Solomon concluded this discussion of sexual temptation by considering additional consequences. He noted that when a man steals in order to keep from starving, most people empathize with his situation. Even so, empathy doesn’t remove the demand for justice. His community may feel sorry for his desperate choice, but they will neither excuse his sin nor set aside the victim’s right to receive complete restitution multiplied by seven! Solomon’s point: If your community upholds justice in the case of an understandable crime, imagine how severely they will punish the incomprehensible and despicable act of sexual sin with another’s spouse! The backlash will be swift and severe. Remember, in those days, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning.
Today, in the age of grace, God has postponed the punishment for sin until the return of His Son at the end of time, when all humanity will stand before Him to be judged. Therefore, if you are “in Christ,” the penalty of justice has already been paid by our Savior. The temporal consequences for sin, however, remain, and those consequences may include the wrath of your less forgiving immediate community. Moreover, “wounds and disgrace [the adulterer] will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out” (6:33). A guilty conscience can be dreadful.
Very often, the term rendered “wounds” refers to the sores and resulting scars caused by a disease. “Reproach” stems from a word that refers to the taunts of an enemy or the scorn of honest people after a scandal. These lines describe a ruined reputation and the complete loss of trust among one’s community. This ultimate betrayal casts doubt upon the adulterer’s credibility in any other context.
Note also another potential consequence: the wrath of the cheated spouse!
For jealousy enrages a man,
And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
He will not accept any ransom,
Nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts. (6:34–35)
Wounds heal, but scars are never completely erased. God’s grace abounds, but shame follows the repentant person like a dark shadow. And there are few emotions as powerful, detrimental, or sad as regret (“If only I hadn’t . . .”). So don’t fall prey to temptation! Don’t let your legacy become a list of regrets!
Hopefully, all these potential repercussions make such a strong case against sexual sin that all of us would find it unthinkable. Yet, alas, some will still fall. Many will flirt with temptation, thinking they’re strong enough, moral enough, wise enough, or smart enough to avoid actually sinning. But temptation is a slippery slope toward destruction! So resolve today not to focus on avoiding sin; focus on avoiding temptation instead.
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.