The other day I was reading my daily dose of Proverbs when I stumbled across this verse: "For a prostitute's fee is only a loaf of bread but an adulteress goes after a precious life" (Proverbs 6:26, HCSB). And I thought, Wait, is scripture seriously telling us that it is better to go to a prostitute than to have an affair? Thinking that was odd, I kept reading. A few versus later, another sin was compared to having an affair. "People don't despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry. Still, if caught, he must pay seven times as much; he must give up all the wealth in his house. The one who commits adultery lacks sense; whoever does so destroys himself" (Proverbs 6:30-32, HCSB).
For a minute, I wrestled with, But aren't all sins the same in the eyes of God? Doesn't God hold us just as accountable for any one sin as for any other sin? Even though that is what I've been taught most of my life, I'm not entirely convinced that is the case but that concept doesn’t even enter into the picture with these verses. These verses aren't about which sins God counts as worse than others. These verses are about which sins are going to get us into the most trouble here on earth.
The author of these proverbs is trying to tell us in rather pithy terms, that going to a prostitute only costs you money but having an affair can cost you your life; stealing, if you have a legitimate need, will be punished but understood while having an affair is just stupid. Talking about having an affair, the proverbist (I may have just made up that word) asks, "Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned? Can a man walk on burning coals without scorching his feet?" (Proverbs 6:27-28, HCSB). Now, aside from the obvious masters of mystical arts, the answers to both of these questions is "NO!" If I were to write a summary of this passage, I would probably write, "If you're going to sin, at least don't be stupid!"
We live in a society where people almost expect to see affairs take place. One movie I saw recently tried to convince the audience that having an affair could actually strengthen a marriage by giving one's spouse a boost of confidence that would improve the relationship between husband and wife. Media is constantly produced that manipulates audiences into rooting for an affair to take place because "they really love each other" or because "they deserve to be happy" or because "their spouse is an insensitive jerk." We have websites designed to help people have affairs behind their spouse's back. Everywhere we look, people are telling us that affairs are natural, that they are expected, that they really don't do that much harm, that they may lead to a purer love than the marriage itself. To all of these ideas, the author of Proverbs calls "BS."
Why is it that ancient societies often extended the death penalty to adultery? Why is it that the only excuse Jesus gave for divorce was infidelity? Why does the author of Proverbs even suggest that going to a prostitute is better than having an affair? Why is it that country songs about affairs always end in a semi-truck plowing through the local hotel? Secularists and some academics today will tell you that affairs were not tolerated as a symptom of a male-dominated society trying to imprison its woman to a set of rules that held them down. The real reason? Extra-marital affairs destroy lives.
Even more sobering is Jesus' assertion that if a man looks at a woman in order to lust after her, he "has already committed adultery with her in his heart." This one statement of Jesus should cause us to see pornography in any form in a new light and to lump it in with these warnings that the author of Proverbs is giving us.
All sin is wrong but some sins are understandable. Committing adultery, however, shows a lack of sense, whether it involves an actual physical act or only occurs in our hearts. We all fall into sin but we don't have to be stupid about it.