What is Spiritual Adultery? Examining the Term

Spiritual adultery is a loaded term that warrants careful examination. In essence, it refers to being unfaithful to God by putting other “gods” before Him. This profound concept touches on the very meaning we assign to spirituality and relationship with the Divine.

As we explore spiritual adultery, we must first contextualize it biblically. The phrase originates from passages in the Old Testament describing Israel’s idolatry and adulterous affairs as acts of betrayal against God. However, the significance transcends ancient texts, holding important implications for modern faith and connection with the Sacred.

Our exploration aims to bring clarity and guidance on upholding loyalty in our spiritual walk.

Defining Spiritual Adultery

Spiritual adultery, in essence, means placing something or someone above one’s devotion and connection to the Divine. It constitutes an illicit relationship where one cherishes and chases after alternate “lovers” rather than God.

The Bible utilizes vivid marital imagery to capture spiritual adultery’s seriousness. Just as a marriage covenant binds two partners in exclusive love, God calls us into an exclusive, intimate bond with Him. Whenever believers put something else first–whether career, money, people, ideologies, or idols–it breaks faithfulness to that spiritual marriage covenant.

This in no way means other relationships or pursuits must be renounced. However, it does require intentionally safeguarding God as our primary love and keeping everything else in appropriate perspective. Spiritual adultery displaces God from His rightful place in our hearts.

Idolatry As Spiritual Adultery

Idolatry epitomizes spiritual adultery. Whenever we elevate something created over the Creator, we commit idolatry. This could involve worshiping literal statues, but often manifests in subtler ways.

Pursuits like wealth, fame, success, human relationships, or pleasures can drift into idol territory. We begin looking to these things as sources of meaning, fulfillment, and identity apart from God. Essentially, we adulterate pure devotion to God alone by fostering affair with alternate gods.

Divided Heart As Spiritual Adultery

Spiritual adultery also encompasses a divided heart towards God. We may still retain some superficial devotion, but deeper affections get redistributed elsewhere. Our passion, zeal, and soul-hunger no longer centralize on God Himself.

This divided loyalty does not necessarily mean abandoning faith altogether. In fact, we can mouth all the right spiritual phrases while subtly shifting allegiance. The deception of a split heart makes this form of adultery all the more dangerous.

Forms of Spiritual Adultery

While idolatry and a divided heart capture spiritual adultery’s crux, many expressions exist. Let’s analyze some common forms.

Love of Worldly Things

When we grow utterly enamored with worldly possessions, pleasures, or prestige, it signals spiritual adultery. These things themselves aren’t evil, but loving them more than God is. We must take care to keep affection for earthly things in check, ensuring it never supersedes heavenly devotion.

Ask yourself: If forced to choose between God and my money/success/relationships/reputation, which would I pick? Any hesitation in answering “God” reveals spiritual adultery.

Trusting In Humans Over God

While seeking counsel from others often proves wise, trusting in humans over God manifests spiritual adultery. Whenever we place ultimate hope in people instead of the Divine–expecting them to rescue, sustain, or complete us–we commit breach of faith.

This proves especially common in romantic relationships, friendships, family dynamics, and political or religious movements. No human deserves the allegiance reserved for Deity. Transferring such faith to others, however subtly, abandons pure devotion to God.

Harboring Unconfessed Sin

Whenever we harbor unconfessed patterns of sin, it reflects spiritual adultery. Just as an affair contradicts marital faithfulness, clinging to sin contradicts loyalty to God. It erects a barrier in relationship and communication with Him.

This unfaithfulness requires renunciation through repentance and return to righteousness. Downplaying or rationalizing disobedience rather than dealing with it actively indulges in spiritual adultery.


Syncretism–blending religious beliefs from divergent sources–also qualifies as spiritual adultery. God clearly prohibits adopting pagan practices or ideologies and fusing them with biblical faith.

Examples include trying to merge new age concepts like reincarnation, astrology, or mysticism with Christianity. This fundamentally adulterates devotion to God by importing competing worldviews.

Causes of Spiritual Adultery

What drives spiritual adultery? While excuses abound, several root causes prevail.

Spiritual Lethargy

A sluggish, apathetic soul paves ground for spiritual adultery. When we grow passive about nurturing intimacy with God through prayer, Scripture, fellowship, and obedience, it leaves room for other affections. Spiritual laziness lets devotion grow lukewarm, providing space for idols to emerge.

We must proactively cultivate relationship with God as top priority. Without intentional upkeep through spiritual disciplines, our hearts wander. Lasting fidelity requires consistent investment in the marriage bond.


Hard circumstances often tempt us towards spiritual disloyalty. When prayers seem unanswered, trials intensify, or disappointment mounts, bitterness can brew. If mishandled through doubt and disengagement from God, this erosion of trust propels spiritual adultery.

In these seasons, affirming God’s sovereignty and clinging to Him as anchor proves essential. Otherwise, we start seeking solace in lesser loves. False comforters rush in to fill the vacuum left by a disconnect from heaven.

The only remedy lies in rekindling intimacy with God despite pain or perplexity.

Distorted Theology

Faulty concepts about God also contribute towards spiritual adultery. When we minimize His holiness and sovereignty, it breeds complacency rather than awe. Cheap views of grace excuse unfaithfulness. Bad theology lays groundwork for divided loyalties by downplaying God’s preeminence.

We must continually submit theology and mindset to biblical scrutiny. God must become so all-consuming and magnificent that none can rival Him for affection. Right perspective fuels steadfast devotion.

Overcoming Spiritual Adultery

How do we conquer spiritual adultery’s stronghold? No quick fixes exist, but some key strategies prove helpful.

Examine Heart Motives

Start by prayerfully examining the heart’s true affections. Ask the Spirit to reveal any misplaced priorities or attachments. Often, we tolerate “socially acceptable” idols that incremental displace God in ways we barely notice. Probing beneath surface behaviors to underlying allegiances is essential. Journaling, fasting, truthful conversations, and silent solitude before God facilitate this.

This process requires humility and intentionality. We must plead for eyes to see any compromised loyalties. The goal is resetting heart focus back on God as supreme–our source of identity, meaning, satisfaction, and salvation.

Recognize Covenant Responsibilities

Next, recall spiritual marriage responsibilities. Just as human marriage requires nurture, so God designed our bond with Him as a covenant framework for blessing–not a cold contract legalistically binding us. Seeing relationship with God as the pinnacle of all earthly partnerships changes perspective. His matchless worth eclipses every lesser affection.

When glimpsing the splendor of Christ’s love and God’s zeal for our flourishing, idolatrous affairs grow repulsive rather than tempting. Clarity about relational privileges in divine union steels us against spiritual adultery’s deception.

As wayward loves surface, realigning affection and behavior proves vital. For instance, fostering consistent awe of God through worship weakens old idols’ grip. Practicing gratitude, generosity, and attentiveness towards God’s presence and priorities crowds out rival interests vying for preeminence.

Temptation may linger, but must be consistently renounced through prayer and obedience. Like an estranged spouse returning after betrayal, God draws near to those serious about cutting off spiritual adultery and reestablishing intimacy with Him alone.