Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?
Proverbs holds a view of romance, marriage, and sex that was counter-cultural back then, and it’s counter-cultural now. In Proverbs, the highest possible value is placed on faithfulness and friendship in marriage. I’m not entirely sure those are the leading ideas in culture at large today.
The danger of sexual temptation
Keep in mind that Proverbs was written as a manual for boys, so most of the advice is directed towards men. Don’t let that throw you off though, because even though men were the audience, this stuff is universally applicable.
Proverbs 6:23-26 says, “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life.”
Proverbs is warning us not to let lust override the commandments of God’s word. As the old saying goes “forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest,” but it’s also the most poisonous and destructive when it comes to marriage. I don’t know if you caught it, but verse 26 is pretty hilarious. Here it is again, with some more direct wording:
A prostitute may be cheap, but if you’re unfaithful your wife will kill somebody, maybe even you!
Being a pastor can be sobering at times. I’ve been given a front row seat too many times to watch the destruction that unfaithfulness brings to a marriage. It’s horrifying to watch. Usually I’m brought in to help… but I generally feel like a helpless bystander with little or nothing to offer. It’s just carnage. You’ve probably seen it yourself.
No decent human being sets out to cheat on their spouse… but it happens all of time. Why? It’s not because somebody goes out and does it. It’s far more subtle than that. The seeds of adultery are planted in the mind. People have affairs because one day they allowed themselves to consider it. That’s all. And then, inevitably, they flirted with the idea (even if they didn’t yet even flirt with an actual person). And the momentum gathers.
“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.”
For whatever reason, men love to play with fire. We like to walk on coals and expect not to be burnt. We know the rules, but we love the tease. Proverbs says that’s dumb. Solomon’s warning is clear: we won’t get away with it – we will get burned.
Lust is often compared to fire. Solomon does it here in the Old Testament. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul encourages men to get married if they’re “burning with lust.” The fire comparison really is apt.
Fire is incredibly powerful, not to mention fun, and useful. The problem is, it’s also difficult to contain, and enormously destructive if it isn’t kept where it belongs. Sex is an awful lot like that. Wonderful and powerful… but will destroy everything in it’s path if it’s used out of place.
Fire in your kitchen = big problems!
Don’t see how long you can carry fire next to your chest. God intended sex, romance, and relationships to be handled in a certain way, and walking close to sexual temptation is a sure way to get burned.