You Can Remain Chaste in an Immoral World
HE WAS dark and handsome. She was talented and beautiful. They worked for the same company. She showered him with personal attention. He gave her admiration. They bought gifts for each other. Soon they were lovers. He left his wife for her. She, in the end, decided to stay with her husband and to call the affair off. Halfheartedly he tried to return to his wife. Lacking true remorse, however, he did not succeed. Everyone involved continued on with life, though not unscathed.
Sexual morality is no longer thought of as a virtue in this world. The pursuit of pleasure and satisfaction without restraint appears to be the order of the day. The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Adultery seems to be as universal and, in some instances, as common as marriage.”
Yet, Jehovah God desires marriage to be “honorable among all” and the marriage bed to be “without defilement.” (Hebrews 13:4) The Scriptures declare: “Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) To enjoy divine favor, therefore, we need to maintain moral cleanness in this immoral world.
How can we protect ourselves from the corrupting influences that surround us? In the 5th chapter of the Bible book of Proverbs 5, King Solomon of ancient Israel provides answers. Let us examine what he has to say.
Thinking Ability to Protect You
“My son, to my wisdom O do pay attention,” begins the king of Israel. He adds: “To my discernment incline your ears, so as to guard thinking abilities; and may your own lips safeguard knowledge itself.”—Proverbs 5:1, 2.
To resist temptations toward immorality, we need wisdom—the ability to put Scriptural knowledge to use—and discernment, or the power to distinguish right from wrong and to choose the correct course. We are urged to pay attention to wisdom and discernment so as to guard our thinking ability. How may we do so? When we study God’s Word, the Bible, we need to take note of the way Jehovah does things and incline our ear to his will and purposes. By doing this, we will be directing our thought processes into right channels. Thinking ability thus acquired is harmonious with godly wisdom and knowledge. When properly exercised, this ability protects us from being ensnared by immoral enticements.
Beware of a Smooth Palate
The reason why thinking ability is essential in maintaining moral purity in an unclean world is that the ways of an immoral person are seductive. Solomon warns: “As a honeycomb the lips of a strange woman keep dripping, and her palate is smoother than oil. But the aftereffect from her is as bitter as wormwood; it is as sharp as a two-edged sword.”—Proverbs 5:3, 4.
In this proverb, the wayward person is portrayed as “a strange woman”—a prostitute.* The words with which she seduces her victim are as sweet as comb honey and smoother than olive oil. Do not most immoral sexual advances begin this way? For example, consider the experience of an attractive 27-year-old secretary named Amy. She relates: “This man at work gives me a lot of attention and praises me at every opportunity. It feels nice to be noticed. But I can clearly see that his interest in me is strictly sexual. I am not going to be taken in by his advances.” The flattering words of a seducer or a seductress are usually attractive unless we recognize their true nature. For this we need to exercise our thinking ability.
The aftereffects of immorality are as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a two-edged sword—painful and death dealing. A troubled conscience, an unwanted pregnancy, or a sexually transmitted disease are often the bitter consequences of such conduct. And think of the enormous emotional pain experienced by the marriage partner of an unfaithful individual. One act of infidelity can inflict wounds deep enough to last a lifetime. Yes, immorality hurts.
Commenting on the life-style of a wayward woman, the wise king continues: “Her feet are descending to death. Her very steps take hold on Sheol itself. The path of life she does not contemplate. Her tracks have wandered she does not know where.” (Proverbs 5:5, 6) The immoral woman’s ways lead her to death—her steps to Sheol, the common grave of mankind. With sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS, running rampant, how true these words are! Her outcome is the same as that of those who accompany her in her crooked tracks.
With heartfelt concern, the king urges: “So now, O sons, listen to me and do not turn away from the sayings of my mouth. Keep your way far off from alongside her, and do not get near to the entrance of her house.”—Proverbs 5:7, 8.
We need to stay as far away as possible from the influence of immoral people. Why should we open ourselves to their ways by listening to debasing music, watching corrupting entertainment, or exposing ourselves to pornographic material? (Proverbs 6:27; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Ephesians 5:3-5) And how foolish to invite their attention by flirting or by being immodest in dress and grooming!—1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 3:3, 4.
Too High a Price
For what other reason should we keep our way far off from that of a wayward person? Solomon answers: “That you may not give to others your dignity, nor your years to what is cruel; that strangers may not satisfy themselves with your power, nor the things you got by pain be in the house of a foreigner, nor you have to groan in your future when your flesh and your organism come to an end.”—Proverbs 5:9-11.
Solomon thus emphasizes the high price of succumbing to immorality. Adultery and loss of dignity, or self-respect, go hand in hand. Is it not truly humiliating to serve merely as a means of satisfying our own immoral passion or that of someone else? Does it not show a lack of self-respect to indulge in sexual intimacy with someone who is not our marriage mate?
What, though, is included in the ‘giving of our years, our power, and the fruit of our labor to strangers, or foreigners’? One reference work states: “The point of these verses is clear: The price of infidelity may be high; for everything one works for—position, power, prosperity—could be lost either through the avaricious demands of the woman or the outcry for restitution by the community.” Immoral relations can cost plenty!
