THE WISDOM OF CHASTITY
“I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ears to my instructors. I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” – Proverbs 5 v13-14
Up to now in my articles based on the book of Proverbs in the scriptures I think I have skilfully avoided prescribing a legalistic take on wisdom. I have kept my insights reasonably light and fluffy, my words have been specifically chosen not to offend anyone. I have been appealing to your common sense. Although some say the thing about common sense is that it’s not so common, I have hoped to gently push you in that direction if you didn’t already think that way.
However, chapter five is a completely different kettle of fish, the scripture at this point is more definitely prescriptive and legalistic in its tone. Up to now our present day society could accept the wisdom shared without much complaint and yet here we are being challenged about the morals of our own modern western culture. So hold onto your hats as we traverse together the wisdom taught by Solomon to his son(s) about the institution of marriage.
Warning Against Unchastity
The chapter starts with a instruction to continue to have wisdom and discretion, despite the subject matter becoming more specific and intense. Solomon is writing to his son, he is warning him of the lack of morality in a certain kind of woman; if however he had been speaking to his daughter the warning would have been of the lack of morality of a certain kind of man. Without this being understood, we would have to conclude that Solomon had misogynistic views.
That being said, Solomon paints a picture of this person of loose morals being unaware of the way to live a life based on wisdom. In an anything goes, and to hell with the consequences that the path of life may take you to, the lack of wisdom although at first sweet will end in tears. Solomon is doing here what CS Lewis (the author of the Narnia stories) did thousands of years later when in his book “The Great Divorce” he wrote of the separation of two ways of life.
CS Lewis wrote in the pre-amble to his book that Dante had written of the marriage of heaven and hell and that he had written of their divorce. King Solomon and CS Lewis were of the opinion that to accept a permissive outlook towards life and ignore the wisdom of those who had lived longer and experienced more, wasn’t just foolish and stupid but that it led to the worst death of all, the death of your soul, it all may seem a little harsh to the modern ear.
We live in a time, certainly within our Western Culture, that prides itself on it’s tolerance towards the way people choose to live their lives. We also see interventions from the state, church, school or family on the subject of morals as being unwelcome on the basis that each person should be allowed to live their own lives without interference. I have myself, before coming to this chapter today been one championing the cause of encouraging individuality.
I have to tell you that I haven’t liked what I have read here in Chapter Five and see what has been written here as one of the reasons that as a society we have turned away from the teachings of the scriptures. None of us like to be told what to do, least of all to be challenged about the way we are living our lives. However, I’d like to stop for a moment and see these words in the context they were written and not as part of the doctrines of a certain faith or religion.
Let us forget that they are the words of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, that they are scripture, that they have been revered by hundreds of millions of people for millennia. Instead see them as the words of a concerned father to his child (or children). In this context maybe we can imagine that the writer himself had had some personal experience of this experience as the words from the quote at the beginning of this article suggests.
If we see these words in the contest of this is what happened to me and it hurt me so much that I don’t want it to happen to you, that misogyny and telling us what to do with our lives goes out of the window, it’s now about a simple warning about where certain actions may take us. Of course our Western Society may not want to see it that way and will insist that the words are prescriptive and legalistic and for that reason we shouldn’t listen.
Marital Joys And Responsibilities
King Solomon seems to have had his own experience that had brought him to certain conclusions in his thinking, that we have maybe never properly considered? Hating discipline and despising reproof (verse twelve) he suggests may bring you to a place of regret in later life. So what is the answer to this conundrum, no doubt as the king he was approached by many people who had heard of his wisdom and wanted to hear his answers to the questions they faced.
So here in this chapter about chastity and unchastity, living a life of if it feels good (at the time) do it, or being straight laced and living a moral life, Solomon using his wisdom has come to the following conclusions. I played with fire and I got burnt, I was ashamed when my actions came into public view and even though I said to myself I wouldn’t regret what I had done or said, that is exactly what happened to me.
Maybe you know that playing with fire hurts and sometimes in the heat of the moment your human desires have taken you down a path that although very enjoyable, you have lived to regret or become damaged at the level of your soul as a result of what happened? Your conclusion may have been different to Solomon’s, maybe you have thought most people suffer from these kind of pains at some time in their lives and therefore you accept it as par for the course?
Well what does the wisdom of Solomon say to his son, that he believes will enable him to avoid such damage to his soul? The instruction he gives, to help his son to avoid the pain that he experienced and that the pain others have told him about experiencing as they approached him to hear his wisdom, was this: Have a covenant of marriage, make a promise that come what may I will stay with one person and be faithful to them for all your life.
It doesn’t sound that exciting though does it and yet as we read from verse fifteen to nineteen the way this marriage should be, these five verses if they summed up your experience of married life would be perfect, wouldn’t they? Perversion says no, and yet if you want to have purity, peace, joy and contentment in your life, maybe these words of Solomon are some that you should consider, if your experience of married life doesn’t match up to what is described?
Solomon ends this chapter suggesting that it is a lack of discipline that takes people away from their marriage promises and that may result in a person to losing his soul. It was a different day and generation back then. Life has moved on and maybe Solomon would have more to say about this today in light of the culture that most of the Western World embraces; where approximately speaking for every two marriages in the UK taking place, one couple gets divorced.
Even in my young life divorce was happening, but it was hushed up, the people that it happened to were frowned upon by the majority of society and here less than fifty years later divorce is common place and is spoken of openly. Solomon’s wisdom on this matter seems outdated and unworkable and yet I don’t think that is because his wisdom doesn’t apply any more, I think there is something else at play here, please let me explain.
It is good that we are more tolerant of each others tragedies and I think it is compassion for each other that has led us to the acceptance that we all make mistakes; and yet we seem to be tackling the consequences of our actions rather than the source of our problems. In his writings Solomon spent four chapters discussing wisdom for life before he started speaking of chastity. I believe that a people of wisdom would know far better who was the best partner for them.
Jesus said “Do not be unevenly yoked!” A yoke was an implement in agriculture that pre-industrialisation enabled the farmer to plant his crops in straight furrows. He would usually need a pair of oxen to have enough force to turn the soil but if one ox was pulling to the left and the other to the right, you wouldn’t get straight lines. In the same way wisdom dictates that we find the right marriage partner for our lives to be the way we want them to be.
If you are looking for a life partner, whether you’ve had one before or not the wisdom, I see that the first five chapters of the book of Proverbs suggests that you make sure that your prospective partner has wisdom, and that you both share similar, beliefs, rules and values. Sadly many people haven’t got these things on their wish list for a suitable partner and in my opinion it is why so many marriages end up in the divorce court.
Love and light to you from Andrew 🙂 ♥