Guarding Against Immorality in the Mission Field
Steve Wallace

Churches in many places in the U.S. have been harmed by preachers who have been involved in immoral relationships with women.  Most preachers who have preached for any length of time have probably been involved in some kind of effort in reaction to damage done by such sins.   Beyond the damage done to churches and Christian families, the Lord’s cause in many places has received serious set backs due to the sins of the very ones supposed to be furthering it.

With the above facts in mind, one can understand that preachers must take extra care to guard against such sins while working in foreign countries.  Such a man is often the first Christian many people in foreign countries see.  His example must be one that conforms with the holy life and teaching of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).  Also, experience has taught me that many people in foreign countries will watch Americans more attentively than they will those of their own nation. They will note inconsistencies between one’s profession and practice.  Sadly, the devil takes no holidays.  Hence, the dangers presented by the opposite sex are common to all cultures, some, of course, more than others.

The Bible is our guide on this subject as it is in all areas of life (2 Tim. 3:16-17). According to the Bible, how might a child of God be tempted to commit the sin of fornication?   Giving Bible answers to this question will go a long way in helping us avoid any compromises with women.  This article is being written from the standpoint of a male Christian and addresses problems he may face. We hope that Christian women can profit from what we say herein about the unworthy actions of some women.

What Can Lead to Compromise and Immorality?

The Bible is replete with answers to this question.  Proverbs 6:26 tells us, “For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread” (NKJV).  What “means” might such a woman employ?  Also, what else might lead to such unwanted ends?  From what we noted in our introduction we understand that the answers to these questions are needed at home as well as in the mission field. Let us consider some.

  1. Close proximity or frequent association.  We place the most innocent first.  The experiences of Joseph and Tamar teach us that unwanted and unsought after desires can be aroused when a person is not seeking them (Gen. 39:1-20; 2 Sam. 13:1-18).  Due consideration of both of these accounts shows us that the sinful desires and schemes of Potiphar’s wife and Amnon developed over time.  What can foreign workers learn from these chapters?  Studies with a female contact, who is innocently seeking to learn more about God, may develop into something quite different. Working with a female translator to produce charts or literature can tempt either party involved to think of things beyond the task at hand.  Spending time in the company of a woman, who is working with you as an interpreter, as you run errands to various places, gives much opportunity for conversation.  Familiarity can develop that can, with time, become improper.  All of the situations described above are innocent. However, as we noted above, the devil never stops working.  We know he is capable of perverting anything (1 Pet. 5:8).

  2. The look of a woman who seeks your attention.  Concerning the evil woman, Solomon warns, “Neither let her take thee with her eyelids” (Prov. 6:25).  We do not know the motives of all women.  Some may look at us out of curiosity and some out of vanity.  However, some look with the intention to allure. “Beauty is vain” (Prov. 31:30) and some women need the flattery of the opposite sex’s attention.  This writer’s life in the world before conversion, for which he is ashamed, caused him to realize the truthfulness of Proverbs 7:17-18:  Many women seek a man for the basest reasons.  Solomon writes of a kind of woman in that chapter (v. 5).  Let us take hold of his words here: “The adulteress hunteth for the precious life” (Prov. 6:26, my emph, sw).  Further, unprincipled women from poor countries may think of a man from America as a way out a bad situation.  Hardship can do this to a person (Isa. 4:1).  Loneliness or an unhappy marriage, coupled with the general view that the outside world has of a American, may cause a woman to seek your company.

  3. The outward appearance of an evil woman (Prov. 6:25).  It is good when it can be said of an attractive woman, “She is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.”   The Bible tells of many such women.  Such a woman conducts herself so as not to call attention to herself, keeps from evil appearances, and does not seek to use her beauty for any improper purpose  (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:2-4).  Further, she will not knowingly allow herself to get into a situation which might be seen in an unfavorable light (1 Pet. 3:2).  Solomon cautions us of different kind of woman in the above verse.  As he writes in 31:30, “Favor is deceitful.”  Adam Clark’s comments on this verse are helpful in showing how some women use their outward appearance.

    Favour&ldots; grace of manner may be deceitful, many a fair appearance of this kind is put on, assumed for certain secular or more unworthy purposes; it is learned by painful drilling in polished seminaries, and, being the effect of mere physical discipline, it continues while the restraint lasts; but it is&ldots;a lie, a mere semblance, an outward varnish. It is not the effect of internal moral regulation; it is an outside, at which the inside murmurs&ldots; (Prov. 31:30, Power Bible CD)

    Like bait leads a fish to bite on the hook, the evil woman entices a man with her outward appearance.   If that man is a Christian, he is being enticed to do that which he knows is sin.  This leads to another weapon such a woman will often have in her arsenal.

  4. Words designed to entice.   Words come forth from the heart (Lk. 6:45).  The wise man wrote, “And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets” (Eccl. 7:26).  There are women who will cause the subject of their looks to be a topic of conversation. They will speak of how other men view or speak of them.  They will note your lack of attention to their clothes, their hair, or some other feature.  We use the phrase “fishing for compliments” in other connections.  It fits here.  As the above-cited verse shows, many seducers realize how ensnaring a misspoken word or unpremeditated action can be – and seek to provoke such!    Further, some women will use flattery to achieve their goals:  “With her much fair speech she causeth him to yield; With the flattering of her lips she forceth him along” (Prov. 7:21).  Conversation with many people can be pleasant and innocent, but “the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil” (Prov. 5:3).  When it comes to the point where her sinful desires are nearing fulfillment, she has the words to sooth the conscience.  She knows how to assure a man of God or anyone else who hesitates in responding to her that “everything is alright” (Prov. 7:14-20).

