Let’s Talk About Pornography
Pornography. It’s taboo in the church, but not nearly so in the culture. Pornography use has grown rapidly since the dawn of the internet age, and that growth has continued to exponentially increase with the prevalence of smartphones. Along with that increase, cultural trends show that pornography is seen as more morally acceptable – either morally neutral or even morally good – than at any point in our history. But dangers persist, significant dangers, because pornography is clearly outside of God’s good plan for human flourishing. So it’s time we talk about pornography.
A few quick numbers for you, from Mission Frontiers in 2020:
- The pornography industry’s annual revenue is more than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined. It’s also more than the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC.
- There are around 42 million pornography websites, totaling around 370 million individual pages (numbers that have surely increased since 2020).
- The average age that a child is first exposed to pornography is age 11. 94% of children will see pornography by the age of 14.
- 55% of married men and 25% of married women say they watch pornography at least once a month.
According to a Gallup poll from 2018,
- 43% of Americans now see pornography as “morally acceptable,” including
- 50% of nonmarried individuals,
- 53% of all men,
- 32% of all women,
- 67% of men, age 18-40,
- 59% of all people, age 18-34, and
- 22% of those for whom religion is “very important.”
Here’s the problem with all of that: it runs entirely contrary to God’s good design for marriage, for sex, for human flourishing. Like many other things in society, our culture is increasing in acceptability of pornography while burying its collective head in the sand about the harm it does to families, individuals, and society as a whole. From the Mission Frontiers article,
- 56% of American divorces involved one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites.
- On top of that, of the marriages that are ended due to infidelity, pornography also often plays a role—pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%.
That’s not even to mention the connection that often exists between the pornography industry and drug use, sex trafficking, and modern-day slavery.
Brothers and sisters, this is a major problem in our society, and it’s a major problem in our churches.
- 70% of youth pastors in America report they’ve had at least one teen come to them for help in dealing with pornography in the past 12 months.
- 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis.
- 33% of women aged 25 and under search for porn at least once per month.
- 69% of pastors say pornography use has adversely impacted their churches.
WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?
So now, the important question – what does God’s Word say about it?
While Scripture never uses the word “pornography,” it does speak quite often about the root cause—lustful desires, the pursuit of pleasure, the dishonoring of sex and marriage, and ultimately pride and idolatry.
To consider Scripture’s testimony in this area, Proverbs 5 provides a great snapshot of the biblical perspective on sex. Proverbs 5 both encourages us to enjoy sex in the context of a marriage relationship (Proverbs 5:15–19), and it warns against pursuing sexual pleasure apart from one’s own spouse (Proverbs 5:1–14, 20–23).
From Proverbs 5 and in regard to pornography, we need to know that “the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey … but in the end she is bitter as wormwood.” We need to know that “her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life.” Therefore, Proverbs 5 instructs us: “Keep your ways far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.”
So what do we do? Let’s close with four strategies for the fight:
SET UP BOUNDARIES
For any who struggle with this issue, or who have struggled with this in the past, it starts with applying Proverbs 5:8. Keep your way far from pornography. Do not go near it. Set up boundaries. Use tools that help you block certain content from your web browser and streaming services. Do whatever it takes to not go near.
ENLIST THE HELP OF OTHERS
Additionally, we need each other. Much like we have seen recently in our study of the book of Hebrews, we need one another’s help in the fight against sin’s deceitfulness. Likewise, James 5 tells us to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” We need to be willing to bring others into the fight with us. Enlist trusted friends to help you (accountability software programs like Covenant Eyes are designed to help with this). Additionally, your pastors are always here and always ready to help you in this fight. We weren’t made to fight sin alone. To defeat this sin struggle and any sin struggle, we need honest conversations filled with compassion and conviction.
ENLIST THE HELP OF GOD
In all of this, we need to pray. If you’re not in the fight, pray for your brothers and sisters who are engaged in this battle. If you are one who is struggling, you need to know that you need the help of God every day. Our battle, Ephesians 6 tells us, is not against flesh and blood. This is a spiritual battle, and prayer is the means of calling in divine help for the fight.
REMEMBER THE GOSPEL
Finally, every step along the way we need to remember the gospel. This is not a sin that is deeper than the ocean of God’s mercy. Micah 7:19 tells us that God “will tread our iniquities underfoot” and “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” All of our sins. Even this sin. We need to remember that no matter the sin, God’s grace is greater still.
Romans 8 tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That truth helps us to receive with grace the confession from a brother or sister who is asking us for help in the fight, that truth is the message that we encourage one another with in the struggle, and that truth is the message that we remind ourselves of daily, no matter what our sin struggles may be, because that truth is the truth that God uses to cleanse us from all sin and set us walking on the path of righteousness.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.