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In the past week or so we have discussed “Open Marriage” and  “Polygamy [Polyandry]”. . There seems to be only one remaining topic concerning “shared marriages and shared relationships;” “Concubines”.

Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?

  A concubine is a female who voluntarily enslaves and sells herself to a man primarily for his sexual pleasure. Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.

Although it’s true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubines, a condemnation can be found implicitly from the beginning of time. According to Genesis 2:21-24, God’s original intent was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that has never changed (Genesis 1:27). As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships [which begs the question: “why didn’t King Solomon take his own advice about women?” (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubines.

We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival. Most women in ancient times were uneducated and unskilled in a trade. Providing for themselves was very difficult, and they were vulnerable to those who would prey upon them. For many women in dire situations, becoming a concubine was a much more suitable option than prostitution, homelessness, or death. At least a concubine would be provided a home and afforded a certain amount of care.

It appears God allowed the sin of concubines, in part, to provide for women in need, although it was certainly not an ideal situation. Sin is never ideal. Christians should be reminded that, just because God allows a sin for a time, it does not mean God is pleased with it. Many Bible narratives teach that God can take what some people mean for evil and use it for good (e.g., Genesis 50:20).

 

Recently I posted on “Open Marriages”  and the subject of polygamy/polyandry came up.  I need tell the readers that there is a difference between an “open marriage” and “polygamy/polyandry”. Since being brought up by several readers I want to address the latter.

The question of polygamy is an interesting one in that most people today view polygamy as immoral while the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns it. The first instance of polygamy/bigamy in the Bible was that of Lamech in Genesis 4:19: “Lamech married two women.” Several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others all had multiple wives. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (essentially wives of a lower status), according to 1 Kings 11:3. What are we to do with these instances of polygamy in the Old Testament? There are three questions that need to be answered: 1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? 2) How does God view polygamy today? 3) Why did it change?

1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? The Bible does not specifically say why God allowed polygamy. As we speculate about God’s silence, there are a few key factors to consider. First, while there are slightly more male babies than female babies, due to women having longer lifespans, there have always been more women in the world than men. Current statistics show that approximately 50.5 percent of the world population are women. Assuming the same percentages in ancient times, and multiplied by millions of people, there would be tens of thousands more women than men. Second, warfare in ancient times was especially brutal, with an incredibly high rate of fatality. This would have resulted in an even greater percentage of women to men. Third, due to patriarchal societies, it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself. Women were often uneducated and untrained. Women relied on their fathers, brothers, and husbands for provision and protection. Unmarried women were often subjected to prostitution and slavery. The significant difference between the number of women and men would have left many, many women in an undesirable situation.

So, it seems that God may have allowed polygamy to protect and provide for the women who could not find a husband otherwise. A man would take multiple wives and serve as the provider and protector of all of them. While definitely not ideal, living in a polygamist household was far better than the alternatives: prostitution, slavery, or starvation. In addition to the protection/provision factor, polygamy enabled a much faster expansion of humanity, fulfilling God’s command to “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth” (Genesis 9:7). Men are capable of impregnating multiple women in the same time period, causing humanity to grow much faster than if each man was only producing one child each year.

2) How does God view polygamy today? Even while allowing polygamy, the Bible presents monogamy as the plan which conforms most closely to God’s ideal for marriage. The Bible says that God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” (Genesis 2:24). While Genesis 2:24 is describing what marriage is, rather than how many people are involved, the consistent use of the singular should be noted. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God says that the kings were not supposed to multiply wives (or horses or gold). While this cannot be interpreted as a command that the kings must be monogamous, it can be understood as declaring that having multiple wives causes problems. This can be clearly seen in the life of Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4).

In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 give “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for spiritual leadership. There is some debate as to what specifically this qualification means. The phrase could literally be translated “a one-woman man.” Whether or not this phrase is referring exclusively to polygamy, in no sense can a polygamist be considered a “one-woman man.” While these qualifications are specifically for positions of spiritual leadership, they should apply equally to all Christians. Should not all Christians be “above reproach…temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-4)? If we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), and if these standards are holy for elders and deacons, then they are holy for all.

Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks of the relationship between husbands and wives. When referring to a husband (singular), it always also refers to a wife (singular). “For the husband is the head of the wife [singular] … He who loves his wife [singular] loves himself. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [singular], and the two will become one flesh….Each one of you also must love his wife [singular] as he loves himself, and the wife [singular] must respect her husband [singular].” While a somewhat parallel passage, Colossians 3:18-19, refers to husbands and wives in the plural, it is clear that Paul is addressing all the husbands and wives among the Colossian believers, not stating that a husband might have multiple wives. In contrast, Ephesians 5:22-33 is specifically describing the marital relationship. If polygamy were allowable, the entire illustration of Christ’s relationship with His body (the church) and the husband-wife relationship falls apart.

3) Why did it change? It is not so much God’s disallowing something He previously allowed as it is God’s restoring marriage to His original plan. Even going back to Adam and Eve, polygamy was not God’s original intent. God seems to have allowed polygamy to solve a problem, but it is not the ideal. In most modern societies, there is absolutely no need for polygamy. In most cultures today, women are able to provide for and protect themselves—removing the only “positive” aspect of polygamy. Further, most modern nations outlaw polygamy. According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to obey the laws the government establishes. The only instance in which disobeying the law is permitted by Scripture is if the law contradicts God’s commands (Acts 5:29). Since God only allows for polygamy, and does not command it, a law prohibiting polygamy should be upheld.

Are there some instances in which the allowance for polygamy would still apply today? Perhaps, but it is unfathomable that there would be no other possible solution. Due to the “one flesh” aspect of marriage, the need for oneness and harmony in marriage, and the lack of any real need for polygamy, it is our firm belief that polygamy does not honor God and is not His design for marriage.

Does the Bible address polyamory/swinging?

An open marriage is generally defined as a marriage in which one or both spouses are allowed by the other spouse to have sex with other people. The two primary types of open marriages are polyamory and swinging. Polyamory is when the extra-marital affairs purportedly involve emotional love. Swinging is when the extra-marital affairs only involve recreational/casual sex.

No, the Bible nowhere explicitly addresses polyamory, swinging, or the idea of an open marriage. The idea that one spouse should consent to the other spouse having sex with other people is absolutely foreign to the Bible. The Bible speaks of sex within marriage as pure (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible speaks of sex outside of marriage as immoral and adulterous (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18; 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

The question is sometimes raised as to whether a polyamorous relationship should be considered adultery if the other spouse allows, approves, or even participates in it. The answer is an unequivocal yes! God is the one who defines what marriage is and what adultery is. God, in His Word, has declared sex outside of marriage to be adultery (Exodus 20:14). A spouse’s giving permission to sin does not overrule God’s Law. We do not have the authority to create exceptions to what God has declared to be sinful.

Aside from the biblical declarations that they are sin, polyamorous relationships cannot fulfill what the Bible says a marriage is to be. A married couple cannot be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) if multiple “fleshes” are involved. A married couple cannot fully love one another if that love is divided among other people. There cannot be true intimacy if what is supposed to be intimate is shared with others. Polyamory is not marriage. In no sense is a marriage supposed to be open to sexual activity outside of the marriage.

Polyamory is, in reality, “poly-lust-ory.” There is nothing loving about it. This perversion of marriage is confirmation that “every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually,” and that, without God, “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” (see Genesis 6:5 and Judges 21:25).

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing gay marriage. Across the Atlantic, in mid-July 2013, the Queen of England signed into law “The Marriage Bill,” which allows same-sex couples to marry legally. Around the world, at least fifteen other nations have legalized marriage between same-sex partners. Obviously, the societal definition of marriage is changing. But is it the right of a government to redefine marriage, or has the definition of marriage already been set by a higher authority?

