In a recent message, Responding to a worldly Christian, we discussed the definition of worldliness according to 1 John 2:15-17. In that passage, we saw that worldliness includes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We also saw that worldliness has bad results: It replaces our love for God, makes us an enemy of God, and pollutes our lives. We have already discussed the lust of the flesh. Today, I would like us to consider some modern examples of another part of worldliness.
The second phrase used to describe worldliness is “the lust of the eyes.” The first part of the phrase is lust. The Greek word translated as lust is ἐπιθυμία. It is defined as “desire, longing (in contexts where the desire is positive and proper); coveting, craving, lusting (in contexts where the desire is immoral and sinful).”1 “Simply put, the lust of the eyes is the sinful desire to possess what we see or to have those things which have visual appeal.”2 While the lust of the eyes may lead to the lust of the flesh, it always begins with the eyes and the mind. It is a sinful longing that begins by looking and often leads to sinful thoughts and actions.
- Bible principles about our eyes
Before we look too deeply into the subject, let’s look at three principles about the lust of the flesh. These will help guide our thoughts and our eyes.
Don’t desire what someone else has (Ex. 20:17).
Don’t let what you desire determine what is right (Judg. 17:6; 1 Kings 15:5).
Don’t desire what will never really satisfy (Prov. 27:20).
As you can see, the Lord wants us to avoid the lusts that come from our eyes. If we were to follow these biblical principles, we would do much better in resisting it.
- Bible examples of worldly eyes
Throughout the history of the world, men and women have struggled with and often given in to the temptations associated with the lust of the eyes. The Bible records many examples where what the person saw led to a longing for what was not best and usually sinful.
Eve – She saw and longed for the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6).
Lot – He saw and longed for the well-watered plain (Gen. 13:10).
Potiphar’s wife – She saw and longed for Joseph (Gen. 39:7).
Samson – He saw and longed for an ungodly woman (Judg. 14:1-2).
Solomon – He saw and enjoyed whatever pleased him (Eccl. 2:10).
False teachers – They saw and longed for adultery (2 Pet. 2:14).
These biblical examples show us that other people have been tempted by what they saw. But their temptations were from long ago. Are these the same things we face today? Unfortunately, not much has changed.
- Modern examples of worldly eyes
Christians are not immune to the lust of the eyes. Each of us has experienced the longing that comes from seeing something with our eyes. While our temptations may be different, we have probably been tempted by one or more of the following things seen with our eyes.
We see people enjoying popularity.
We see people enjoying wealth.
We see people enjoying drugs and alcohol.
We see people enjoying sexual promiscuity.
What we see is not always reality. Those who are popular, wealthy, intoxicated, or promiscuous are not necessarily content. The lives of the rich and famous are filled with unhappy marriages, ruined health, and a desire to be alone.
- Bible wisdom about our eyes
God gives prohibition against things that are not good for us. But He also gives us reasons for avoiding sinful practices and advice on how to keep from giving in. Let’s look at three wise statements about our eyes.
Determine not to look (Job 31:1; Prov. 4:25).
Realize that what you see will not satisfy you (Prov. 23:5; Eccl. 5:10-11).
Don’t let your eyes ruin your life (Matt. 18:9).
What is more important to resisting the lust of the eyes: the mind or the eyes? I propose that it is the mind. If we are guarding our mind, we will choose not to look. Or, if something comes into view, we determine to look away and not dwell on it. We do this because we want to please the Lord and realize that his warnings are for our good.
Seeing something with your eyes is not necessarily a sin. As you go through life, you will see television advertisements, billboards, store fronts, and people living their lives. At times what you see will be a temptation to you. But when you take your eyes off of what is pleasing to the Lord and begin looking for satisfaction outside of what God says is best for you, then it becomes a problem. When what you see becomes a constant focus which takes you away from a God-honoring lifestyle, you then have a problem.
So, this week, as you go through life and see things, look away from things that cause you to lust. Turn your eyes, instead, to things that will keep you on the right path. Look at good things. Look at the devastation caused by the lust of the flesh and keep yourself from it.
Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Epistles of John, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1991, p. 102.
Mounce, Bill, “Greek Dictionary” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary on 6/11/2023.
“What is the lust of the eyes?” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/lust-of-the-eyes.html on 6/11/2023.