Desire & Wisdom

I think there is an important lesson to be found in Proverbs 7 about wisdom in general from the specific example given of sexual purity.

In vv.1-5, the author tells us that if a person is wise, he will remain sexually pure. In vv.5-23, he tells a story of a young man who did not remain sexually pure and suffered the consequences for his foolishness. In vv.24-27, he gives a direct command to keep oneself sexually pure in thought and deed because there are serious consequences for a failure to do so.

Consider the principle stated above on the basis of vv.1-4: “A wise person will remain sexually pure.” Why is that? And, what can this principle teach us about wisdom in general?

As human beings, we experience sexual desires. Often, these sexual desires are sinful desires because, if acted upon, these actions would be sins. Therefore, a wise person restrains such sexual desires and does not act upon them. The fool, however, simply goes along with his desires and stumbles into sin.

The principle underlying these observations is that a wise person knows that his desires are often not in accord with what is right. Therefore, he is careful to evaluate his desires to determine which desires are right to act upon and which desires he must restrain.

Of course, underlying the recognition that often our desires are “wrong” (because they would lead to sin if acted upon) is the recognition that there is a “right” with which we must live in accordance and to which we are accountable. This is the essence of what the author of Proverbs calls “the fear of the LORD” (1:7; 9:10) which, he says, is “the beginning” of both knowledge and wisdom. In other words, a person must recognize this basic truth in order to receive the knowledge of God and to walk on the way of wisdom.

To summarize, we must learn that the essence of wisdom is the recognition that God’s desires, not our desires, should be the ultimate motivation of our choices. If we do not, this text will be a description of our fate.

He follows her impulsively
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer bounding toward a trap
until an arrow pierces its liver,
like a bird darting into a snare—
he doesn’t know it will cost him his life.

Proverbs 7:22-23

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