After the father tells his son what to pay attention to, he goes on to tell them what to avoid. He says in Proverbs 5, “Sexual sin kills so avoid the strange woman.”
Up front he wants him to know that avoiding the strange woman requires staying with wisdom. He summons his sons attention again in verse 7, saying, “And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.” Having told them to pay attention to instruction, he now tells them to maintain it, to keep it. Now that you have it, do not let it go. He knows that keeping away from the strange woman is an endurance race. If you fumble wisdom halfway down the field, you’re going to be in trouble.
He says in verse 8 that avoiding the strange woman means staying far away from her. Look there, the father says, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” The fool thinks he can cheat death. He wants to get close to fire without being burned. One who lives this way is a prideful man. He disregards the way God has made the world. He thinks far too highly of himself. The humble man does not test God.
This is a very important truth for us in our present moment. There is great pressure upon the church today to adopt a minimalistic approach to God’s law. Here’s what happening. Imagine the son replying to his father’s instruction in verse 8 with, “But dad, aren’t I simply not to engage in intercourse with this adulteress? It seems a bit legalistic of you to tell me to stay away from her house. What’s with all this adding to God’s commandments?” Many Christians are being tempted to respond to that inquiry with, “Well, son, you’re right, technically only the adulterous act is wrong, so forgive me for my pharisaical ways, and go along wherever you want I suppose.”
There are a number of things wrong with that reply, but here is one of the most significant ones. That reply allows the loving and wise God behind the commandment to be killed, leaving only a meaningless rule. In other words, the son is the one being the Pharisee. Here’s a better response that Christians must winsomely and boldly advance, “God, who has given you His good commandments, loves you. The farther you are away from worshiping idols the closer you’ll be to God. The farther you are away from stealing the richer you will be. The farther you are away from murder the more life you will have. The farther you are away from lying the more truth you will understand. The farther you are away from the adulteress, the more sexual pleasure you will enjoy in marriage. Now tell me again why you want to go close to her house?”
Verse 9 motivates us to stay away from the strange woman. It says if we fail to do so, we forfeit our honor. There is a world of difference between wanting to have honor and wanting to be honored. It’s the difference between wanting to do what is honorable and wanting to be recognized for it by others. We are not arrogant because we acknowledge that honor is a precious thing. May every one of us who take the name of Christ die with honor. May we finish the race set before us without bringing shame upon ourselves or, more importantly, upon our Christ.
We must avoid the strange woman or we will not only lose our honor, but our labor as well. Verse 10 says, avoid her “lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner.” Oh what a great tower can be torn down by sexual immorality. Christians work hard to build a strong faith. We work to build a strong church and family. We work diligently to store up treasure in heaven. We work to build character and credibility with our spouse, children, and fellow Christians. All of that work! May this strike healthy fear into our hearts. Do you know how long and hard you have worked for these good things? Call to mind the blood and sweat, the emotional energy, the early morning prayers, the catechizing of children, the hours spent in service to the church. Could we really spoil all that for which we have labored? We will not only lose our labors but embolden unbelievers to sin. Notice the strength goes to foreigners. Paul writes of this in the New Testament saying, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Romans 2:24).
Another reason to avoid the strange woman is if we don’twe will suffer in regret. We will groan and be consumed at the end of our lives, that’s verse 11. And there in our pain, we will regret that we did not listen to wise instruction. Listen to the regret of the fool in verse 12, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the congregation.”
Here is the father’s loving exhortation: avoid the strange woman.