Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World: Wise words from the book of Proverbs

Can a man take fire unto his bosom and not be burned?

Proverbs 6.27

Surely no one would be so daft as to pick up a handful of burning coals from the embers of a fire and place them on one’s chest. To do such a thing would be to invite severe burns and possible death. The average sensible person would see the likely consequences of such an action and not do it. Yet when it comes to sexual immorality, which is the theme of this proverb, many fail to be as sensible. They see an opportunity, take it, and wonder what went wrong when everything around them begins to disintegrate. Adultery is both a cheap and an expensive act. It is cheap in so far as it is an unworthy act for all involved and it cheapens those who engage in it; yet at the same time it is expensive, for the consequences are enormous. God specifically condemns promiscuous living, too, though many today think nothing of having several ‘partners’ over a period of time.

‘Having an affair’, as adultery is euphemistically described because it sounds less harsh, is not simply a physical act. Sexual union with someone other than one’s marriage partner carries with it tremendous moral and spiritual consequences, as well as social and personal ones. Part of the whole scenario of adultery is the deceit and betrayal that are inevitable; the secret meetings, the illicit contact, the web of lies and intrigues necessary to keep others from discovering the relationship. No matter how irreligious a person may be, few relationships survive adultery. To be betrayed in this way is intensely personal and, when the adultery is discovered, the results are invariably devastating: recrimination, guilt, the break-up of the marriage, divorce and distress to any children, opprobrium from others, loss of trust of colleagues and friends, loss of face and loss of self-respect. The poet, in cynical voice, wrote ‘Do not adultery commit; advantage rarely comes of it’. The Bible, quite simply, tells us it is disastrous. No true believer should ever set out deliberately to commit adultery or to be promiscuous. That is why this proverb is so pertinent. It tells us not to toy with temptation, because of what it may lead to. Do you lust after another man’s wife? Are you spending too much time with someone else’s husband? Avoid that person – don’t get drawn like a moth into the flame. Don’t read books or magazines, or watch television programmes or films that glorify such sins. These things compromise our spiritual immune systems and lower our standards. Don’t take fire into your bosom: if you do, you will be burned. Fill your mind with the word of God; plead with God for His strength to overcome sin; and don’t give place to the devil.