Scripture Focus: Proverbs 2.12-19
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
17 who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19 None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.
Reflection: Temptation Has No Gender
By John Tillman
Much ink has been spent in Christendom warning men to avoid female temptresses. Today’s reading, a warning to “my son” about an “adulterous woman,” is one that is often cited. The lessons are valid and needed.
The proliferation of pornography is exploding and prostitution and pornography are seeking normalization, even for minors. The pornography industry, like the tobacco industry before it, taps addiction as an income stream. Physical and psychological damage to customers and performers is callously counted as the cost of doing business.
However, porn isn’t just for men, and men also commonly initiate adulterous (or abusive) sexual relationships. All people need to be warned about infidelity and the predatory industry of porn.
In addition, these passages have been often misused to paint all women as temptresses and all men as victims. The twisted extremes of “purity culture” taught women to treat their bodies like unexploded lust bombs on a hair-trigger. If a dress strap fell off of a shoulder, or a skirt hem rose up too high when sitting down, the lust explosion that could destroy a young (or old) man’s morality would be their fault. Men, instead of being protectors, demanded protection. Women were taught to bear the burden of dressing to protect men’s eyes and souls.
One way to prevent abuse of this passage is to recognize that it sits in balance with the four lines before it. A father is telling his son of the dangers that wisdom will save him from—but female seduction is not the first thing on his mind. The first dangers mentioned are the temptations of evil men.
Sections of scripture that mirror each other like this are intended to cast light on each other. We must widen our gaze in the scriptures, especially in Proverbs, where matched pairs in tension with each other draw us deeper than the surface reading of either one alone.
The picture of the female temptress informs the image of the men of wickedness. The temptations of leaving straight paths for ones that are dark and wicked tell us more about how one is seduced sexually.
Seduction and temptation are not feminine (or masculine), nor are they limited to sexual pleasures. Carnality includes the lust of the eyes and of pride, not just the lust of the flesh. (1 John 2.16) Power, wealth, indulgence, sexuality…nothing escapes the corruption of sin and no gender is exempt from responsibility.
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said: “If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell.” — Matthew 5.29-30
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Proverbs 2 (Listen – 1:53)
Psalm 60-61 (Listen – 2:27)
This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 3 (Listen – 3:05) Psalm 62-63 (Listen – 2:44)
Proverbs 4 (Listen – 2:37) Psalm 64-65 (Listen – 2:39)
Read more about The Sins Behind Sexual Sins
Many times sexual sins are a symptom of other sins such as greed, selfishness, inequality, and oppression.
Read more about Ancient #MeToo Story
It might be beneficial to meditate on how sin can be so easily embraced. No one is immune to sin.