In Genesis chapter 2, God declares it is not good for Adam (the first man) to live alone. All the animals are there, but none of them are a suitable partner for Adam. God, therefore, in a special act of creation, makes a woman. Just a few verses later, the woman is called “his wife” (Genesis 2:25). Eden was the scene of the first marriage, ordained by God Himself. The author of Genesis then records the standard by which all future marriages are defined: “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This passage of Scripture gives several points for understanding God’s design for marriage. First, marriage involves a man and a woman. The Hebrew word for “wife” is gender-specific; it cannot mean anything other than “a woman.” There is no passage in Scripture that mentions a marriage involving anything other than a man and a woman. It is impossible for a family to form or human reproduction to take place asexually. Since God ordained sex to only take place between a married couple, it follows that God’s design is for the family unit to be formed when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship and have children.

The second principle from Genesis 2 about God’s design for marriage is that marriage is intended to last for a lifetime. Verse 24 says the two become “one flesh.” Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and so she was literally one flesh with Adam. Her very substance was formed from Adam instead of from the ground. Every marriage thereafter is intended to reflect the unity shared by Adam and Eve. Because their bond was “in the flesh,” they were together forever. There was no escape clause written into the first marriage that allowed for the two to separate. That is to say that God designed marriage for life. When a man and a woman make a commitment to marry, they “become one flesh,” and that is why they say, “Till death do us part.”

A third principle from this passage about God’s design for marriage is monogamy. The Hebrew words for “man” and “wife” are singular and do not allow for multiple wives. Even though some people in Scripture did have multiple wives, it is clear from the creation account that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman. Jesus emphasized this principle when He appealed to the Genesis account to counter the idea of easy divorce (Matthew 19:4—6).

It should come as no surprise that the world desires to change what God has instituted. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). Though the world is attempting to provide their own definitions for what they call “marriage,” the Bible still stands. The clear definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

Some people today, especially those of anti-Christian opinions, have the mistaken notion that the Bible prescribes permanent racial divisions among men and is, therefore, the cause of modern racial hatreds. As a matter of fact, the Bible says nothing whatever about race. Neither the word nor the concept of different “races” is found in the Bible at all. As far as one can learn from a study of Scripture, the writers of the Bible did not even know there were distinct races of men, in the sense of black and yellow and white races, or Caucasian and Mongol and Negroid races, or any other such divisions.

The Biblical divisions among men are those of “tongues, families, nations, and lands” (Genesis 10:5,20,31) rather than races. The vision of the redeemed saints in heaven (Revelation 7:9) is one of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”, but no mention is made of “races”. The formation of the original divisions, after the Flood, was based on different languages (Genesis 11:6-9), supernaturally imposed by God, but nothing is said about any other physical differences.

Some have interpreted the Noahic prophecy concerning his three sons (Genesis 9:25-27) to refer to three races, Hamitic, Semitic and Japhetic, but such a meaning is in no way evident from the words of this passage. The prophecy applies to the descendants of Noah’s sons, and the various nations to be formed from them, but nothing is said about three races. Modern anthropologists and historians employ a much-different terminology than this simple trifurcation for what they consider to be the various races among men.

Therefore, the origin of the concept of “race” must be sought elsewhere than in the Bible. If certain Christian writers have interpreted the Bible in a racist framework, the error is in the interpretation, not in the Bible itself. In the Bible, there is only one race—the human race! “(God) hath made of one, all nations of men” (Acts 17:26).

What Is a Race?

In modern terminology, a race of men may involve quite a large number of individual national and language groups. It is, therefore, a much broader generic concept than any of the Biblical divisions. In the terminology of biological taxonomy, it is roughly the same as a “variety”, or a “sub-species”. Biologists, of course, use the term to apply to sub-species of animals, as well as men.

For example, Charles Darwin selected as the subtitle for his book Origin of Species the phrase “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. It is clear from the context that he had races of animals primarily in mind, but at the same time it is also clear, as we shall see, that he thought of races of men in the same way.

That this concept is still held today is evident from the following words of leading modern evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson:

“Races of man have, or perhaps one should say ‘had’, exactly the same biological significance as the sub-species of other species of mammals.”

