What the Bible says about
Lust of the Eyes
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Worldliness has been described as the love of beauty without a corresponding love of righteousness. This is correct, and comes right out of the “original sin” story that is told in Genesis 3:6.
Eve saw that the fruit was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and something to be desired. These three references concern the appeal of beauty. Unfortunately, as the record clearly shows, Adam and Eve did not love righteousness. Also contained in this sin are inferences of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17).
The love of beauty and the pulls of temptation are inextricably entwined. People do not ordinarily desire ugly things. We have been made by Almighty God to love beauty and to seek it out even though no one's notion of beauty is exactly the same.
Beauty is being used in a very broad sense, simply as a term for things that are appealing and have the power to create desire within us. Thus, we desire things we deem beautiful, but the problem is that we do not have a corresponding love of righteousness, like Adam and Eve. We will break the laws of God in order to have what we consider beautiful. Sometimes people commit vicious evils to have what they find appealing and beautiful at the time.
Beauty is what is delightful to the senses, gratifying, and evokes admiration and excitement within a person. Therein lies its danger, and it does not matter what one finds delight in.
The result of having a love of beauty without a corresponding love of righteousness is, rather than dressing and keeping as we are commanded to do in Genesis 2, that we use and abuse. Unfortunately, much of this abuse is to our own body.
Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, the most beautiful spot on earth, because they did not love righteousness. This is a seriously simple, powerful lesson! The beauty was there to behold, even the beauty of the forbidden fruit, luring them. Did God put it there to tempt them into sin? No! He put it there for them to admire and bring glory to the Creator God in their rightful use of it. Instead, they abused their privilege because they did not love righteousness, and the beauty was taken away from them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The person condemned by Jesus here deliberately uses his eyes to awaken and stimulate his lust. It is difficult enough to avoid lusting after natural things, but many things in this world are deliberately designed to awaken wrong desires. If certain books, pictures, magazines, movies, places, activities, or people tempt us to lust, we must avoid them, regardless of the cost. Not sinning is that important!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)
Today we live in cultures that lure people into a spiritual stupor that gradually desensitizes people to true spiritual and moral values. Jesus warns that the time would come when, because lawlessness abounds, the love of many in the church would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). He also warns through Paul that in this time people would be so perverse as to be without even natural affection (II Timothy 3:3). We live in those times, and it requires a clear vision and a steadfast conduct to avoid being sucked into following the worldly crowd. God has given our cultures over to allowing the carnal mind to spend itself on continuous sensation-seeking stimulation. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are virtually running wild.
One paraphrase of Romans 1:28 changed the term "reprobate mind" (KJV; debased mind, NKJV) to "degrading passions seeking stimulation." Another rendered it as "irrational stimulation resulting in monstrous behavior." Without a strong resistance to this almost unrelenting pressure, such stimulation will gradually produce a stupor, an apathy, an unfeeling indifference toward the highest priorities of life, that is, our relationships with God and fellow man. If a person does not defend himself against lawlessness, he will lose his God-given love. A Christian must guard himself strongly against becoming caught up in the stupor-inducing spirit of the times of which Paul forewarns us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)
On the physical level, a finely aged wine is obviously preferable to a new wine. One year at the Feast of Tabernacles, I had the rare opportunity to sample a Bordeaux bottled in the late 1970s or early 80s. Suffice it to say that the wine's depth and complexity of flavors would put to profound shame anything bottled recently.
Curiously, though, in this parable, the new wine is the one that is to be preferred! This may seem incongruous at first, until we remember what these things represent. The new wine of Christ's sacrifice, of the New Covenant, and of God's Spirit being poured out on us is infinitely more valuable than anything before conversion. Whether the old wine represents physical abundance or the headiness of what Babylon entices us with constantly, nothing can be compared to the new wine—if we have God's Spirit.
However, because we are still human, and the old man still remains in us to some degree, at times the old wine seems better. The old wine seems more gratifying to the senses. Before conversion, we certainly had no interest in this new wine because the old wine suited us just fine, even if it was making us miserable. Even after conversion, we sometimes reach for the old wine.
When we are under that influence, we do not find the new wine appealing because we are hooked on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). It requires spiritual sobriety to recognize the true blessing of the new wine, but we cannot do that easily—if at all—when the old wine is on our palate. It is only in abstaining from the old wine that we can truly appreciate the uniqueness and superiority of the new.
