Easy Money and Cheap Love
Passage: Proverbs 2
Summer is officially here! We have our Campus Outreach friends here with us this summer. I am very thankful for what you are doing this summer and we will be praying for you on your summer project. This summer we are walking through the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book about wisdom. It was assembled by Solomon, but not all of it was written by Solomon which trips people up sometimes. People think that if Solomon didn’t write the book and there are other authors here then how could it be from God? The Holy Spirit inspired Solomon to write and curate this material. Just because there are multiple human authors doesn’t make it any less inspired by God or any less accurate.
Proverbs was assembled to teach wisdom to young royal men who were likely to rule in some way. As we read Proverbs, we should hear a loving and compassionate father instructing a young and impressionable son. We need to hear that kind of fatherly tone as we walk through it. It isn’t just an open-ended book to everyone, but just because it isn’t "to" everyone doesn’t mean it isn’t "for" everyone. It’s kind of like Paul’s letters in the New Testament written to very specific churches, but for all the churches. “The book of Proverbs remains the model of a curriculum for humanity to learn how to live under God and before humankind.” Bruce Waltke
I want to start out by explaining how it is that we are walking through this book, because I think it’s informative in the way that you read Proverbs. There are a variety of ways to walk through this book. Some preachers will take one idea like money or sex or family and pick all the proverbs that address that topic and preach like that. Tim Keller did that a few years ago. That is called the topical approach. Other preachers will just take one or two verses that are very famous like “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and just preach that verse. John Piper has done that. That is called the textual approach. These are helpful approaches for various reasons, but I think there is an even more helpful approach called the expositional approach, and that's what we will do for this series.
Proverbs has clearly laid out sections and we need to see them as such. These sections have topics in them and the topics are most helpfully engaged when we see them in their context. These sections have very helpful and famous verses in them and these verses are most helpfully engaged when we look at them in their context. So, this approach that I am using is called the expositional approach. I have identified nine sections of Proverbs that we will walk through this summer. Proverbs has many more sections, but we are just going to look at nine of them.
This week we are looking at Proverbs chapter two. All of chapter two is actually one very long, complex sentence, so it’s easy to identify where it starts and where it ends. It also has the same number of verses as the Hebrew alphabet has letters. And this Proverb warns us about the dangers of easy money and cheap love (aka sex) and how we can guard ourselves against them. I took that pretty much from Bruce Waltke’s commentary. I think Waltke has the best commentary on Proverbs and you will see me using a good bit of his material.
I guarantee you that in my campus ministry days if I were advertise that I was going to do a talk on easy sex and easy money, I’d fill the room. Who doesn’t want easy sex and easy money? I have a friend who once advertised a talk on the campus of Ole Miss titled “How to have great sex!” That was the title and students came from everywhere to hear that talk. They packed the house. My friend Stephen, then taught from the Bible how sex was most enjoyable, for many reasons, between a man and a woman inside the covenant of marriage.
We are all going to experience the allure of easy money and cheap love. So, how does this proverb help us. First, I want to first see the warning against easy money and cheap love. Second, I want us to see what protection God has given us from those allures. Then, third, I want to see the blessing on the other side of the temptation.
The warning against easy sex and easy money (12-22)
The warning is in the middle of the chapter in verses 12-22. Solomon uses evil men to represent the allure of easy money and a forbidden woman to see the allure of cheap love. First the evil men. 12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech, 13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
Most teachers and scholars in both the Jewish and Christian tradition would say that these crooked paths and devious ways can include lots of different bad things, but that the primary evil at hand is the allure of easy money. Outside of sex, which is addressed in a minute, this was the most common way men would get themselves and their families in trouble. Easy money is money that you take without regard to the way it will harm you and harm others.
There are many examples of unwise choices that want to get around the hard work of saving and not buying what you can’t afford. Some are unethical or illegal. Easy money certainly includes stealing something that isn’t yours. It also includes taking unemployment payments because they are easier than working, not recognizing or caring how that hurts the community you live in. I know an honest small restaurant owner whose whole family is pitching in to keep the business going because they can’t find employees because unemployment is easier and pays better. Easy money includes suing someone just because you see dollar signs. It includes being dishonest in your taxes or your stimulus money.
But there are other categories of unwise that aren’t illegal. Risking high percentages of your money risky ventures can often harm you more than it helps you. It includes unnecessary credit card debt or high-interest short-term loans. Now, I get that there are times where debt is a calculated risk so I’m not going to go so far as to be against debt of any kind. Education can fall into that category. When Angela had cancer in her 20’s, we had to go into debt to pay our medical bills. It was just necessary. But, buying clothes and watches and going on vacations you can’t afford is a whole other thing.