It is clear, therefore, that a race is not a Biblical category, but rather is a category of evolutionary biology. Each race is a sub-species, with a long evolutionary history of its own, in the process of evolving gradually into a distinct species.

As applied to man, this concept, of course, suggests that each of the various races of men is very different, though still inter-fertile, from all of the others. If they continue to be segregated, each will continue to compete as best it can with the other races in the struggle for existence and finally the fittest will survive. Or else, perhaps, they will gradually become so different from each other as to assume the character of separate species altogether (just as apes and men supposedly diverged from a common ancestor early in the so-called Tertiary Period).

Most modern biologists today would express these concepts somewhat differently than as above, and they undoubtedly would disavow the racist connotations. Nevertheless, this was certainly the point-of-view of the 19th century evolutionists, and it is difficult to interpret modern evolutionary theory, the so-called neo-Darwinian synthesis, much differently.

Nineteenth-Century Evolutionary Racism

The rise of modern evolutionary theory took place mostly in Europe, especially in England and Germany. Europeans, along with their American cousins, were then leading the world in industrial and military expansion, and were, therefore, inclined to think of themselves as somehow superior to the other nations of the world. This opinion was tremendously encouraged by the concurrent rise of Darwinian evolutionism and its simplistic approach to the idea of struggle between natural races, with the strongest surviving and thus contributing to the advance of evolution.

As the 19th century scientists were converted to evolution, they were thus also convinced of racism. They were certain that the white race was superior to other races, and the reason for this superiority was to be found in Darwinian theory. The white race had advanced farther up the evolutionary ladder and, therefore, was destined either to eliminate the other races in the struggle for existence or else to have to assume the “white man’s burden” and to care for those inferior races that were incompetent to survive otherwise.

Charles Darwin himself, though strongly opposed to slavery on moral grounds, was convinced of white racial superiority. He wrote on one occasion as follows:

“I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit…. The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.”

The man more responsible than any other for the widespread acceptance of evolution in the 19th century was Thomas Huxley. Soon after the American Civil War, in which the negro slaves were freed, he wrote as follows:

“No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried out by thoughts and not by bites.”

Racist sentiments such as these were held by all the 19th century evolutionists. A recent book has documented this fact beyond any question. In a review of this book, a recent writer says:

Ab initio, Afro-Americans were viewed by these intellectuals as being in certain ways unredeemably, unchangeably, irrevocably inferior.”

A reviewer in another scientific journal says:

“After 1859, the evolutionary schema raised additional questions, particularly whether or not Afro-Americans could survive competition with their white near-relations. The momentous answer was a resounding no…. The African was inferior—he represented the missing link between ape and Teuton.”

The Modern Harvest

In a day and age which practically worshipped at the shrine of scientific progress, as was true especially during the century from 1860 to 1960, such universal scientific racism was bound to have repercussions in the political and social realms. The seeds of evolutionary racism came to fullest fruition in the form of National Socialism in Germany. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a contemporary of Charles Darwin and an ardent evolutionist, popularized in Germany his concept of the superman, and then the master race. The ultimate outcome was Hitler, who elevated this philosophy to the status of a national policy.

“From the ‘Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life’ (i.e., Darwin’s subtitle to Origin of Species) it was a short step to the preservation of favoured individuals, classes or nations—and from their preservation to their glorification…. Thus it has become a portmanteau of nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and dictatorship, of the cults of the hero, the superman, and the master race … recent expressions of this philosophy, such as Mein Kampf, are, unhappily, too familiar to require exposition here.”

However one may react morally against Hitler, he was certainly a consistent evolutionist. Sir Arthur Keith, one of the leading evolutionary anthropologists of our century, said:

“The German Fuhrer … has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.”

With respect to the question of race struggle, as exemplified especially in Germany, Sir Arthur also observed:

“Christianity makes no distinction of race or of colour: it seeks to break down all racial barriers. In this respect, the hand of Christianity is against that of Nature, for are not the races of mankind the evolutionary harvest which Nature has toiled through long ages to produce?”

