What does the Bible mean by “the lust of the eyes”? Is it wrong for us to look at anything and desire it? Or does this mean something else? Recently I was sent this article – http://www.faithfulwordbaptist.org/lust.html – to review from one of my blog readers, it is an essay by Pastor Steven Anderson, the Pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Temple AZ.
The phrase “the lust of the eyes” occurs one time in the Bible, and it comes to us in the first epistle of John.
“15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
I John 2:15-17(KJV)
I don’t mean to say that just because the phrase occurs only one time that it is not important. There are many great truths in Scriptures that occur in only one or two passages. But the key is to understand what this phrase means.
Let’s be clear from the start, the Bible never defines what “the lust of the eyes” is.
So this brings us to Pastor Anderson and his sermon – “The Lust of the Eyes”. I also want to say that in no way am I questioning Pastor Anderson’s salvation, or his genuine desire to please God. But just as Paul withstood Peter to his face, sometimes we must confront the false teachings of other believers.
Let’s start off with where I agree with Pastor Anderson, before I have to stand against the false teachings that he has mixed with the truth of God’s Word.
Pastor Anderson states his definition of “Lust” as it occurs in the Bible:
“The word “lust” means a very strong, intense desire. It is usually talking about a desire that is out of control, a desire that you can’t control is what lust is or just a very intense, extreme desire. Covetousness is a word that has to do with lust. If you study Romans chapter seven Paul teaches that in the Bible.”
Pastor Anderson’s definition of lust, is actually pretty accurate, especially when he recognizes how Paul ties it to covetousness (Romans 7:7).
So if we take his definition and understand what Lust is, we can also understand what is not lust.
Desiring something, whether it is our favorite food, or perhaps a car we want to buy, or a home we want to buy is not lust.
Pastor Anderson then moves from his definition of general lust, to a more specific definition of “the lust of the eyes”:
“But I think most people understand what the lust of the flesh is. That could be an appetite for food that is out of control. That could be an appetite for fornication. That could be an appetite for committing physical sins of pleasure with your body. But I think many people fail to understand that there is a difference between the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. And just what is the lust of the eyes?
Well, look down at your Bible in Proverbs chapter six as we are reading this in verse 24. It says, “To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” And then look at the next statement. “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”
Now think about this for a moment. Here God is saying not to lust after the beauty of a strange woman, of a wicked woman, of an evil woman.
Now, beauty is a visual aspect. Ok, we are not talking about the flesh here. We are talking about the eyes. We are talking about a man lusting after the beauty of a woman. That is what it says. Look down at your Bible. “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids…
Now, what is this talking about? Lust can be defined, again, as coveting something, desiring something that doesn’t belong to you or, in the case of the lust of the eyes, it is coveting and desiring to look at something that you should not be looking at.”
This is where my disagreements with Pastor Anderson begin. He basically says that Proverbs 6:24 says that God says you cannot even look at the beauty of a woman “strange women” (i.e. a whore or prostitute). The verse says we should not “lust after her beauty” in our hearts.
Let me point out a very important truth here:
Pastor Anderson has just made the jump from “Lust” being in his own words “a very intense, extreme desire. Covetousness“ to “desiring to look at something that you should not be looking at.”
Lust in the Scriptures is always a strong and insatiable desire to possess something, or someone that you could not possess, or should not possess.
Proverbs 6:24 is NOT saying men have to walk with their eyes pointed at the ground every time they see a beautiful woman. It is not saying every time that a man sees a beautiful woman on television that he must avert his eyes.
Proverbs 6:24 IS saying we are not to desire to possess the beauty of a wicked and loose woman (whether she be a wayward wife or a prostitute). Can someone possess beauty? Absolutely! Do you realize some men marry women only for their outward beauty, knowing they may never have a close relationship, knowing the woman is a viper on the inside?
But I also think it is highly likely that “beauty” here in Proverbs 6:24, is simply a symbol of the woman herself, to possess her physically, and bodily.
Again the word “look” is nowhere in this passage – remember that fact, the word is “lust” (an insatiable desire to take possession of something or someone we cannot).
Another thing to point out is, “the lust of the eyes” is not simply talking about sexual lust. Other examples of “the lust of the eyes” is when we lust after things that other people have. Whether it is the home they have, or perhaps their car, their furniture or artwork they have in their home. For ladies “the lust of the eyes” might be looking at other women’s clothing with an intense desire to possess the clothing they have.
