Seduction. When you read the word, what comes to mind? According to Hollywood, it’s a beautiful, shapely woman eager to entice those that get a glimpse of her. Or a young, buff male flexing six-pack abs for adoring females. That’s one type of seduction, but there are many others – and most of them have nothing to do with sex.
The Bible talks a lot about seduction. It even devotes an entire chapter of Proverbs to the topic. In my book, Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace, I discuss the practicality, honesty and everyday relevance of the book of Proverbs. And chapter 7 of Proverbs gives an unflinching, down-to-earth look at “seduction.”
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This chapter does utilize the sexual temptation scenario, giving the image of a young man (“a youth who lacked judgment”) walking very determinedly into a specific neighborhood where he encounters a woman “dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.” They meet, probably not by chance, and head off together.
The passage explains what happens next: “With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose…little knowing it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:21-23). How would you like to be described that way?
But the principle that underlies this passage concerns more than illicit sex. Because temptations present themselves in many seductive forms, and in our uniqueness, some are stronger magnets for us than others. For example, success can become a seductress when it becomes a mini-god, the focus of our time, attention, energy, even worship – especially when its pursuit harms relationships, or causes us to compromise convictions.
The lust for materials things, a sin our consumer society particularly favors, has seduced countless men and women, even within the body of Christ. It’s what causes us to insist on “more, more, more!” when an honest, objective assessment of our possessions would tell us we have more than enough. Money for its own sake offers powerful enticement, irresistible for some.
Pride, which C.S. Lewis declared lies at the heart of all sins, can be particularly seductive. It can seduce us into becoming puffed up over achievements, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. It tempts us to feel offended when someone doesn’t treat us the way we “deserve” to be treated. And it can lure us into feelings of superiority or arrogance toward others. There are many other ways the sin of unrestrained, self-centered pride approaches us in seductive guise.
In any case, for something to be seductive, it has to be attractive. As someone pointed out to me years ago, “If sin wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t want to do it.”
Let’s concede we’re constant targets for seduction in one or more manifestations. How do we deal with this? The seventh chapter of Proverbs not only describes the power of seduction, but also proposes how to overcome it. And it’s not all that complicated: “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call understanding your kinsman; they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words” (Proverbs 7:4-5).