“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee” (Prov 4:25).
A pigeon among the cats
A young woman was standing naked, one woman among a small group of naked men. They were waiting for the cameras and other necessaries to be set up for a pornographic movie. She was an experienced porn actress and this was just another day at the office, so to speak. But something was about to happen that would make this day a very different day. As they were standing around waiting to start the movie shoot, the woman was given a vision. As she stood there, her mind’s eye was opened and she saw behind our physical reality. Adjusting to this strange feeling of unreality, she saw several demons standing amongst her group. They too, she understood, were eagerly waiting for the action to begin. This vision changed her life. Because of what she saw, she sought advice from a female ex-porn actress who had become a Christian and who was running a mission and ministry to save other porn actresses. As a result, this young woman repented of her sins and surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. The vision was from him and he had come to rescue her.
An invisible hand
A long-term friend of mine told me that he was in bondage to pornography. He said he’d been this way for about the last fifteen years. He’s been a Christian for decades, is happily married, and an active member of his church. But he can’t seem to break free from pornography. He said it began when he started to search the net to find something to help a young Christian man who had confided to him that he was struggling with masturbation. The morning after my friend’s friend told him his secret, and when he had the house to himself, he decided to check out the net to see if he could find something helpful for his young friend. One of the headings that came up was pictures of an indecent act. Curious – and naively – he opened it to see what it was. He said that the image he saw was graphic and overwhelmingly powerful, and it caught him by surprise. And he said that as he laid eyes on the photograph, he had the very strong impression that an invisible hand and arm reached out from the computer screen, passed through his flesh into his chest, and grabbed hold of his heart. He had never seen anything pornographic since he had become a Christian many years before; he had refused to look at any doubtful pictures, and wouldn’t even read fiction novels because there is almost always sex in them. So this image knocked him over, as it were, and ever since then, he said, he’s been in bondage to pornography.
While the cat’s away, the cats will play
A while ago I heard about a pastors’ conference and retreat which was being held in a conference centre. About halfway through the week, two or three of the pastors thought it would be good to speak to the concierge and tell him about the gospel. As they spoke to him, they were met with a frosty reception and he wasn’t willing to hear what they had to say. Eventually he told them he wanted nothing to do with the church if the pastors staying in his convention centre were examples of Christianity. He said he’d been asked by many of the pastors staying there to switch on the X-rated pornography TV channel in their individual rooms.
Satan’s Weapon of Mass Destruction
Pornography is more than just a social evil, although it is certainly that. It is a highly effective tool of Satan to bring its users into degradation, sorrow, and bondage. It always and can only negatively impact marriages, even destroy them, and all who have anything to do with it will suffer to a greater or lesser degree. It is not a harmless activity, as many porn users tell themselves. How can it be when Satan has such direct involvement in it? We could very appropriately misquote and misapply James’ observation about the evil nature and consequences of the tongue to pornography: “And pornography is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is pornography among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6). I have exchanged the word “tongue” in the verse for “pornography” to make my point.
In the three examples of real victims given above, I show that pornography is not simply a private pastime that does nobody any harm, but that there are spiritual powers actively and heavily involved in it.
Perhaps the worst thing is that there are now Christian websites which weaken the idea of the sinfulness of pornography and even encourage men and women to indulge themselves in it. I’m sure that if we surf the net to find such sites we will find them; as Paul wrote to Timothy: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:3).
Pornography – Thy Name is Sin
The first thing needed to be able to overcome the temptation to pornography, therefore, is to identify it as a sin. This may be stating the obvious but the struggle against pornography is doomed to fail if we believe it’s not sinful. So what chance do we have to resist something that attracts us so powerfully if we think the bible doesn’t even regard it as a sin? Every motivation is undermined before we even begin, and we ask ourselves why we are denying ourselves when God is not bothered by it. Pornography must be seen for the evil that it is, and for the devastation of people’s lives who are involved in it, whether the viewers, the actors, the participants, or the producers; nobody who has any involvement with pornography will escape unscathed. Despite its evil attraction, despite the beauty of many of the participants, it is ugly, degrading, and destructive, and is a direct road to hell. Admittedly, I’m stretching a passage in the book of Proverbs here by applying it to lusting after actors in porn videos instead of the adulteress, but the parallel can be easily seen: “…she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (Prov 7:25-27).