In recent decades, the cause of racial liberation has made racism unpopular with intellectuals and only a few evolutionary scientists still openly espouse the idea of a long-term polyphyletic origin of the different races. On the other hand, in very recent years, the pendulum has swung, and now we have highly vocal advocates of “black power” and “red power” and “yellow power”, and these advocates are all doctrinaire evolutionists, who believe their own respective “races” are the fittest to survive in man’s continuing struggle for existence.

The Creationist Position

According to the Biblical record of history, the Creator’s divisions among men are linguistic and national divisions, not racial. Each nation has a distinct purpose and function in the corporate life of mankind, in the divine Plan (as, for that matter, does each individual).

“(God) hath made of one blood, all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation: That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him” (Acts 17:26,27).

No one nation is “better” than another, except in the sense of the blessings it has received from the Creator, perhaps in measure of its obedience to His Word and fulfillment of its calling. Such blessings are not an occasion for pride, but for gratitude.

We now have a new President of the United States, Donald J. Trump; our 45th President.  President Trump has two things apparent that do not bode well in Washington, D. C.: (1): he’s at war with the News Media and (2) he’s not “politically Correct” by any measure.  The latter begs the question “should Christians be politically correct”?

Political correctness (PC) is defined as “a term that describes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religious belief, disability, and age-related contexts.” The key word here is offense. No individual or group is to be offended in the PC world. Certainly, as Christians, we are not to go out of our way to offend anyone personally, but the truth is that Christianity itself is offensive.

The apostle Paul references the “offense of the cross” in Galatians 5:11. The cross was an offense to the Jews because their idea of salvation was to “work the works of God” (John 6:28–29), meaning keeping the numerous burdensome Old Testament laws and rules. When Jesus came preaching salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, they were shattered. He made it plain that “by works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20) and that all their law-keeping was of no value to them whatsoever. Especially repugnant to them was the idea that, without Jesus, they who prided themselves on their meticulous adherence to the letter, if not the spirit, of the law, could do nothing of spiritual value (John 15:5).

Truly, the offense Jesus created was a stumbling block to the Jews, as Paul explained to the Romans. He reminded them of Isaiah’s prophecy that God would lay a Cornerstone (Christ) in Zion over which many would stumble and fall (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:6). Just as the Jews stumbled over the idea of their works being of no value to God, so do many today hate the idea that Christ will build His church not on human merits, but on His righteousness alone. That message is as offensive today as it was in Jesus’ day. No one likes to be told there is nothing he can do to earn his place in heaven.

Equally offensive is the necessity of dying to self in order to follow Christ. Of all the religions of the world today, Christianity is the only one where its founder tells you to follow Him and die. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24). Those who heard this message knew exactly what Jesus meant; to follow Him was to die to self and give up everything they ever held dear. That’s why everyone ran away when He was arrested; they weren’t prepared to die with Him.

Correctness in the secular, political realm is not the concern of Christians or the church because “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will, by the power that enables him, “bring everything under his control” (Philippians 3:20–21).

Most words in the Bible that are translated “lust” mean “a passionate desire.” Strong desire can be either good or bad, depending upon the object of that desire and the motive behind it. God created the human heart with the capacity for passionate desire so that we would long after Him and His righteousness (Psalm 42:1–2; 73:25). However, the concept of “lust” is now usually associated with a passionate desire for something God has forbidden, and the word is seen as synonymous with sexual or materialistic desire.

James 1:14–15 gives us the natural progression of unrestrained lust: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

According to this passage, sinful lust begins with an evil desire. Being tempted by evil is the not sin. Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1). The sin begins when the evil desire “drags us away” from where our hearts need to be. When an evil desire introduces itself, we have a choice. We can reject it as Jesus did and refocus on the path God has set before us (Matthew 4:10). Or we can entertain it. As someone once said, “We cannot stop the birds from flying overhead, but we don’t have to let them make a nest in our hair.” When temptation beckons, we need to remember that we are not helpless. We can choose to give in or to resist.

