“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.” (Proverbs 4:3)
Before there was a folk singer by that name, James Taylor was a professor of preaching. This veteran teacher of preachers held forth in classrooms at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for many years. One day, in a room filled with young preacher boys, Dr. Taylor cautioned us about the temptations we would be facing.
“The day will come when a woman will sit in your office and proposition you. She will make herself available to you sexually. If your marriage is in trouble or if you are not up-to-date in your relationship with your Lord, you could get in big trouble fast.”
I raised my hand. “Dr. Taylor,” I said, “do you really believe that every one of us in this room will face this?” My mind was incapable of imagining a scenario in which a woman–any woman–would sit in a pastor’s office and try to seduce him.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “Even you, McKeever.”
That got a laugh.
I lived to see that day. (Fifteen years after she sat in my office making herself available to the young preacher, while preaching in another state, I spotted that woman and her husband–the same husband whose antics had given her cause to seek my counsel originally–in the congregation. I was thankful I had gotten this thing right in my office that day.)
The writer of Proverbs tried to do the same thing Dr. Taylor did for us in seminary that day: prepare the young lad for what he would be facing down the road.
“My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding;
That you may observe discretion, and your lips may reserve knowledge.
For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it.” (Proverbs 4:1-6)
The remedy for this–in a sense, the armor which protects one from such a vamp–the writer goes on to say, is to “drink water from your own cistern” (4:15). He gets rather explicit in his counsel to a young husband to satisfy himself intimately with his wife and with no one else.
Many a man of God has sabotaged his own ministry by sexual sin.
They’re all through scripture. We think of the sons of Eli, the high priest. “The sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” (I Samuel 2:12). “They lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (2:22).The Lord had no patience with such antics and put them out of business quickly (4:11).
There is the story of David and Bathsheba (II Samuel chapter 11), which came after David’s struggle to become king had succeeded and life had gotten easy for him. His “ministry” was damaged permanently and his usefulness to God greatly diminished.
Timothy was a young pastor, and therefore needed to be forewarned about this kind of temptation. His mentor, the Apostle Paul, spoke of the time when men in the church–not the world!–would be “treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (II Timothy 3:4-5). He was to “avoid such men as these.”
These are the kind of men, Paul says, “who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses….” (3:6).
Sometimes women are the victims, sometimes they are the victimizers.
Many a pastor has paid the ultimate price for sexual sins.
If temptation would tell the truth, no minister would ever succumb to its enticements. If the allurement to commit adultery would adhere to a “truth in advertising” code, the “full disclosure” would read something like this:
“Subject needs to understand that by crossing this line and entering into a sexual relationship with this person, the minister will be despising His Lord, delighting the enemy, violating his marriage vows, disappointing everyone who ever believed in him from his youth until now, destroying his family, and ending his ministry..”
No one would ever commit adultery if he was required to sign that!
The devil, however, has no intention of ever revealing a list of side effects. Listen to him and you would think to disobey God is the way to fulfillment and happiness.
The sinning minister fools himself into believing all kinds of lies, most of them originating with the one Jesus called “the father of lies” (John 8:44). He convinces himself that “I deserve this, no one will ever know, I can have all the wonderful things in my life and this forbidden fruit also,” and then, there is the clincher–”This feels so good, it can’t be wrong.”
Too late does he find out the truth of the old adage, that sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost far more than you ever intended to pay.
Here are 7 women, young pastor, to watch out for in your ministry.
1) The woman who wants to be your wife.
She is unhappily married. Her husband has disappointed her in a hundred ways. Sitting in church week after week, it occurs to her that you are everything she has ever wanted in a husband. You are kind and gracious, thoughtful and spiritual. You love the Lord and are devoted to your family. You earn a good living and you do not drink or smoke or hang out in bars. So, she fixates on you.
Now, if she were rational, she would know that by seducing you–or winning you, however she would put it–all of those wonderful qualities she admires would suddenly go away: your ministry, your family, your income, the respect with which you are held in the town, your joy in life even.
In most cases, she thinks clearly enough not to actually try to break up your marriage (although that has happened often enough). She merely feels a strong attraction to you and puts herself in a position for you to pick up on it. Consciously or unconsciously, she becomes a trap for the unsuspecting minister.
2) The woman who wants to be your mother.
She will smother you with attention, inundate you with goodies she cooked “just because I knew you liked these,” and make life miserable for you. If you never suffered from claustrophobia before, you do now.
It’s not so much that she poses a sexual danger to you as that by allowing and encouraging this attention from her, you will give occasion to gossips to ply their trade. Avoiding “the appearance of evil” is always a good principle (I Thessalonians 5:22).
3) The woman who wants to be your lover.
This one has a particular allurement to the minister whose relationship with his wife has grown stale. This really is the woman the Proverb-writer describes. And, in case one wonders, I seriously doubt that Solomon wrote this. The man with 1,000 girlfriends is in no position to offer such advice as we find in Proverbs 4! (Although he surely knew the truth of it!)
Such a woman seems to be amoral, without a sense of wrongness about anything she does. She justifies making herself available to the minister by statements such as: “You deserve this,” “God wants all of us to be happy, don’t you agree?” and “No one ever has to know; I certainly won’t tell.”
The thing to keep in mind, pastor, is that this woman making herself so available to you with no strings attached–that’s what she says, although we know better!–does not look like a Jezebel, painted and padded and bejeweled. You will not know her by her adornments.