Jesus said: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt 5:27-28). The ESV has, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”, and The Good News Bible has, “…anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart”. These translations show that Jesus is speaking of intent to have sex with the person under scrutiny. But this cannot be taken to mean that as long as the voyeur doesn’t actually desire or intend to have sex with the person he/she is looking at, that it is acceptable to sit in front of a computer screen and masturbate while watching pornography for hours on end. The famous commentator, Matthew Henry, describes what is really happening in the voyeur’s mind:
“This command forbids not only the act of fornication and adultery, but all appetites to them, all lusting after the forbidden object; this is the beginning of the sin (Jas 1:15). Where the lust is dwelt upon and approved and the wanton desire is rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel, it is the commission of sin as far as the heart can do it. There [lacks] nothing but convenient opportunity for the sin itself. This forbids the using of any other of our senses to stir up lust. If ensnaring looks are forbidden fruit, [how] much more [are] unclean discourses and dalliances, the fuel and bellows of this hellish fire. And if looking be lust, they who dress and deck and expose themselves with design to be looked at and lusted after are no less guilty” (Henry, M. comment on Matt 5:27, Matthew Henry Study Bible).
What did Job mean when he said, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why should I then think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1). Did he mean he didn’t look at a virgin with the intention to deflower her? Is this statement about intent? I don’t believe so. This view is supported by “The Wisdom of Sirach”, also known as Ecclesiasticus, one of the books listed in the Apocrypha. Whether you accept it as a canonical book doesn’t matter. The fact is that it is an ancient Jewish writing and reflects their view. The verses are as follows:
“Do not look intently at a virgin, or you may stumble and incur penalties for her” (Sirach 9:5 NRSV-CE).
“Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman, and do not gaze at beauty belonging to another; many have been seduced by a woman’s beauty, and by it passion is kindled like a fire” (Sir 9:8 NRSV-CE).
“Be ashamed…..of looking at a prostitute…..and of gazing at another man’s wife” (Sir 41:19-21 NRSV-CE).
So it is clear that we are not to look at a woman lest we become inflamed with lust which can – and more often than not does – result in sin. We can’t justify ogling women and sexual acts just because we don’t intend to have sex with them; these passages warn us against even dwelling upon such. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me” (Ps 66:18).
Voyeurism and seeing nakedness is shameful and sinful
God does not allow such behaviour. He does not allow or excuse public nudity or nudity between people who are not married to each other. “And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity” (Lev 20:17). Granted, this passage talks about incest, but part of that is seeing the nakedness of someone to whom they were not married. And yes, uncovering the nakedness of another is a euphemism for the sex act; but in this verse, the seeing itself is sinful, and brings God’s condemnation. Nudity and the exposure of one’s naked body to someone other than one’s spouse is sin; as is also looking on that nakedness.
This can be seen further when God complains to Judah, whom he calls his wife, that she has committed adultery against him and has exposed her nakedness to the eyes of others. “Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged they bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it” (Isa 57:8). Again, I grant that this verse is about Judah’s idolatry and worshipping other gods than God; and it is stated in symbolic language using marriage and adultery; but God was angry that Judah, his wife, had allowed another than himself to see her naked – as it says here “discovered (uncovered) thyself” i.e. removed your clothing and revealed your nakedness. The spouse’s naked body is for the eyes of the other spouse only. Can you imagine a great oriental sultan or king or emperor allowing anybody to see his wife at all, let alone unclothed? That was one reason that royal wives were confined to harems and guarded at all times.
And “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness” (Hab 2:15). Drink spikers be warned!
When Adam and Eve sinned, we’re told that their very first realization was one of shame at the awareness that they were naked (Gen 3:6-8).
When Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Israel was below, worshipping a golden calf under the direction and assistance of the high priest, Aaron. When Moses came back down to the camp and saw what was happening, he threw down and smashed the Ten Commandments; “And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?….And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies…” (Exod 32:21, 25). Modern bible versions omit the nakedness in this passage, focusing on the idolatry, and thus weaken the importance of the teaching of the passage – another reason to avoid them.
And when Judah was finally punished by God, part of that judgment and punishment was that the nakedness of the women was exposed for all to see. “Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover (lay bare) their secret parts” (Isa 3:17). Because the women of Judah were so promiscuous, and free with their bodies, allowing many lovers to see their nakedness in what they thought was the privacy of their bedrooms, God would ensure that every eye would see them as they were carried into captivity. All their jewellery, their finery, their hairdos, their perfume, and their gorgeous clothing, would be stripped away, and they would be unclothed to such a degree that even their private parts and buttocks would be exposed and visible (Isa 3:16).
