Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
And embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
And he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
And because of his great folly he is led astray. (Proverbs 5:20-23)
When people sin, they lay snares for themselves. When a person falls into habitual sin, it ties him up so that he can’t get out of it. And in the end, Solomon says, his sin will kill him because he lacked “instruction,” which can also be translated as “self-control.”
In other words, people suffer the consequences of sin because of their own foolish lack of discipline. Part of wisdom, then, is learning to control yourself in order to avoid this grisly end.
The snare of sexual sin is a significant theme in Proverbs, beginning all the way back in Chapter 2 with its warning to avoid adulteresses. Solomon makes it very clear that we need to be careful and self-controlled when it comes to sexuality. Otherwise, the result might be deadly: “[The adulteress’s] house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:27).
The demise of a person who engages in adultery is a sad, sad thing. The reproach of this sin is something that never goes away in this life. One of the saddest moments I’ve ever had was calling a friend of mine who was caught in an illicit relationship. As the fallout was happening, my friend was realizing that he had destroyed his entire life for the sake of one moment of pleasure.
A lack of control over your own body will destroy every good thing that has been built up in your life. Everything your parents ever did, everything your pastors ever did, everything your grandparents hoped for and prayed for in your life, everything that Christian friends wanted for you. You’re trashing all of that if you bring this sort of disgrace on yourself.
Now, the struggle for self-control is a real battle. The world around us makes it very hard because our culture is full of solicitations to commit sexual sin. We must pray constantly, diligently and faithfully for self-control. And the faculty at TMU labor earnestly to teach their students self-discipline because they know how steep the consequences are for failure. Sexual sin on its own cannot separate a believer from God’s love, but it certainly can disqualify them from fruitfulness in ministry. And that is a horrific thing to lose.
There is another way we can demonstrate a lack of discipline, and while it usually receives less attention than sexual immorality, it is no less sinful. This is the sin of speaking foolish words.
On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.
Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand. (Proverbs 10:13-14)
He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding. (Proverbs 10:18-21)
Scripture talks about many kinds of foolish speech: lying speech, flattering speech, gossiping speech, careless speech and so on. James 2:3 says that such sinful speech is one of the most difficult habits for a person to put off. But it is a battle worth fighting because the dangers of an uncontrolled tongue are extensive and the blessings of a trained tongue are precious.
On the one hand, Proverbs says that the words of fools are perverse (Proverbs 15:4), violent (Proverbs 12:6), and hateful (Proverbs 26:28). Abundant words guarantee transgression (Proverbs 10:19). They are like a scorching fire (Proverbs 16:27).
On the other hand, Proverbs says that the lips of the righteous speak wisely (Proverbs 10:31). They endure forever (Proverbs 12:19). They are a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4). They are like silver (Proverbs 10:20). They bring healing (Proverbs 16:24). They are kind (Proverbs 31:26), honest (Proverbs 14:25), pure (Proverbs 15:26), soft (Proverbs 25:15), and gentle (Proverbs 15:1).
It is a delightful thing to control your words. Not only will it save you from sinning, but it will minister grace to your hearers.
To pursue wisdom, then, means to fear God, guard your mind, and control your body and your tongue. Next time we will look at one last practical element of wise living.
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