Summary: The love of money may be the root of all kinds of evils, but our passage teaches that the love of sexual pleasure is a root of all kinds of folly. Foolish men love money and commit evil to get it. Sex makes wise men foolish so that evil may be committed a
1 Timothy 6:10 states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” Our passage teaches us that the love of sexual pleasure is a root of all kinds of folly. Foolish men love money and commit evil to get it. Sex makes wise men foolish so that evil may be committed against them.
My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2 that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
These opening verses reiterate the premise of the whole book of Proverbs – the high value of wisdom. It is something to be attentive to, to incline our ears towards. It is something to keep and to guard. Proverbs is written to teach wisdom. In the chapters leading up to this one, Solomon portrays wisdom as a woman calling out to the public to listen to her. And she is of great delight. Indeed, as 3:18 says, “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.”
And so, we are to actively pursue wisdom. To incline one’s ear to is to stretch out or reach out. We are not to be passive receivers, but actively going out to obtain understanding. And then once we have it, we are to keep it. Wisdom gives discretion – the skill of making right decisions. And then we are to think and speak with wisdom, articulating it well and passing it on.
Why is wisdom so critical? Because there is a lot of bad out there which is trying to suck us in to being bad. Solomon’s first example of this is in chapter one where he warns the young man of getting caught with the wrong friends who are motivated by the love of money. Their love of money leads them to violence, which in the end will catch up to them. He will later in chapter two give the next illustration and warn of the forbidden woman who is brought up again in our passage. Let’s look at his description of her.
3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
Interestingly enough the first characteristic of the forbidden woman is the way she communicates. This happens in each section where she is brought up: 2:16 – she is the “adulteress with her smooth words”; 6:24 – “the smooth tongue of the adulteress”; 7:5 – “the adulteress with her smooth words.”
You can see then the contrast being set up. It is between vying ways of life – that offered by wisdom and the other offered by sensuality, or rather, folly. For the author goes on:
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
6 she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.
An important point to make (which will be expanded on later in the chapter) is that what seems to be a choice between stoicism and sensual pleasure is really between deeper, lasting pleasure and bitter delusion. The forbidden woman’s speech seems sweet and smooth, and for awhile she may seem to deliver on her promises; but in the end her taste is bitter and even deadly. Why? Because she herself is a fool, and as Proverbs 10:10 notes, “a babbling fool will come to ruin.” Unlike the wise and the righteous, she does not ponder the path of life. She does not contemplate what is truth and what does bring real life. Indeed, she is oblivious to where her life choices are taking her. And as Proverbs 13:20 warns, “the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Join up with the forbidden woman, and you will join in with her destruction.
Solomon then gives guidance on how to respond to the forbidden woman.
7 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
Keep away from her! If she is in your travel route, take a detour – a wide detour. Instead of matching your wisdom against her folly, just stay away. She will not listen to you. As Proverbs 18:2 explains, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding.” And 15:14 adds that “the mouths of fools feed on folly.”
The more likely scenario is that she will lead you astray and to your ruin.
9 lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,