Are there some things we should not even look at?
Even though I disagree with Pastor Anderson’s interpretation of Proverbs 6:24, I don’t disagree with the Biblical concept that there are some evil things we should not set before our eyes. I just don’t see Proverbs 6:24 as teaching that we can’t even look at a beautiful woman, and even appreciate the beauty of a woman, unless she is our wife.
The right verse (which he also mentions in his post) speaking to looking at evil things is from Psalms:
“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.”
So I have just argued that it is not a sin, and it is not lust simply to look at the beauty of a woman, even the beauty of a wicked woman. I would even argue that it is not a sin to look at the beauty of a good woman who is single or another man’s wife.
Sin happens comes when we go from looking to lusting, when we have an insatiable to desire to physically possess the beauty of a woman that we have no right to.
But there are some things we should not even look at. An example would be pornography. We should not be looking at images that depict sexually immoral acts. Another example might be Satanic books and books about sorcery and witchcraft (we see in Acts 19:19 that believers brought these kinds of books and burned them).
What about Job 31:1?
Pastor Anderson talks about nakedness but I am going to leave that for a separate upcoming post. I want to close this post by looking at his reference to Job 31:1:
“Job said it this way. He said, “I made a covenant with mine eyes.” He said, “I made a deal with my eyes.” “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”
He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes and said, ‘You are going to look at what I tell you to look at. And you are not going to look at women that are dressed indecent. You are not going to look at another man’s wife. You are not going to look at these images that Hollywood and TV will portray for you.”
Job says nothing about the way a woman is dressed, he says nothing here about looking at another man’s wife. He says nothing about looking at images of women (in his day it would have been paintings or sculptures). He does not state any of these things Pastor Anderson mentions.
In Job 31:1 the word “think”, could also be “to perceive and look at”. So then some might say “ha – he is saying we can’t even look at a young women!” Can anyone say with a straight face they think Job was saying he never looked at any young women, that every time a young woman came by that he averted his eyes? Such an idea would be ridiculous and we find no such example in the Scriptures.
The fact is that nowhere in all of Scripture do we see the Bible condemning a man for simply looking at a woman. We also never see sexual arousal being condemned in Scripture. What is condemned is lust, which is covetousness. It is what we do after we look, even after we may be aroused by the sight of a beautiful woman. Do we begin to contemplate in our heads how we can get that woman to have sex with us outside of marriage?
What Job was NOT saying
Based on the totality of the Scriptures Here is what we know job was not saying.
1. We know Job was NOT saying it was a sin for him to look at a young virgin.
2. We know that Job was NOT saying it was sin for him to be aroused by the beauty of a young woman. In fact it would not even be wrong if he wanted to marry a young woman.
What Job WAS saying in Job 31:1
That leaves us with only one possibility of what Job was actually saying about his thoughts regarding young virgins:
He would not think about how to seduce a young virgin into having sex with him outside of marriage (as so many men around him probably did).
Speaking of virginity, people often wonder why God was so serious about a woman’s virginity in the Bible, and they often look at it as God being harsh toward women. No! God was protecting women from men who would take advantage of them. One of the many reasons God wants men and women to wait for sex in marriage, is so that a woman is protected, and any children that might come from her having sex would be protected and provided for. Our society is paying a heavy financial toll for ignoring God’s commands regarding virginity and premarital sex.
Lusting is not the same as looking – please remember that truth. Men are visual creatures, much more so than women typically are. As men, God has given us our sexuality, and even our visual sexuality, as a gift. No Christian man should be ashamed of the fact that he receives pleasure every time he sees a beautiful woman.
Please here me out Christian man. Examine the Scriptures for yourself. God did not give you your eyes and a male brain that is capable of appreciating and receiving pleasure from the sight of female beauty, only to tell you that you must look away in shame every time you feel pleasure at the site of a beautiful woman.
He did not give your eyes to appreciate only one woman, that being your future wife. Not one passage of Scripture ever states this concept, no matter how many times Pastors repeat it over and over, and many Christian authors repeat this mantra in their marriage books.
As I have said multiple times on this site, God designed men as polygynous beings and that is why we are naturally attracted to a variety of women. I know that conflicts with our modern monogamous-only marriage society, but regardless, it is the truth. Look at the articles on this site, detailing the polygyny of the Biblical patriarchs.
In upcoming articles, I will address some of the other issues he raises such as the topic of nudity, mixed gender swimming, what we watch on TV and male gynecologists.