READ: Job 31
THINK: This chapter is a part of Job’s defense. His so-called friends have surrounded him in his darkest hour of need and informed him confidently that he is suffering so many horrible things because of his rebellion against God. Job is pretty convincing in his defense of his life and the righteous way in which he lived it. He cared for the poor, he treated people with respect, he never cheated on his wife, and he was honest in all of his business dealings. And while that list leaves Job in a more righteous place than a lot of people out there, it may well be one that you look at and think, “Yeah, me too…at least for the most part.” But Job also makes a pretty cool statement in this chapter about the way he lived his life that stands out as kind of radical – He says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a woman.”
When Job says that he’s making a bold declaration about what it means to live a godly life. He is saying that it isn’t just about the outside. It isn’t just about the stuff that people can see and that people can clearly realize in your interactions with them. It’s about the heart and the mind as well. Being who God calls us to be means not just living for him when somebody is looking. It means taking our thoughts captive and not letting sin reign in our minds. Because the harsh reality of life is that whatever fills up our minds eventually fills up our actions. As the old adage goes: our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, our actions become our habits, our habits become our character, our character becomes our destiny.
And I think that one of the most difficult areas for people in 21st Century America to turn over completely to God in their minds is the exact one that Job addressed in this chapter – lust and sexuality. We are bombarded with sexual imagery in advertisements, shown consequence-free sexual encounters more than 3 times per hour on network television, inundated with innuendo in popular music, movies, and magazines, and we exist in a world where we are never more than a few clicks away from internet pornography. There are a number of people who think this is no big deal and not a problem at all. There are others who know their lust is wrong but don’t believe it really hurts anybody. Still more understand the devastating personal and relational consequences – confirmed by Christian and secular biologists, psychologists and more – but just think they can dabble in lust from time to time without those thoughts ultimately taking them captive.
The statistics about pornography use and addiction in the United States today are absolutely overwhelming. I wont post them in detail here but you can look them up – and get great resources for overcoming online struggles – at xxxchurch.com. The average age of first exposure to pornography for American kids is now around 11 years old. Here’s what all of this means: This problem is real and prevalent and inescapable in our culture. You will be tempted to let lust consume you. And my heart breaks for a generation of young men – and to a lesser but quickly growing extent young women – who have let it take root deep within them and who have already seen thoughts become habits that affect their character and destiny.
If you get only one thing out of Job 31 today, let it be this (whether as a young person who hasn’t encountered this yet, as one who is struggling, or as a parent, mentor, or leader others) lust has the power to destroy your life and relationships and keep you from being the person God created you to be and making the difference he calls you to make. There are few decisions you can make in 21st century America that are more important and critical than making a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully at another person. I had a friend in college who taped those words “I have made a covenant with my eyes…” to his computer screen. Make the covenant! Get accountability! Rely on God! Rely on community! It is not easy in this day and age, but we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
PRAY: Make a covenant with God that you will take lustful thoughts captive and ask him to help you be pure. Also, in the broader spirit of Job 31, take some time to confess the times when you’ve let your faith be skin deep – trying to look good for others but not giving God your thoughts and your whole heart. Ask for forgiveness and tell God he can have all of you – not just the parts that other people see.