David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine
One might say, "There are so many temptations out there. The whole world is evil. How do we avoid them?" James gives us some ideas, hints, clues, and instruction. First, he tells us that we will face temptation. We cannot avoid it because deception, evil, will come looking for us and especially because we are God's children. Satan is looking to devour us (I Peter 5:8). We will be the targets of his onslaughts of temptation throughout our Christian lives, and we must be ready to face them! But, if we get through them, then we reach our goal—the Kingdom of God, where we have a crown of life waiting for us. We have that assurance and faith in what God has promised us.
Then James says, "God does not tempt us." The apostle says that we are tempted when our desires lure us away. The process can then intensify if we are not strong enough, leading to sin and ultimately to death—the second death, not just physical death. We can be deceived right out of our crown if we are not careful, if we are not strong. (This process of temptation is similar to modern advertising. It works the same way because the same "spirit" is behind it.)
Then James says, in verse 16, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." This is a hint that what he has just said tells us something important about not being deceived. He has just told us that God never entices—tempts—us to accept His way by promising to satisfy our desires. Instead, we are enticed when our desires lead us to sin. God never tempts us to follow our physical desires for self-gratification.
One might argue: "Wait a second. Doesn't He promise us long life? Isn't that a physical desire? Doesn't He promise us health? Doesn't He promise us prosperity? And that our enemies won't overtake us? Doesn't He promise us all of these things?"
But what does He also say when He makes those promises? In almost every occasion, He says, "If you will keep My commandments, then I will. . . ." He always puts a condition on His promises. "If you keep My commandments," then such-and-such will happen. Many of these blessings or fulfillments of His promises—if not all of them—happen because that is how God designed them to happen. Sure, God intervenes to a certain extent in order to work out His purpose, but, like a spiritual law of the universe, if we keep God's commandments, certain things are bound to result.
If we keep God's commandments, we will probably be healthy. If we keep God's commandments, we will live long lives. What does the first commandment with promise say? If we honor our fathers and mothers, then we will live long in the land that the LORD gives us. It is A + B = C. What does the Bible call it? A person will reap what he has sown (Galatians 6:7)! It is cause and effect. So, if we keep the commandments, then there are certain blessings that just automatically accrue to us.
Oftentimes, because God is working with us so closely, He does not fulfill these physical promises to their extremes. He will give them to us as much as we need them or as much as is within His purpose at the time. He is working something greater for us than just satisfying our physical wants or even needs.
What does James say next? The next two verses key us in on the thrust of James' thought. He says, 1) God gives good gifts, and He never changes. So His good gifts are always the same. Next, he says, 2) that He has made us a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. We must put those two ideas together. Why does God give good gifts? To make us His children! This is what He is always thinking about. His purpose is focused on reproducing Himself!
He calls us and converts us by His truth for the purpose of making us His children. All of His gifts are good, and they never change. They are always geared towards His godly ends. All of His gifts are for our ultimate, spiritual good—to make us like Him. Blessings, then, are a byproduct of His way. His good gifts are all leading us toward our entrance into the Kingdom of God and not the satisfying of our physical desires.
How can we apply this? If we understand that God will give us what is good for us, what will advance us towards the Kingdom of God, then what does this say about false teachers? How can we avoid the deception? The clue is that if anyone tries to sell us a belief in which our physical desires are going to be met, then we have a strong reason to believe that the teaching is false.
God will not use that tactic. He will not say, "Follow Me, and you will have a good life. Everything is going to come up roses for you." Instead, He often tells us such things as, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). Does that sound like "the good life"?
How do we get through this life? By lurching from one trial to the next! Is that not how we are refined? By fire! By trial! By going from one problem to the next and overcoming it. That is just how God's way works because He knows that the best way to produce sons of God is the same way the Son of God achieved His glory. Hebrews 2:10 says that Jesus Christ was made "perfect through suffering."
God is not interested in this life except for what it will produce in the next. This life is a training ground. When, say, a soldier trains, he goes through the paces at boot camp. He is made to follow a regimen. He works hard until he hurts. This life is God's boot camp. Right now, we are in training like an athlete. And no athlete worth his salt lounges, plays, and lives the good life while he is in training.
So James gives us good instruction on how to avoid being deceived. When something is "too good to be true," it is probably not true.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Temptation is an appeal to think or do something contrary to God's law. We are drawn away from truth, virtue, and God's standard of righteousness.
In this context, desires are forces of attraction in the wrong direction: We long for it, crave it, covet it, want it. We are enticed or attracted when we are offered hope of reward or pleasure (e.g., food, drink, sex, money, drugs, entertainment).
