I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs recently. In a world full of spin, half-truths, propaganda, and blatant lies – the proverbs sound wonderfully true, pure, and right. Like fresh mountain water after a miserable, exhausting walk through a dry wilderness. Wisdom is such an incredibly rare thing in the world! And yet it is critical for life.
and the complacency of fools destroys them.”
On the other hand,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold."
The Proverbs are written by a father to his son. It is not surprising then that a good portion of the first few chapters are devoted to sexual wisdom. It struck me that this is probably a topic we don’t talk about enough. And when we do, we generally focus the discussion on the “thou shalt nots”. Which is perfectly legitimate – but it fails to present a positive motive for sexual purity. The father in Proverbs places the discussion of sexuality, not in the context of a restriction (thou shalt not), but in the context of a robust enjoyment of life and health and peace.
My father used this trick on me concerning smoking cigarettes. When I was starting high school, most of my classmates smoked. It was a rite of passage. But Dad said, “Tell you what, if you don’t take up smoking, I’ll give you $200 when you graduate.” Well, $200 was a lot of money back then – at least it was for me. I can’t say that was the only thing that kept me from smoking but it certainly helped. Instead of simply saying “no” to something I was positively saying “yes” to something I valued more.
That’s what the father is doing in Proverbs. He isn’t simply trying to warn his son, but to woo him. To call him to embrace a greater affection than anything sexual sin has to offer.
The argument has two parts. First, the father asks: Do you want to live a life of joy and fruitfulness? Then pursue Lady Wisdom. Desire her more than you desire anything. The father strives to paint for his son the beauty of this “lady”.
and nothing you desire can compare with her."
Wow. Sex is all about desire and the father isn’t saying “throttle your desire” but “focus your desire on what is most desirable”!
she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
The best weapon against the “adulterous woman” (or man) is to have an ongoing love affair with Lady Wisdom. But we have to help each other remember what a beauty she is. In a tawdry, sensual world, we can easily forget. And, rather than simply striving for “sexual purity”, as worthy as that goal is – maybe we should strive more for Lady Wisdom. The more we “prize her” the less susceptible we will be to temptation.
Maybe we could be a greater help to our sons and daughters by doing a better job of casting a vision for a life of joy and health and peace in the embrace of wisdom. No sexual experience, no woman or man, can compare to the sheer beauty and joy found in her arms.
Secondly, the father paints a picture of the joys of married, sexual fidelity. He calls his son to a robust, “intoxicated”, sexual enjoyment of his bride!
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love."
The father magnifies God’s good gift of married, sexual pleasure and charges his son to “rejoice” in the intoxicating pleasures of his wife. God desires that we be intoxicated with the love of our spouse and drink deeply from the well of married sexual pleasure. This isn’t just “protection” from the adulterous woman, it is pleasing in the sight of God. It is wisdom and it brings life and health and joy.
I sense that our “messaging” of sexual morality too often ignores these two treasures: the incredible beauty of wisdom and the intoxicating pleasures of married sexuality. Does the father address the devastating results of sexual sin? Yes, he does! In crystal clear images and compelling terms. But it’s not all he does. He sets the carnage of sexual sin against the backdrop of the beauty of sexual wisdom and the joy of sexual fidelity. That’s a message with wonderful, motivating power.
I hope you’re having this conversation with your teenagers. Don’t be afraid to cast a vision for all the blessings God has for us in the embrace of wisdom - and the joys He gives to us in married sexuality.
A message of sexual purity is too often a message of what you can’t and should not do. That’s ok – it’s just not enough. It lacks motivating power. The temptations are too strong. We know that sexual sin is wrong. We sense that it leads to death – but there is wonderful motivating power to resist the deadly traps of sexual immorality in a message of life and joy and sexual delight.
In His Service,
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