Having forfeited his dignity and exhausted his resources, a foolish person would groan, saying: “How I have hated discipline and my heart has disrespected even reproof! And I have not listened to the voice of my instructors, and to my teachers I have not inclined my ear. Easily I have come to be in every sort of badness in the midst of the congregation and of the assembly.”—Proverbs 5:12-14.
In time, the sinner lets out what one scholar calls “a long litany of ‘if onlys’: if only I had listened to my father; if only I hadn’t gone my own way; if only I had taken others’ advice.” However, this realization comes too late. The now unchaste individual’s life has already been ruined and his reputation soiled. How vital for us to consider the high price of engaging in immorality before we are engulfed by it!
“Drink Water out of Your Own Cistern”
Is the Bible prudish about sexual relations? Not at all. The emotion of romantic love and the ecstasy enjoyed between a man and a woman are gifts from God. However, this intimacy is to be enjoyed only by marriage partners. So to a married man, Solomon gives this exhortation: “Drink water out of your own cistern, and tricklings out of the midst of your own well. Should your springs be scattered out of doors, your streams of water in the public squares themselves? Let them prove to be for you alone, and not for strangers with you.”—Proverbs 5:15-17.
“Your own cistern” and “your own well” are poetic expressions for a beloved wife. Experiencing sexual enjoyment with her is likened to drinking refreshing water. Unlike the water supply in public places, a cistern or a well is considered private property. And the man is counseled to father children at home with his wife rather than scatter his seed in public squares, that is, among other women. Clearly, the advice to a man is to be faithful to his wife.
The wise man continues: “Let your water source prove to be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth, a lovable hind and a charming mountain goat. Let her own breasts intoxicate you at all times. With her love may you be in an ecstasy constantly.”—Proverbs 5:18, 19.
“Water source,” or fountain, has reference to the source of sexual satisfaction. Sexual pleasure with one’s marriage mate is “blessed”—God-given. Hence, a man is exhorted to rejoice with the wife of his youth. To him, she is as lovable and beautiful as a female deer, and as charming and graceful as a mountain goat.
Solomon next poses two rhetorical questions: “So why should you, my son, be in an ecstasy with a strange woman or embrace the bosom of a foreign woman?” (Proverbs 5:20) Yes, why should a married person be lured into sexual intimacy outside of marriage through contacts at a place of work, at school, or elsewhere?
To married Christians, the apostle Paul gives this counsel: “This I say, brothers, the time left is reduced. Henceforth let those who have wives be as though they had none.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) What does this entail? Well, the followers of Jesus Christ are to ‘keep on seeking first the kingdom.’ (Matthew 6:33) Therefore, married couples are not to be so absorbed in one another that they give Kingdom interests a secondary place in their lives.
Need for Self-Control
Sexual desires can be controlled. They must be by those desiring Jehovah’s approval. “This is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel [his own body] in sanctification and honor,” admonished the apostle Paul.—1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4.
Young people, then, should not rush into marriage when they first experience an awakening of sexual impulses. Marriage requires a commitment, and living up to such a responsibility calls for maturity. (Genesis 2:24) Better it is to wait until one is “past the bloom of youth”—the period when sexual feelings run strong and can distort one’s judgment. (1 Corinthians 7:36) And how unwise and sinful it is for an adult desiring to marry to get involved in immoral relations simply because a prospective marriage partner is not available!
“His Own Errors Will Catch the Wicked”
The fundamental reason why sexual immorality is wrong is that Jehovah—the Giver of life and Bestower of sexual capacity in humans—disapproves of it. So giving the strongest incentive for moral chasteness, King Solomon states: “For the ways of man are in front of the eyes of Jehovah, and he is contemplating all his tracks.” (Proverbs 5:21) Yes, nothing is hidden from the eyes of God, “with whom we have an accounting.” (Hebrews 4:13) Any act of sexual uncleanness, regardless of how secret and whatever its physical and social consequences may be, is bound to damage our relationship with Jehovah. How foolish to forfeit peace with God for a few moments of illicit pleasure!
Some who shamelessly indulge in immoral ways may seem to do so with impunity—but not for long. Solomon declares: “His own errors will catch the wicked one, and in the ropes of his own sin he will be taken hold of. He will be the one to die because there is no discipline, and because in the abundance of his foolishness he goes astray.”—Proverbs 5:22, 23.
Why should any of us ever go astray? After all, the book of Proverbs forewarns us of the seductive ways of the world. And it sets before us the price that sexual immorality usually demands—our health, our material assets, our strength, and our dignity. With such clear foresight, we need never be in a position of uttering a long litany of “if onlys.” Yes, by applying the counsel Jehovah has given in his inspired Word, we can remain morally chaste in an immoral world.
The word “stranger” was applied to those who turned aside from what was in harmony with the Law and thus alienated themselves from Jehovah. Hence, a prostitute is referred to as “a strange woman.”
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The aftereffects of immorality are as bitter as wormwood
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“Rejoice with the wife of your youth”