The reason we are “dragged away” by temptation is that we are “enticed.” That word in the Greek refers to bait, as on a fishing line. When a fish sees the wiggling worm, he is enticed by it and grabs hold. Once the hook is set, he can be “dragged away.” When we encounter temptation, we should immediately reject it as Joseph did when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:11–12). Hesitation opens the door to enticement. Romans 13:14 calls such hesitation “making provision for the flesh.” Like the unwary fish, we grab hold of the tempting thought, believing it will delight and fulfill us. We savor the fantasy, imagine new and sinful scenarios, and entertain the idea that God has not provided all we need for happiness (Genesis 3:2–4). This is foolish. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee youthful lusts.” To “flee” means to take off immediately. Joseph did not stick around to consider his options. He recognized sexual temptation, and he ran. When we hesitate, we make provision for the flesh and give it the opportunity to choose evil. Often, we are overwhelmed by its power. Samson was a physically strong man, yet he was no match for his own lust (Judges 16:1).

The next step in the downward progression of temptation, according to James 1, is that “desire conceives.” Lust begins as a seed, a thought packed with wrong desire. If we allow the seeds of lust to germinate, they will sprout into something bigger, more powerful, more difficult to uproot. Temptation becomes sin when it is allowed to germinate. Desire takes on a life of its own and becomes lust. Jesus made it clear that lust is sin, even if we do not physically act on it (Matthew 5:27–28). Our hearts are God’s domain, and when we allow evil to grow there, we defile His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).

Wrong desires plague every human being. The tenth commandment forbids coveting, which means lusting for something that is not ours (Deuteronomy 5:21; Romans 13:9). The human heart is constantly seeking to please itself, and when it discovers something or someone it believes will satisfy, lust begins.

It is only when our hearts are dedicated to the glory of God that we can overcome intrusive desires and conquer lust. When we surrender to the Lord, we find our needs met in a relationship with Him. We must “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We must allow the Holy Spirit to keep our thoughts where He wants them to be. It helps to pray daily the words of Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” When our heart’s desire is to please God more than ourselves, we can keep lust at bay.

The phrase “lust of the eyes” is found in 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” What is this “lust of the eyes”?

Simply put, the lust of the eyes is the desire to possess what we see or to have those things which have visual appeal. This coveting of money, possessions, or other physical things is not from God, but from the world around us. John emphasizes that these physical things do not last; they will pass away. In contrast, the child of God is guaranteed eternity.

The Ten Commandments addressed the lust of the eyes in its prohibition against coveting. Exodus 20:17 commands, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Coveting can include a desire to have people, possessions, or status.

Satan uses the lust of the eyes as one avenue of temptation. Part of the reason Eve listened to the serpent in the Garden was that she looked at the forbidden fruit and saw that it was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6). Satan used a visual image to help entrap her. Satan tried a similar tactic on Jesus. One of his temptations in the wilderness was an attempt to make Jesus covet earthly power. Satan used a visual: he “showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matthew 4:8). He then promised to give them to Jesus—for a price. Of course, Jesus did not succumb to the lust of the eyes, and Satan was defeated (verses 10 and 11).

We must follow Jesus’ example and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, resist the lust of the eyes. The world is full of “eye candy,” glamor, and gaudiness. Materialism beckons with its promise of happiness and fulfillment. A media-saturated society bombards us with advertising campaigns that might as well say, “Covet this!”

All that glitters is not gold, and the child of God knows that fame, fortune, and finery quickly fade (Proverbs 23:5). Our focus is not the newest product or latest fashion. Our goal is not to keep up with the Joneses or to surround ourselves with the trappings of glittering magnificence. Instead, our goal is “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Our eyes are set on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Our view is to eternity.

Cecil Alexander, the Irish hymnist, said it this way:

“Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store;
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, ‘Christian, love Me more.’”

What is lust?

