than we might. Bear in mind that he had much less of the written Word than we do, and that much of the wisdom he received was transmitted orally. The king did us a great service in writing down so much of it, as well as compiling for us the wisdom of others. In any case, it remains a fact that even biblical wisdom has come to us via the efforts of prior generations. We need to listen more to those old guys — and gals.

The Anecdote

Solomon is looking out his window, unseen from the street, just observing life. Here, he says, is a simple man coming down the road. All indications seem to be he has done this before. It seems to be a habit.

Now, not all simple men are completely senseless, as we discovered in episode 5 of this series, but all are at risk due to lack of life experience. Some youths and “simple” people eventually wise up: “I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense.” Not all are like that.

Sadly, this one is. Good to know that mere inexperience is not the problem. Some inexperienced young men, by the grace of God, lack the opportunity to sin. Others are too shy, too unattractive, or too well-programmed by their parents to risk the sort of encounter Solomon here describes. These are not the best reasons to avoid sin, but the damage that comes from sexual exploration with the wives of other men is well avoided for any reason, greater or lesser.

A Little Profiling

Note the basic characteristics of this straying wife. She is:
  • wily of heart (v10), meaning exceedingly guarded. Her partners never really know who she is, though they surely think they do.
  • loud (v11). In driving the relationship, it’s the woman who is doing the heavy lifting at the outset, and the woman who is most visible to anyone watching. That’s our first clue that something is probably not ideal about this person.
  • coming on to him (v13), not the other way round. That’s almost always a really bad sign. Compare with Ruth, who uncovered Boaz’s feet, but did so quietly, demurely, and in a public situation where it was clear that nothing inappropriate was taking place.
  • expert in smooth talk (v5, 21). When signs appear that things are not what they seem, she can quickly cover her tracks. She is an experienced liar, and deft in manipulation.
  • a religious fake (v14). She makes much of saying she has offered her sacrifices and paid her vows. She pretends to be like the women this young man feels comfortable with and has been trained to respect, claiming to do all the same things they do.
  • seductive (v21). Well, of course, or Solomon would not have a story to tell.
  • wayward (v11). Her feet do not stay at home. That is not to say that wives are always better off barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, but 1,000 years after Solomon, the apostle Paul still felt it important to tell Titus that young Christian wives of the first century needed training to be “self-controlled, pure, working at home”. As even the modern, liberal sources quoted in our introduction have established, wives who are always out and about are to this very day subject to temptations that wives at home are not. Further, if the sources cited above are correct, married women are now ahead of men, 34% to 32%, in workplace infidelities. Or perhaps we should say “behind” ...
The Moral

I hope I’m not spoiling the ending of Proverbs 7 by pointing out that while illicit relationships can be tremendously exciting, they reliably lead to disaster, and almost always to the sort of deep loneliness which no number of sexual experiences can alleviate. The lies required to sustain such dalliances eat at the soul, making the liar unable to trust or permit himself or herself the sort of vulnerability and openness that lead to lasting love and partnership. And the financial and family complications of getting caught in infidelity are catastrophic in ways few realize until they have experienced them firsthand.

The “chambers of death” indeed.

*  All online sources for this article are NSFW. Big surprise there. Google the stats if you must, but don’t blame me for what you find in the margins of those web pages. I have three different ad blockers going at all times, and I definitely recommend the practice for anyone doing internet research.

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