Risky gambling falls into this category. I have friends back in Mississippi who will go to the casinos and have a $50 max they are fine losing. I’m not against that. But I have another friend who spent too much money on something he couldn’t afford and couldn’t pay his bills that month so he took everything he had left and put it all on the roulette table. That is foolish! I was on an ocean gambling cruise in college and I remember this woman playing the slots on the way back in crying uncontrollably because she lost all her money and these were her last-ditch efforts to get it back. That’s what the allure of easy money does.
Mike Graham is going to teach on the whole issue of money from Proverbs 10 so my hope here is simply to see the danger of easy money and how it can harm both you and those close to you. But notice that this proverb assumes you will be tempted. There are great proverbs helping us to minimize our temptations by who we hang out with, but we will still be tempted. This is why verse 12 says we need to be delivered from this. It literally says we need to be snatched away from this temptation.
Verse 13 says these men walk in the ways of darkness. Do you walk in financial darkness? If the way you spend your money came out in the light for the world to see, how would you feel? If that thought creates a lump in your throat, this proverb is speaking to you. I know a pastor whose ministry has been tremendously blessed, which does mean he makes a lot more money than most pastors, but each year he has a group of guys he brings together and he opens his tax records and bank statements because he wants to live in the financial light. Talking about our finances shouldn’t be taboo between Christians.
Chasing easy money will catch up to you. It will ruin you financially and corrupt your heart. Some people will even delight and brag about their shady business dealings as verse 14 says. Proverbs 3:32 says the Lord finds this repulsive. The Hebrew father is asking his son “whose words will you find more compelling? Whose speech will you find sweeter?” The wicked men or the loving father? This is the first warning against easy money.
The second warning is against cheap love. As a quick caveat, if adultery is a part of your story, this could be a hard passage. My hope is that you will feel like I have handled this issue with both the seriousness that it deserves, but also the grace thatwe are all given in Jesus Christ. We come to the forbidden women starting in verse Prov 2:16-22: 16 So pyou will be delivered (the NIV reads ‘wisdom will deliver you’) from the forbidden1 woman, from qthe adulteress2 with rher smooth words, 17 who forsakes sthe companion of her youth and forgets tthe covenant of her God; 18 ufor her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed;3 19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. 20 So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright vwill inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, 22 but the wicked will be wcut off from the land, and the treacherous will be xrooted out of it.
To understand this, we first need to understand that in Proverbs, women are used to personify both wisdom and folly. Sadly, what gets taught is that women are evil and you should avoid them. That’s not what Proverbs is doing. Remember, this is a father teaching his royal son. The reason women are used in this way is that they are attractive. We can run after Lady Folly (the most mentioned woman in Proverbs) or we can run after Lady Wisdom. This isn’t about the kind of woman a man should marry, it’s about the kind of path we should walk.
So, back to this forbidden woman. Not only will we be attracted to easy money, we will also be attracted to cheap love. This isn’t a proverb to shame a woman, it’s a proverb to check our heart and a call to be wise sexually. Don’t fall for the allure of smooth words. Don’t sleep with ‘a woman who forsakes the companion of her youth.’ That means she’s married. Lady Wisdom, who is faithful, will surely bring flourishing and blessings that are promised if this young ruler will follow her. Don’t follow fleeting desires. And that has application to both men and women.
Verse 19 makes it clear that we are talking about a sexual relationship because verse 19 literally says none who go ‘into her’ come back. This proverb is making the woman the entry gate to death and because of that even more than just sex is at stake here.
Ok, so we see sex has been used as a metaphor for folly or wisdom to despair or to flourishing. But it does have practical application. Just like with the money example, Solomon uses these practical metaphors because they are two really enticing things and so wisdom does have practical application in these areas. We've talked about what God's wisdom says about practically living out our finances now let's see what God's wisdom says toward our sex lives.
A few quick things to help us understand this. First, many people see the Bible as such a downer because of the restraints it puts on us in the area of sex. Think of it more like keeping the fire in the fireplace. Fire in the fireplace is a great thing because that is the design. Fire on your couch..not so fine. It could ruin the whole house. When we contain sex inside of marriage, we make the most of our marriage and we get the most out of sex. That isn’t a downer, that’s wisdom from God.
