Temptation Has No Gender

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.

Today’s Readings
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.

Samples of Wisdom

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 1.1-7
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 
2 for gaining wisdom and instruction; 
for understanding words of insight; 
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, 
doing what is right and just and fair; 
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple, d 
knowledge and discretion to the young— 
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, 
and let the discerning get guidance— 
6 for understanding proverbs and parables, 
the sayings and riddles of the wise. i 
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, 
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

Reflection: Samples of Wisdom
By John Tillman

Proverbs are often treated as independent nuggets of wisdom. As slogans of godliness or morality, they are seen frequently on tee-shirts, on bumper stickers, and on cross-stitch patterns called samplers.

Samplers were originally a way for people to store knowledge. Complex and beautiful stitches would be placed on a scrap or long strip of material. Complex stitches and the simpler stitches that were needed to create them would be placed side by side to be referenced for future work. The first samplers were tucked in drawers or pockets not hung on walls. Samplers gradually became more than just a filing system of stitching knowledge and became a kind of simple artwork of their own.

Samplers became connected to education and morality, especially in the United States. Children stitched the alphabet or moral sayings to aid memorization and to instill values while also learning a valuable decorative skill.

Today, the idea that samplers contained wisdom is played for irony by generations that are equally cynical and whimsical. Samplers can be found now with quotes from Star Wars, Anime films, and many other fandoms. Rather than a disdain for wisdom, this shows that our culture is crying out for wisdom. Wise sayings can be found in many forms and places. True wisdom, however, has its purest and greatest source in God. The well from which we can draw God’s wisdom is found in scripture.

Proverbs, like many statements pulled from the Bible, have meaning that goes beyond a surface interpretation. Proverbs are like pools that at first seem like shallow puddles—until you look deeper. 

We need to take the time to look beyond the simple reading of sayings. Let us sit by these pools of wisdom and gaze deeply. Look for the patterns. Read them repetitively as they would have been read to a non-reading culture being educated by rote memorization. Read them long enough that you begin to see and recognize their interconnectedness both with the proverbs before and behind them and all across the scriptures.

We need these samples of wisdom tucked in our hearts. Like a lone stitch in a scrap of material, they might not seem beautiful or useful. We need to remember that their purpose is tied, stitched together, with the rest of the scripture. Proverbs aren’t intended to stand alone but to pull together a beautiful tapestry of God’s wisdom.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught the people, saying: “You have heard how it was said: “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” But I say to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” — Matthew 5.38-41

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 1 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 58-59 (Listen – 3:32)

Read more about Unhurried Wisdom
Wisdom is not a character trait abruptly gained. In our quick paced world, we forget to think before we speak.

Read more about Mining for Wisdom
The fear of the Lord is the apex of spiritual mining…as the miner studies the formations of the earth…all pursuits of wisdom begin with…God.