Avoiding Adultery and Fornication
The sin of adultery and fornication is quite prominent in our society today. The media has desensitized its effects by glamorizing it and renaming it into a less harmful word, as an “affair.” Yet, no matter what man may say, God has never changed His feelings about the subject; He still knows the damage and destruction that it causes within families. Thus, Christians should be people with a disposition to avoid such a strong and dangerous temptation. Thanks be unto our God that He has revealed unto us a wonderful example of such in virtuous Joseph (Gen. 39). By the providence of God (Gen. 39:2-3), Joseph was a slave in the house of Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh. In fact, because of the righteous living exemplified by Joseph, Potiphar elevated Joseph to oversee his entire house (Gen. 39:4), giving him a level of responsibility unheard of at that time (Gen. 39:6). Yet, Potiphar’s wife noticed that Joseph was a handsome man [the phrase “a goodly person, and well favored” (Gen. 39:6) in the Hebrew denotes his physical attractiveness]. Consequently, when one becomes prominent and is good looking, people take notice, and she was among the first in line for Joseph. She tempts his purity by offering herself (Gen. 39:7), but he refuses. His response and actions thereafter give a wonderful pattern in how to avoid adultery and fornication.
First, Joseph recognized her for who she really was—“his master’s wife” (Gen. 39:7-8). Thus, he would respond to her in reference to her husband, Potiphar: “…thou art his wife” (Gen. 39:9). Joseph knew that she did not belong to him. He knew that because Potiphar was married, he had no rights whatsoever to become involved in “a fling,” “an affair” or whatever anyone might want to designate. In the heart of Joseph, she was off-limits. He knew, believed, appreciated and obeyed the matrimonial principle that would later become a foundational basis for Israel from God: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Exod. 20:17). When marriage establishes a man and woman together with God (cf. Gen. 2:24), there is no room for anyone else.
Second, Joseph recognized that Potiphar kept back his wife from him (Gen. 39:8-9). When Potiphar promoted Joseph to be responsible for overseeing his house, he knew that did not include liberties with his wife: “There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee” (Gen. 39:9). Joseph clearly understood that Potiphar kept back his wife from Joseph. What a great principle! Husbands need to keep back their wives from others, and wives need to keep back their husbands from others. If spouses would work more in such ways, there would be less cases of adultery and fornication, and consequently, less divorce. Spouses need to keep back their mates by continually reaffirming their love, devotion and loyalty to each other. Spouses need to keep back their mates by assuring that each are dressing modestly in public.
Third, when Joseph initially recognized the temptation, he did everything he could to avoid such (Gen. 39:10). While she did not relent, but kept tempting him daily, he not only verbally refused, but also even made every effort not “to be with her.” It was only when she seized an opportunity when no men were around that she persisted further by grabbing his garment, only to find herself holding an empty garment in hand as he ran away. He exemplified what we find in the New Testament: “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). When temptations of such happen, Christians who value purity will immediately seek to avoid all such encounters. When coworkers make advances, we should avoid such people to the greatest extent possible.
If we will seek to follow the guidelines that Joseph demonstrated, we may protect our marriages and homes, and adultery and fornication will only be a problem in the world where people do not respect divine matrimonial laws.