Deadly Desire

The evil of adultery is found not just in the fact that commandments get broken, but that people end up dead. As we saw in Proverbs 5, God delights to satisfy our desires, but in Proverbs 6 we see that when those desires go off the rails and transgress the boundaries that God sets, the result is not delight, but death. “You desire, and do not have, so you murder.” (James 4:2).

Proverbs 6 contains warnings about how an evil woman seduces with her smooth tongue or fluttering eyelashes, but the central warning concerns not what she does, but what you do. Verse 25 says: “Do not desire her beauty in your heart.” Yes, how other people act or dress or behave does have the ability to lead you to sin, but the root of sexual sin is desire, longings and cravings that reside within your own heart.

Notice this, though: a desire is not a sin. A sexual desire is not a sin. Proverbs does not say: “Do not desire beauty in your heart.” Not all desires are sinful, but any desire can become sinful, and so we need to know the difference.

Godly desire is desire with limits. A godly desire says: “Fulfill that desire in a righteous way, and if there is no righteous way, then desire something else.” (Another word for this is self-control). When a godly desire conceives, it gives birth to righteousness, that is, to actions that satisfy that desire in a righteous way.

Temptation, on the other hand, is desire with no limits. Temptation simply says: “Fulfill that desire any way you can.” Now, the Bible teaches that it is not a sin to be tempted. Realizing that there are other potential ways of satisfying your desires is not sinful. Temptation is standing in the hallway of desire, where there are two doors. Sin is choosing in your heart to go through the door marked “Any Way” instead of the door marked “God’s Way”.

The Bible’s general term for desires that have given in to temptation is covetousness. Greed, for example, is material covetousness. Gluttony is covetousness of the appetite. Sexual covetousness, which Proverbs 6:25 warns against, is called lust. Sexual sin begins with lust, when desire settles on a path to satisfaction that God has forbidden.

This means that if your desires are awakened by pornography, you have broken God’s law. If you are loving someone other than your spouse in your heart and mind, you have broken God’s law. If you are enticed by the smooth words or the bedroom eyes of someone other than your spouse, you need to run to Jesus, confess your lust, and purify your heart.

After James points to mutant desires as the chief culprit behind sin, he advises two remedies: first, end your friendship with the world, and second, purify your hearts.

For us, friendship with the world, or worldliness, shows up when we fill our hearts with ideas and entertainments that present lust as a way of life, adultery and fornication as normal, and the smooth-talking, winking woman as desirable. Ending this friendship doesn’t mean leaving the world; it means recognizing and treating the evil woman as evil, and not hanging out with her, listening to her, or being entertained by her.

And how do we purify our hearts? First, we need new hearts, which God gives when we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus. When we get a new heart, all of our desires are now up for review against the standard of God’s commandments. And many of these desires will not survive.

Second, we need to re-train our hearts and replace our old desires with new ones. This is what Solomon is getting at in verses 20-22. Bind God’s commandments on your heart! Don’t leave room for sinful desires – crowd them out by filling your heart with God’s Word.

Third, defend your heart from wicked desires. This is what verses 23-24 are about. Knowing the commandments is your defense against the temptations of the evil woman. The world bombards you every day with deceitful images that make this woman look good. Counteract these worldly images with the ones that God gives you in verses 27-29. Tie them around your neck, take them everywhere you go, and they will preserve you from the evil woman, and lead you into the way of life.

Posted on Thursday, October 08, 2015 by CJ Bowen