God designed sex to be a oneness mechanism. In marriage, a man and a woman become one. We become one physically, but in some way, we become one emotionally, financially, and spiritually as well. Sex is supposed to reinforce that oneness in marriage. I love it when science catches up with the Bible. We now know that sex releases endorphins in the brain that actually make you like the other person more. They call it the irrational attachment. This is why healthy people can’t have a one-night stand and just walk away and forget about it. That’s why a healthy sex life makes marriage better. It’s not irrational, it's God’s oneness mechanism working.
The other side of that is that if you are having sex with someone you aren’t married to yet, that oneness mechanism can make it hard for you to really discern if that person is actually the right person for you. You are experiencing the oneness mechanism before you are yet one. But, when you have sex with one person in the context of marriage, knowing that person and feeling safe and secure with that person, that is God’s design and it is better than any offer of cheap love anywhere else.
Second, if you are here and you are not married, I want you to hear me say that sex is not the ultimate pleasure. God doesn’t give all believers the gift of sex. For some that is a season, for others it is a part of their path. You aren’t any less of a human for it. We can’t elevate sex as an identity issue. Our identities are so much more than sex. Actually, some of the most influential Christians in history were influential because they didn’t have the unique burdens that come along with sex. This list would include people like the Apostle Paul, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, John Stott, and obviously Jesus.
Third, I think that sexual infidelity here also functions as a paradigm for spiritual infidelity. Marriage is often the metaphor of the prophets to communicate infidelity to God. I’m not saying a Christian can’t mess up and be redeemed. Please don’t hear that. You can always come back to Jesus and be forgiven no matter what you have done. This proverb is talking about those who stay on the path of death. Those who don’t repent of their wickedness. Those who pass through these gates of evil.
In both warnings, the evil men and the forbidden women, we see the imagery of paths. Angela and I recently read (or rather listened to) the book Little House on the Prairie. Apparently, I’m pretty late to that game. This young family in the 1870’s is traveling in a wagon out west past Kansas to settle in Indian territory. There was no GPS, no maps so they just followed the established wagon paths of those who had gone before them. These paths were basically just areas of grass where you could tell wagons had passed through. Somewhere in their journey the paths forked. You know that the path they choose will forever change their lives. That is the imagery Solomon is using here. Only one path is life and one is death.
I have walked with a number of men after they have cheated on their wives and two things have been true in each and every case. First, they always say, “This wasn’t worth it. I thought it would be and it wasn’t in the least.” Second, they weren’t thriving spiritual when they made that decision. God wants you to thrive sexually and that happens by thriving spiritually. By being on the right path. One path humbles itself to the knowledge that the Creator has something to say about our flourishing and the other pridefully believes that we can create our own terms for human flourishing.
And here is how serious our plight is. None of us know how to choose the right path. In our natural state, we have no more ability to choose the right path than that wagon way out west 150 years ago. Both of these warnings say that we need to be delivered or snatched out of that path and put on the right path. So, what protection has God given us?
What protection God has given us (1-11)
and treasure up my commandments with you,... This word receive is really important. It means if you accept my teaching. This can’t just be head knowledge, it has to make it’s way down to your heart. Just hearing about the instructions, but not accepting them is like reading about how to ride a bike versus actually going out and learning. The father wants the son to know these words and to use them in life.
Treasuring up the commandments and keep them with you as verse one says. Keeping them with you means you are ready at all times. And the next three verses make it clear that this is a heart issue and not simply a head issue. 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice wfor understanding,4 if you seek it like xsilver and search for it as for yhidden treasures,
Now, most people think we learn the Bible and then at some point later our allegiance to God is made. We switch sides from darkness to light. We think that the knowledge of God we have in our head makes us give our hearts to him. That’s not what the Bible says though. Verse five 5 then zyou will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
In the words of Waltke, allegiance precedes understanding. There is an awe of the Lord that settles in someone’s heart through the power of the Holy Spirit and then that makes us want to give ourselves to God and obey his revealed word. Wisdom is not something we achieve it’s something God has to give us. Verse six 6 For athe LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
Now, does that mean that we don’t teach the Bible to unbelieving friends? Does that mean that I shouldn’t teach the Bible to unbelieving children? No. I hope our kids will have a huge leg up when they believe because of their knowledge of the Bible. But, all the Bible knowledge in the world will not fix our heart, only the Holy Spirit can do that. Remember, this is a heart issue, because we have a heart problem. We are all ravaged by sin. Sin has affected every faculty we have and outside of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, we will stay in that sin, we will not incline our hearts to these words. And that is the great news of the proverb. 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is ba shield to those who cwalk in integrity,8 guarding the paths of justice and dwatching over the way of his esaints. 9 fThen you will understand grighteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
understanding will guard you,
So where does protection come from? It comes from God first to make us want his wisdom. Now, does that mean that no unbeliever can ever make wise decisions? No. Absolutely not. There is a doctrine called common grace that helps us to understand that some of God’s gifts are given to believers and unbelievers alike. Even animals possess instinctual wisdom. Military commanders have strategic wisdom. Some people have good moral understandings that will benefit them in this life. Biblical wisdom includes those kinds of things, but it goes deeper than that. It goes to the heart because God doesn’t just want to protect us from easy money and cheap love, he wants to protect us from hell. He wants to win us to him through the path of life.