She may be the pretty wife of a deacon, the friend of your wife, or a church member who came to you for counsel. No one would ever pick her out of a crowd as a party-girl. But she is your biggest enemy.
4) The woman who wants to be your best friend.
She wants to confide in you as to who is doing what with whom in the church. She is a gossip.
She wants you to (ahem) “feel free to come to me anytime you need to talk to someone.” She wants to be your counselor.
In order to pull that off, her primary tactic involves a) spending a lot of time around you, perhaps volunteering in the office but more likely volunteering as your personal assistant, b) telling you intimate things about her own life, and c) asking you to unburden yourself with her.
If she cannot worm her way into your life any other way, look for her to befriend your wife and begin showing up in your home on a regular basis. Unless your wife is on your team, nothing about this is good from that moment on.
5) The woman you want.
There she is, the girl of your dreams. Maybe not the most beautiful woman in the world, but all things considered–her looks, her personality, her laughter, her spirituality, and a few other qualities that defy description–she is everything you ever wanted in a woman.
You get all swimmy-headed around her. You wonder if she does not pick up on all the vibrations your body is sending out.
There are a few problems, of course. You’re married and she’s married, for starters. And so you wisely tell yourself this can never be, that regardless of how wonderful she is, she is off-limits to you.
The problem is you keep being drawn to her and thrown with her (committees, work projects, etc). Because proximity fosters intimacy, unless you do something quickly, you are a goner.
In most cases, you cannot tell your wife this. You need a mentor who will be tough with you. If you have none, find yourself one now! Confide in him before you make the mistake of your life.
6) The woman who doesn’t know what she wants.
In most cases, this mixed up lady has come to you for counsel, asking you to tell her what to do. You listen to her whole complex life story.
Nothing about her is your ideal. You have never fantasized about her or anyone like her.
So, how does she become a problem to you? By her repeated visits to your office.
It’s a matter of focus. In sketching perhaps a hundred thousand people over these many years, I’ve found that everyone has a certain beauty and attractiveness about them. By focusing on the individual and not comparing them with anyone else, we can see it. In the seclusion of the counseling room, as she unburdens herself with intimate details of her life, the minister may feel emotionally drawn to her.
The problem then becomes you, pastor, and not her.
Pastors should almost never become professional counselors. When church members come to you for help with problems, if it cannot be solved in a session or two, refer them to a trained professional.
Pastor Ed Young of Houston’s Second Baptist Church told some of us pastors once that we should not counsel at all. “All you need is for someone–man, woman, or child–to run out of the office accusing you of something, and your ministry is gone!”
He’s right. Pastor Young said when someone says to him following a church service, “I need to talk to you sometime,” he says,”Let’s sit in this pew right now and talk.” It’s in public and it will be done quickly.
I hate that life has come to this, but it has, and we have to deal with it.
7) The woman you work most closely with in ministry.
Once again, it’s a matter of focus. The minister of worship meets with the organist (or pianist or his personal assistant or whoever) on a regular basis to plan the services. The youth minister has frequent conferences with his secretary or a young woman in the church who assists in programming. The pastor meets with his children’s director or ministry assistant or the head of the women’s ministry or the chair of his personnel or finance committee.
Beware, minister. You must be proactive in heading off any possibility of a compromised situation.
Billy Graham decided early in his ministry never to be alone with a woman at any time. Some might find that extreme, but say what you will, his long and very public evangelistic ministry was never tainted in the least by sexual scandal or innuendo.
The most important woman in the church to you the minister.
Your wife must be your lover, your intimate friend, your best adviser and strongest counselor, and your “mother” (the one who cooks your favorite dishes and is always there for you).
Let the home fires get cold and you are setting yourself up for trouble, pastor. This is why the writer of Proverbs urged the young man he was mentoring to “drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well.” He says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 4:15-23).
A pastor I know makes frequent mention of his wife from the pulpit. He makes it abundantly clear that he loves her dearly and, may I say, you get the impression that their intimate relationship is strong. He makes sure the church knows and supports his devotion to his wife and family, which means (among other things) that his off-time is as holy as his time in the office.
When he counsels women in his office, my pastor friend takes care. The door has a small window which allows anyone to see inside. At an agreed-upon time, his assistant phones to allow him an excuse to end the session. He is not a hugger.
Oh, about this hugging business.
Stop it, pastor. You may hug anyone under 6 and over 66. Other than that, keep your hands to yourself.
Rationalize it how you will, the hugging pastor is usually trying to get some need of his own met by this physical activity. And, justify it however he tries, I guarantee you there are plenty of women in the church who would be thrilled to learn he wll not be touching them in this way again.
We have talked all around it and must not end this little essay without admitting it:
Often, the sexual temptation arises solely from within the minister, and not from the woman.
Sometimes, Lord help us, he is the predator.
My mentor in the ministry, Dr. James Richardson, long in Heaven by now, used to say, “That come-on the preacher sees coming from some woman in the church may be merely the reflection of the gleam in his own eye.”
Get your act together, man of God. Be strong in the Lord. Recognize that “your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).He would like nothing better than to destroy you, make a laughingstock of you in the community, end your ministry, and hurt those dearest to you.
Don’t let him.
Resist the devil by being strong in the Lord.