Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house…
If you think about, adultery is an issue of geography. An adulterous liaison always takes place somewhere—a house or a hotel room, for example. That’s what you might call the physical geography of adultery. But there’s an emotional and spiritual geography too. Emotionally speaking, the closer a man comes to his adulterous partner, the farther away he goes from his wife. And spiritually speaking, the closer a man comes to violating his marriage vows, the farther away he goes from God.
That’s why the proverbial father counsels his sons to “keep to a path far from her, [and] do not go near to the door of her house.” The farther you are from her, he is saying, the nearer you can be to your wife and to God. The nearer you are to her, the farther you are from your wife and from God.
Adultery is also an issue of cost-benefit analysis. Too often, the adulterous partners consider only the immediate benefits of their illicit couplings. But short-term gain—if you can call it that—gives way to long-term pain. Avoid adultery, the father says,
lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man’s house.
Adultery, you might say, is an expensive proposition. It takes a toll on your emotional well-being. It’s difficult to live a lie and be healthy, after all. It also takes a toll on your financial well-being. If you think romantic dinners and hotel rooms are costly, wait until you get the bill from your divorce lawyer!
Finally, adultery is an issue of public record.
At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!
I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.
I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly.”
Over the past three years, two nationally known politicians and one preacher publicly admitted to engaging in adulterous affairs: Gov. Jim McGreevey of New Jersey, Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco, and Rev. Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs, Colorado. These men’s moral failures played out in full view of the public eye. Two of their marriages ended in divorce. Another two of their careers came to an end. I cannot imagine what shame these men must have experienced as they stood in front of reporters, admitting their sins to a national office. (Or, more importantly, what shame they put their wives through.)
How can we avoid their shame? By putting distance between ourselves and the adulterer. And more importantly, by narrowing the distance between ourselves and our spouses. But more on that tomorrow!