God is jealous for your affection. He doesn't just want you not to do dumb things, he wants you to love Him more than you love things that will destroy you. As I said earlier, there's a sense in which all of this talk of adultery is primarily a talk of spiritual fidelity to God. This line of thinking was very important to Solomon because he comes back to the warnings against adultery in chapter 6, and because he wrote an entire book of the bible on faithful love between a man and a woman that is also an allegory of Christ's love for the Church. That book is called Song of Solomon and that book often uses these principles from Proverbs to tell its love story of Christ and the church.
In chapter 6 of Proverbs, Solomon again warns the young men against adultery with a married woman because there is no jealousy like that of the spouse of an unfaithful man or woman. He says basically, "don't commit adultery because you will never escape punishment. The wrath of that woman's husband will not be satisfied no matter what you do. You could sell everything you own and offer all the money to that husband and he would still want your life for taking his wife.” Then in Song of Songs, Solomon references that proverb about adultery. In Chapter 8 the narrator of the love story between the man and the woman reflects on the strength of their love and he writes, "love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house,he would be utterly despised."
The Lord is jealous for your affection. He is a jealous God. Proverbs is not merely giving us earthly wisdom to not commit adultery, he's giving us categories to understand how fiercely God loves his people. God doesn’t want you chasing after sinful profit because all the profit in the world wouldn’t be worth your relationship with him. And he doesn’t want you profaning marriage with infidelity because it’s meant to reflect how fiercely he loves us, and to what lengths he would go to punish someone who hurt his relationship with his bride, the church. But not only is the jealousy of the Lord a thing to fear, the blessing of faithfulness is worth pursuing..
The blessing on the other side of the temptation (20-22)
The blessing is two fold. We see first that you will live the way God has designed humans to live and that will go well for you. Verse 20: 20 So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. Waltke, in his commentary, makes it clear that parallel terms to ‘good’ include ‘justice,’ righteousness,’ and ‘upright.’ Not only will you live in a way that contributes to your flourishing, you will live in a way that contributes to the flourishing of others. You won’t experience the chaos that easy money and cheap love bring.
You will experience the shalom that God wants you to experience. Shalom means peace. Shalom means things as they ought to be. The first blessing on the other side of the temptation is that your life will better represent the way things ought to be.
The second blessing on the other side of the temptation is in the last two verses.You will remain in the land and will not be cut off. 21 For the upright vwill inhabit the land,
Many people mistakenly think that this is talking about Israel’s promised land, but the promise is bigger than that. Solomon is referring to the life that the ground gives. The ground gives life and God is working to rid this world of sin and death. So, the promise is like the land promise to Israel in some ways. It is a good gift from God, both make living in the land dependent on keeping his commandments, both solidify his blessing to those who are loyal to him, and both threaten that disloyalty will tear you from it.
But, the main point is that after the wicked are cut off from the good earth, the wise will remain. And more importantly, they will remain there in relationship with their God. That is the second blessing after the temptation.
And just so I can be very clear. Those who are cut off from the land aren’t those who make a bad decision in the areas of sex and money. The kingdom has plenty who have made bad decisions in those areas. Paul writes to them in 1 Corinthians: 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous2 will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: xneither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men whopractice homosexuality,3 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, norswindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (But here is the good news!) 11 And ysuch were some of you. But zyou were washed, ayou were sanctified, byou were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christand by the Spirit of our God.
The kingdom is for those who turn to Jesus and let him make them wise in areas of sex and money. Proverbs two isn’t giving us a standard to surpass to make it to God. Proverbs two is telling us that we can’t meet that standard. We don’t possess enough wisdom to enter God’s kingdom. So, God gives it to us.