The dictionary definition of lust is “1) intense or unrestrained sexual craving, or 2) an overwhelming desire or craving.” The Bible speaks of lust in several ways. Exodus 20:14, 17 (NLT), “Do not commit adultery. . . Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns,” or Matthew 5:28, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Job 31:11-12 (NLT) sums up lust quite nicely: “For lust is a shameful sin, a crime that should be punished. It is a devastating fire that destroys to hell. It would wipe out everything I own.”

Lust has as its focus pleasing oneself, and it often leads to unwholesome actions to fulfill one’s desires with no regard to the consequences. Lust is about possession and greed. The Christian faith is about selflessness and is marked by holy living (Romans 6:19, 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30, 6:19-20; Ephesians 1:4, 4:24; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, 5:23; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). The goal of each person who has put his/her faith in Jesus Christ is to become more and more like Him each day. This means putting off the old way of life of which sin was in control, and conforming one’s thoughts and actions to the standard put forth in Scripture. Lust is in opposition to this ideal.

Nobody will ever be perfect or attain sinlessness while still on this earth, yet it is still a goal for which we strive. The Bible makes a very strong statement regarding this in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, “God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” If lust has not yet gripped your heart and mind, ready yourself through a life lived above reproach to combat the temptations of lust. If you currently struggle with lust, it is time to come clean before God and ask for His intervention in your life, so that holiness can be a mark of your life as well.

Today I want to reach out to every Christian who faces peer pressure in the work place, community and even our churches. But especially I want to reach out to the younger generation, of Christians, who face peer pressure in our communities, schools and universities.

Why do we face peer pressure? The Bible clearly tells us that we should not expect our lives to look like the lives of other people (unbelievers) in this world. As Christians, we are aliens and strangers here on earth (1 Peter 2:11), and this world is not our home. Just as Christ was rejected—and still is—by so many who want to live life their own, ungodly way, we will also find the same types of people despising us for our faith.

In the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of how we are to know we are Christians. One of the points he emphasizes (see verse 6) is the fact that we should have joy despite suffering. We should expect to encounter trials and persecution as Christians, yet be comforted with the fact that God is in control and will repay any wrongs that are committed against us. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul talks about the troubles this church was continuing to face. He told them that when Christ returns and God judges the world, God “will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well” (1:6-7). Although many Christians will never face suffering as extreme as the Thessalonians did, or even those living in modern-day Sudan who are killed for their faith, we still suffer in smaller ways, such as the torture of peer pressure.

What does the Bible say about dealing with peer pressure? The Bible never uses the words “peer pressure,” but it does tell us how we should deal with the many trials we will face in our lives, especially those involving unbelievers. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:14-16 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

1 Peter 1:13-21 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”

The Bible also tells us that we can trust that God will work all things together for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). However, the Bible does not promise us an easy life, but a life that glorifies God as we learn lessons that are difficult and overcome attacks from Satan that would be impossible to overcome without God. We are being “conformed to the likeness of [Christ]” as God changes us through all our life (Romans 8:29-30). Be comforted that Christ Himself was tempted in every way we have been; He understands how difficult it is. Yet, the Bible promises us that God will provide a way of escape from every trial (1 Corinthians 10:13). Put your complete trust and faith in God. Let Him alone be your strength (Philippians 4:13) and your guide (Psalm 23).

Peer pressure will be a fleeting thing in our lives. Peer pressure is largely about insecurity and a desire for acceptance for all involved. Most people eventually realize that intimidating others to feel important is manipulative and immature. Those who have been followers will usually realize it is more important to make their own decisions and be their own person than to be controlled by someone else. We must not give in to peer pressure, whatever the situation. Standing up for what we believe and what the Bible teaches will please God. Throughout history, those who have been unafraid to stand on unpopular beliefs have been the ones to change the world and make things happen. There is so much in this world that we need to change, and so many people who need to be told about Christ. Letting other people decide what we do and how we behave is exactly what Satan hopes we will do; if we never stand up for what is right because of peer pressure, we are actually standing up for what is wrong.