Turning our attention today Proverbs 5. This is the most direct chapter in Proverbs regarding adultery. It’s a recurrent theme throughout the book, but it’s highly in focus here. Take a look at Proverbs 5:3 and let’s walk through this for a few minutes.
First, we see that adultery is a bad thing. We also see, though, that can be a pleasurable thing. This is why it is easy to fall into. After all, lips that drip honey and smooth oil in words is appealing.
Yet adultery is destructive, and this is what Solomon is warning against. It is actually something that even today, studies and polls indicate we have strong feelings about. Despite all of the libertine feelings of the modern age, there have been polls that indicate that a high number of people think adultery, when defined as cheating in a relationship, is among the worst things a person can do. (We do not seem to mind so much, culturally, when people ignore any other sexual ethic from Scripture, but that one’s a big deal.)
Why? Why do we think adultery is such a problem? It’s still a court martial offense in the UCMJ, though not always enforced. It can disqualify politicians, unless you are the Attorney General of Arkansas. Or his friend, the former President of the United States. Adultery destroys lives, harms children, and even in an age of difficult divorce was grounds for divorce.
Does it really still matter? It does. It always will.
Adultery reflects on the character of an individual overall. First, certainly, there is the clear refusal to honor a vow willingly made. Few, if any, people are actually forced into marriage in America these days. Usually, people are choosing who to marry, when to marry, and why to marry. If you are free to make that choice, then adultery shows a major character failing. You chose to make a vow and then chose to break it.
That’s the first character warning that adultery gives us in general. A person who cannot honor their marriage vows is potentially going to have trouble with other issues. Contrary to many popular opinions, those who cannot handle big promises cannot be trusted with little ones—so one who cannot honor a marriage vow will not be honorable with lesser issues, like nuclear weapons or billions of dollars.
The second character warning is broader. Look at the idea in Proverbs 5:3 again. The one who falls to adultery was led astray by pleasures and smoothness.
This inability for overall self-control is troublesome. That a king, or any other leader, would chase after immediate pleasures or simple paths when there is hard work to be done is a dangerous place for a nation.
In all, it is not just adultery that Solomon is warning about. It is everything bound up in the character of a person who commits adultery that is at stake. Next time someone tries to sell you that their inability to keep faith with a simple marriage vow does not affect their ability to govern or run a business, think again. They have revealed what type of person they are already.