The verbs "drawn away" and "enticed" derive from the activities of fishing and hunting. "Enticed" usually describes the drawing of fish out of their original retreat. We are tantalized, as fish are with bait. What is on the end of a fishing line? A LURE! James pictures man's desire first attracting his attention and persuading him to approach the forbidden thing, and second, luring him by means of bait to yield to the temptation.
Another analogy that illustrates the force of enticement is that of a magnet. If one places a small piece of iron close to a magnet, invisible forces reach out from the magnet to attract the iron. By moving the piece of iron a little closer, the attraction intensifies. Nudge the iron still closer, and the magnet will draw it all the way to itself. The closer one moves to a desired thing or the more one's interest grows, the greater and greater the pull becomes.
Who does the luring and enticing? Who does the tempting? Paul calls Satan "the Tempter" in I Thessalonians 3:5: "The tempter had tempted you." "Tempter" is the present participle of the Greek word peirazo, which basically means "to tempt." When preceded by an article, it literally means "the (one) tempting." Satan uses temptation to entice us into sin (Matthew 4:1). James 4:7 says, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Following Christ's example in Matthew 4:1-11, we should strongly resist the temptations of Satan, causing him to flee from us.
Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?
1 John 2:15-16
These verses are a basic guideline to the alluring heart of the Babylonish system. This system has its basis in human nature. It feeds right into our desire for frequent change and variety of experience as the answer to fulfillment in life, but the Bible clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness.
Babylon promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement and gratification of the flesh, and variety of experience. These major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose. People do not know where they are going. They are bouncing in every different direction. There is competition, hitting heads with one another. There is disunity and diversity everywhere. There is disharmony, fighting with one's neighbor. There is separation from each other and eventually from God and ultimately the separation of death. The result is that the world is not a happy place to live in.
None of these factors that are part of the allurement of Babylon can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, abundant living, and purpose in life because none of them is in constant harmony with the purpose of God. Each of these things, though they may not be sin of and by themselves, can only produce a temporary burst of well-being.
Many, many times, God instructed Israel against this proclivity. They were to seek out only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. But Israel is disastrously curious and terribly smitten with the discontented, unsettled, impatient "grass is always greener" disease.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Seven)
1 John 2:15-17
These verses present a simplified illustration. Mankind is faced with two choices: On the one hand is the way of life that God proscribes for man, and on the other are the physical "benefits" that seem to be his if God is not in the picture. Without a divine Lawgiver in the picture, man would be free to pursue whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it, and to whatever extent.
According to commentator Adam Clarke, the lust of the flesh refers to "sensual and impure desires which seek their gratification in women, strong drink, delicious [foods], and the like." The lust of the eyes indicates "inordinate desires after finery of every kind, gaudy dress, splendid houses, superb furniture, expensive equipage, trappings, and decorations of all sorts." The pride of life implies "hunting after honors, titles, and pedigrees; boasting of ancestry, family connections, great offices, and honorable acquaintance."
The world has these things to offer; they are the glittering gems that seem out of one's reach when constrained by laws and rules. Why should a man let anyone tell him what to do? Why should he be required to abide by laws? Why can he not live by his own rules? They are good enough for him, so they should be good enough for everyone else. These arguments have convinced mankind to reject the Creator God in favor of an ideology that utterly lacks proof but gives a certain peace of mind—that man is in control of his own destiny and that nobody is going to tell him what to do!
David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means
1 John 2:16
The apostle John notes three powerful pulls that must be controlled. These, he says, are not of the Father but of the world, therefore they are not part of the standard that we must strive to live according to. If we follow them, we will continue to be conformed to the world.
Our eyes make us the recipients of a multitude of impressions. Many of them can excite us to desire something evil, and if we are complacent, we can be trapped in a sin almost without thinking. That is precisely the problem! We must be thinking to control what we have power and responsibility over and turn from such things as if a hot poker were about to be jabbed into our eyes! When Joseph was about to be lured into sin, he ran, controlling his own part in that unfolding drama (Genesis 39:11-12).
The body and mind possess appetites and needs that can easily lead to sinful excesses if not controlled. They can lead any of us away in a hundred different directions from the supreme devotion to Him that He desires for our good. Note the senseless luxury of this present generation, the exaggerated care of the physical body, and the intemperance in eating and drinking, which are a curse and shame on America! Our culture has molded us to seek ample provision for the flesh and material comforts far beyond our needs, drowning the spirit and producing needless anxieties. We have to learn to subordinate the drive to satisfy these insatiable appetites so they do not master us and lead us into sin.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control
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