And even at the end of time, when the vials of the wrath of God against sin and sinners are poured out on the earth, Jesus himself warns, “Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev 16:15). Yes, this is allegorical, but the message is that nakedness, whether physical or spiritual, is shameful and despicable.
Sinful pictures in the bible
God also condemns erotic pictures and images and looking at them; in those days there was no internet or magazines etc.; they displayed their erotic images and sex acts on their temple walls, both inside and outside, and even on the walls and floors of their homes. Examples of these pictures can be seen on many ancient Hindu temples which still stand today, as well as on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs or temples. God condemns such “art”: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty……and upon all pleasant pictures” – margin reads “pictures of desire” (Isa 2:16). This may appear to some to be stretching it, trying to apply a simple statement about art to that of erotic acts; but it is a legitimate and reasonable understanding of the verse, especially when we see it in the light of God’s command to destroy the people of Canaan: “Then shall ye drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places” (Num 33:52). Modern bible versions translate “pictures” as “figured stones” (ESV), “cast idols” (NIV) etc. The Hebrew means images carved in relief on walls. They are, in effect, pictures in stone.
The religion of most ancient peoples was sexual and the worship was also sexual. There were temple prostitutes, both female and male, and their role was to copulate with worshippers of the gods to ensure the fertility of their land, their crops, their livestock, and their families. Thus, the pictures referred to in these passages displayed sexual acts and naked figures, as we see on said Hindu temples.
So take no notice of these so-called Christian web sites which advocate ogling pictures of nude women (or men), masturbating as you do so. God regards nudity as sin, except between spouses and in private.
Sin has Consequences
Pornography is not simply a sin that, because it is committed in secret and nobody knows about it, won’t do any harm. It is not a sin that can be committed without affecting others, even though you think it is just a personal indulgence – that because you only get aroused by videos or pictures or text, it is therefore inconsequential and harmless; that it isn’t really adultery. Secret sins can be the most damaging and have the greatest consequences. The secretive nature of pornography is one of the things which gives it its power, and which enables it to bring people into bondage, degradation, guilt, and shame.
We must recognise that we cannot continue to be involved with pornography and not ultimately want to express our sexual desires (sinful lust) in ways akin to what we fill our mind with. Pornography may seem harmless to begin with, but all sins do. Pornography is not a destination in itself; it is a road to deeper and more serious sin: “…for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity…” (Rom 6:19). The sin of heart-adultery will inevitably lead to actual adultery or other sinful sexual acts. The sexual sins that we fill our mind with will want to be expressed in actuality. Constant feeding our lust with images or videos breaks down the walls of naivety and conscience that protect us and will result in a more tangible expression of that same sin.
Ultimately though, for all the arguing back and forth as to whether or not pornography is sinful, the real problem with it is that it feeds the sinful nature and makes it stronger. It reminds me of the movie “Wrath of the Titans” where Kronos, imprisoned in Tartarus in the Underworld, grows stronger as Zeus’ power drains into him. Kronos, a Titan of unbelievable power, breaks free and comes to earth to exact vengeance, totally uncontrollable and unstoppable with his new, stolen power. The movie is a graphic illustration of the power of the sinful nature that is a fundamental part of we fallen human beings. If we feed it, it grows more powerful, but if we starve it and feed the renewed heart which we received when we were born of the Spirit, our spirit grows stronger and the fallen nature, or flesh, grows weaker.
So even if you convince yourself by distorting scripture (2 Pet 3:14-16) that pornography is not sinful, and therefore you feel free to watch it and masturbate, you deceive yourself and are blinded to the fact that you are feeding the monster within you which is devoted to your destruction.
Although this passage speaks of unsaved false teachers in Paul’s day, it applies equally well to the authors of Christian web sites which advocate and justify indulgence in pornography. It is a warning that they would do well to heed, and to repent of their sin and pull down their web sites which have caused untold damage to many of God’s people – and God does not take this lightly. He has expressed his displeasure with them, and he will not leave them unpunished. Jesus said, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it is must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt 18:6-7).
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Corinthians 6:19-20).
Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references are from the King James Bible.
Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition, Anglicized Text, copyright 1989, 1995, 1999, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Publ. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, UK
Henry, M. 1997, “The Matthew Henry Study Bible: King James Version”, copyright Thomas Nelson Inc., pub Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.