  5. Lasciviousness.  Let us first note that lascivious can damn the soul but that it is not fornication (cp. Gal. 5:19-21).  This is written to remind brethren that one can stop short of the sin of fornication and yet still be just as guilty in God’s sight (Jas. 2:10-11).   However, let us note why it is that lasciviousness can lead to the sin of fornication.  It is defined as follows:

    "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence... wanton (acts or) manners, as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females, etc." (Thayer, pp. 79-80)

    Please note the progression in our above points.  Lasciviousness is placed at this point in this article for a reason: When used as a tool of the seducer, aspects of it – such as words, manners, body movements and touching –  will, with some exception, not appear until a woman has some reason to believe they will further  her sinful ends.

  6. “A man void of understanding” (Prov. 7:7; 6:32).   We save this for last as it is the final ingredient needed.  A woman one cannot commit the sin of fornication alone.   How does one show a lack of understanding in this matter?  If he is single, he may fail to treat a married woman as one who is in a sacred relationship (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:4-6).  In his general conduct towards women, he may take verses like the following ones lightly:

    Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

    Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12).

    Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee (1 Tim. 4:16).

    Flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22).

    He may forget the warning in these verses, pandering instead to his own vanity and fleshly appetites.  He may unconsciously seek the very kind of woman we have detailed above.  A single or married man may fail to understand the subtleties of an evil woman or the dangers involved in the innocent relationships we detailed under point 1., above.   A married man may fail to understand yet other things and, because of his greater knowledge of intimate affairs with a woman, he has less excuse for his ignorance than one who has never been married.  He either forgets or has not taken time to consider the seriousness of his marriage vows when he said, “Forsaking all others for thee and thee only.”  He does not fully understand the sacrificial love commanded of husbands (Eph. 5:25).  Perhaps the love he “understands” is of the baser sort, of the kind that Amnon had for his sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1, 15).  To use a common term, being “cool” may be more important to him than being virtuous.

While not being exhaustive, hopefully, the things we write under this heading will cause all Christians to think soberly about their relations with the opposite sex.  Of course, in light of the theme of this Watchman feature, we hope missionaries will especially take these things to heart.

How Does a Man with Understanding Conduct Himself?

We have above considered “a man void of understanding.”  The purpose of Proverbs and God’s word in general is to give understanding (Prov. 1:1-6; 4:5, 7; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Therefore, we can learn how to conduct ourselves in an understanding way.  We suggest the following.

  1. Remember your purpose.  Churches are supporting you to preach the gospel and to build up Christians (1 Thes. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:8-9).  Occupy your mind with how much you might be able to get done in a given day.  Emphasize to those around you what you would like to accomplish and go about doing it. Stay busy.  Do not be distracted from your work by things of less or little importance.

  2. Try to foresee the dangers innocent associations may present.  Some of our best translators in Lithuania are female.  Something that causes one to spend a lot of time with them is the proof-reading of translated material (a must in producing literature).  I have tried as much as possible to arrange to work with them in the presence of others, no matter where we end up working.  Foresee dangers.  Do not allow situations that can hurt your influence or, worse, damn your soul.  This leads to our next point.

  3. Recognize that people are watching you (Prov. 7:6-7; Lk. 7:39).  (All of what we write herein is written with the understanding that God is watching us all [Heb. 4:13].)  More than once, this writer has had to “clean up” (for lack of better term) after a brother was guilty of some impropriety with a woman.  While no immorality occurred in any of these cases of which I am aware, it has amazed and appalled me how many people would volunteer information on such occasions.   This goes back to something we noted in our introduction: Many people in foreign countries will watch Americans more attentively than they will those of their own nation.  They will note inconsistencies between one’s profession and practice (1 Pet. 2:11-12; 3:16).

  4. Practice self control. If a woman stares at you do not intentionally return her look.  Avert your eyes.  Understand the danger that the Bible connects with this seemingly innocent action.  “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart” (Prov. 6:25).  “But I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).  Guard your heart against this vanity.  It is a step down from the ground upon which you should be standing (Titus 2:11-12).  When flattered, recognize that “favor is deceitful.”  Also, remember the kind of people who flatter and love flattery (Ps. 5:9; 12:2; 36:2; Prov. 14:20; 26:28; 29:5).  Do not seek for yourself or enjoy the kind of attention or compliments the evil woman seeks (above, 2.). Never say anything improper to a woman or touch her in an improper manner.  Never drop your guard (Prov. 4:23).  Refuse a woman’s advances and flee them if it becomes necessary (Gen. 39:7-12).

  5. If you are married, remember your wife.  First, when doing short-term work somewhere limit the duration of the time you spend away from your wife (1 Cor. 7:1-5).  Also, do not let your remembrance of your wife be just passive.  When in a foreign field, buy post cards and write her, or write her e-mail from an internet café.  Speak about her to people you meet.  Pay attention to your wife’s likes, needs, and wants.  Then, if you have spare time while in a foreign country, you can occupy it by finding something for the special woman in your life (1 Cor. 7:33).  This will also help your influence with any women you may use logistically:  They will be aware of your love for and dedication to your wife.  Those personally acquainted with my work in Lithuania know that I write Mary almost every day without fail and never return home from there without a number of gifts for her.


Much damage has already been done to the Lord’s cause by preachers who have become known for being overly friendly with women or, worse, for being immoral.  Let us all love God and the souls of others above ourselves and be resolute in this matter.  The dangers we discuss in this article are real and understandable.  Therefore, there is good reason to be wise and understanding with regards to them.


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