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Proverbs 7:1-27

February 16, 2015

I was surprised to find yet another chapter dedicated to warnings about loose (married) women.  The imagery is detailed and effective.  It is a “beautiful” passage–if one can call a warning against adultery beautiful!  But I am bothered by the way the passage speaks only from a male perspective; it looks sexist to me.  The blame for solicitation is being placed entirely on the woman.  It is the woman who tempts; it is the woman who seduces; it is the woman who the man has to watch out for.  In reality, it is men (then as well as now) who usually initiate seduction.

I have a son and a daughter in college.  Perhaps I am naive, but I have never considered giving my son advice on how to avoid “loose women.”  But I have certainly been concerned that my daughter avoid situations where she may be preyed upon by “loose men.”  This is not due to a double standard in which I think it’s fine for my son to engage in recreational sex, but not my daughter; rather, it’s due to my sense that men tend to be the seducers, not women.

Of course, there are seductive women as well; and if they are married, or the men they are wanting to seduce are married, the men should certainly be aware and stay away from that situation.

For our time, in which married men and women socialize with much greater freedom and frequency than ever would have been the case in ancient Israel, we need a much more up-to-date approach to the problem of how to avoid sliding into affairs (whether intended or not).  Men and women both need to be more aware of their own behavior and avoid escalating relationships toward adultery.

For example, giving personal gifts to a person of the opposite sex who is married, or who is not your spouse, is often inappropriate.  Picking out the clothes we are going to wear so as to please that person is a strong signal of danger.  Having private lunches, or socializing privately, is usually unwise.  Being alone with him/her for a significant amount of time is unwise.  Frequent emails or texting is usually inappropriate.  Arranging to “accidently meet” is a definite red flag.  Talking about one’s personal feelings for the other is inappropriate.  Rubbing shoulders is inappropriate.  Giving hugs is often a danger sign.  Sexual humor or any sex-talk is inappropriate.

All of these behaviors tend to increase the emotional intimacy of the relationship or sexualize the relationship.  Even if the two people do not engage in overt sex, such behaviors violate the emotional (and physical) intimacy that belongs to the married relationship.  “Emotional adultery” should be strongly avoided; not just physical adultery.

Can men and women be close friends without the relationship taking on romantic tones?  Yes, but such friendships are rare in my experience.  There are some people of the opposite sex who feel to us more like a mother or father, or a brother or a sister.  These are often wonderfully nurturing relationships.  But even these sometimes become romanticized.  Friendship with those of the opposite sex is healthy, even for the married; just be on your guard not to begin behaviors that escalate toward romance.

Verses two and three say to “keep my commandments” and to “bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablets of your heart.”  This reminds me of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 that tells the Israelites to keep on their hearts the command to be loyal to God and love God; to recite it, bind it on one’s hand, put it on one’s forehead and on the doorposts of one’s house.  In Proverbs 7, though, the command is not about loving God but about being wise.  But for Proverbs, to love God is to act wisely with others.  Verse four is quite lovely:  “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend.”  Now there’s a verse to put on your refrigerator or on your desk at work.

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From → Proverbs

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