AS THE ancient Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan River into the land that God had promised them, some visitors showed up. The visitors were foreign women who invited the men to a feast. It could have seemed like a rare opportunity. Making new friends, dancing, and eating a good meal could be most appealing. Though the customs and morals of those women were not what God’s Law directed to Israel, some Israelite men may have thought: ‘We can handle it. We will be careful.’
What happened? The inspired account tells us: “The people started to commit sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab.” Actually, the women wanted those Israelite men to worship false gods. And they did! Understandably, “Jehovah became enraged with Israel.”—Num. 25:1-3.
Those Israelites broke God’s Law in two ways: They bowed down to idols, and they committed sexual immorality. Thousands died for their disobedience. (Ex. 20:4, 5, 14; Deut. 13:6-9) What added to the pain of this tragedy? The timing. Had the men not broken God’s Law, those thousands of Israelites would soon have crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.—Num. 25:5, 9.
Regarding those events, the apostle Paul wrote: “These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come.” (1 Cor. 10:7-11) No doubt Satan was delighted that some of those Israelites fell into serious sin and thereby were not qualified to enter the Promised Land. How wise it would be for us to take that warning to heart, knowing that Satan would like nothing better than to prevent us from entering God’s new world!
A DANGEROUS TRAP
Satan preys on Christians, using tactics that he knows well and that have worked with many people. As noted earlier with the Israelites, he used immoral sex. In our time, immorality continues to be a dangerous trap. One powerful way that it can overtake us is through pornography.
Today, pornography can often be viewed without others knowing about it. Decades ago, a person who wanted to look at pornography may have had to go to a theater to see inappropriate movies or to adult bookshops to buy pornographic material. The shame of being seen in or near such places likely kept many away. But now, a person with access to the Internet can look at pornography at work or even in a parked car. And in many lands, a man or woman can access pornography without ever leaving the house.
That is not all. Mobile devices have made it easier to look at pornography. As people walk down the street or ride on buses or trains, they can view immoral images on the screen of a handheld device.
Since it has become easier to view pornography and to hide the fact that a person is doing so, pornography causes harm on a greater scale today than in the past. Countless viewers of pornography damage their marriage, personal dignity, and conscience. Worse still, they risk ruining their friendship with God. You would be right to conclude that pornography harms those who view it. In many cases, it inflicts deep emotional wounds. Those wounds may slowly heal but may leave behind long-lasting scars.
We should be aware, though, that Jehovah offers protection from this satanic trap. If we are to have Jehovah’s protection, we must do what the ancient Israelite men failed to do—“strictly obey” him. (Ex. 19:5) We need to recognize that God strongly disapproves of pornography. Why do we say that?
HATE IT—AS JEHOVAH DOES
Reflect on this: God’s laws to the nation of Israel were unique in the ancient world. Like a wall, they could serve to separate Israel from the surrounding peoples and their vile practices. (Deut. 4:6-8) Those laws made clear a vital truth: Jehovah hates sexual immorality.
In listing the perversions of nearby nations, Jehovah told the Israelites: “You must not do what they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. . . . The land is unclean, and I will bring punishment on it for its error.” To the holy God of Israel, the Canaanites’ lifestyle was so foul that the land they lived in had become unclean, contaminated.—Lev. 18:3, 25.
Although Jehovah punished the Canaanites, other people continued to practice sexual immorality. Over 1,500 years later, Paul described the nations in which Christians lived as “having gone past all moral sense.” In fact, “they gave themselves over to brazen conduct to practice every sort of uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph. 4:17-19) Today, too, many people are brazenly immoral. As far as possible, true worshippers must avoid viewing the immoral activities of those in this world.
Pornography is an outrage against God. He created humans in his image and likeness and gave us a sense of decency. Wisely, God placed reasonable limits on sex. It was meant to have a healthy and pleasurable role in marriage. (Gen. 1:26-28; Prov. 5:18, 19) But what are those who produce or promote pornography doing? They are greatly disregarding God’s moral standards. Yes, people who promote pornography reproach Jehovah. God will judge those who ignore his standards by their producing or promoting immoral material.—Rom. 1:24-27.
But what about people who intentionally read or view pornography? Some may feel that it is harmless entertainment. However, they are actually supporting those who disregard Jehovah’s standards. This may not have been their intent when they started viewing pornography. Nevertheless, it is evident that worshippers of the true God should strongly hate pornography. The Bible exhorts: “O you who love Jehovah, hate what is bad.”—Ps. 97:10.
Even those who want to avoid looking at pornography can find this difficult to do. We are imperfect, and we may have to fight to resist unclean sexual desires. Moreover, our imperfect heart may try to find a way to sidestep God’s law. (Jer. 17:9) But many who have become Christians have won this battle. Knowing this can be of encouragement if you have a similar struggle. Note how God’s Word can help you to avoid Satan’s trap of pornography.
DO NOT DWELL ON IMMORAL DESIRES
As noted earlier, many Israelites let wrong desires lead them to disaster. The same thing can happen today. Jesus’ half brother James described the danger: “Each one is . . . drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) Once an illicit desire grows to a certain point in someone’s heart, it is quite likely that the person will sin. So we must get rid of immoral thoughts, not dwell on them.
If unclean thoughts entice you, take immediate action. Jesus said: “If, then, your hand or your foot makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. . . . Also, if your eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.” (Matt. 18:8, 9) Jesus was not suggesting self-mutilation. He was illustrating the need to remove the source of stumbling—quickly and decisively. How can we apply that counsel as respects pornography?
If you come across pornography, do not think, ‘I can handle it.’ Immediately look away. Turn off the television right away. Shut down the computer or mobile device at once. Refocus on something clean. Doing this can help you control your thinking instead of letting wrong desires control you.
WHAT ABOUT MEMORIES OF IMMORAL ENTERTAINMENT?
What if you have successfully stopped viewing pornography, but the memories of it return from time to time? Pornographic images or thoughts can stay in a person’s mind for a long time. They can reappear without warning. If that happens, you may feel an urge to do something unclean, such as give in to masturbation. So be aware that such thoughts may pop up, and be prepared to fight against them.
Strengthen your resolve to submit your thoughts and actions to God’s will. Be like the apostle Paul, who was willing to “pummel [his] body and lead it as a slave.” (1 Cor. 9:27) Do not let unclean desires enslave you. “Be transformed by making your mind over, so that you may prove to [yourself] the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) Remember: Thinking and acting in accord with God’s will brings far greater satisfaction than obeying sinful impulses.
Thinking and acting in accord with God’s will brings far greater satisfaction than obeying sinful impulses
Try to memorize certain Bible verses. Then when wrong thoughts come into the mind, make yourself think about those scriptures. Texts such as Psalm 119:37; Isaiah 52:11; Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and 1 Thessalonians 4:4-8 will help you to align your thinking with Jehovahˈs view of pornography and what he expects of you.
What if on some occasion the desire to view or think about immoral things becomes almost unbearable? Closely follow the steps of our Exemplar, Jesus. (1 Pet. 2:21) After Jesus got baptized, Satan kept tempting him. What did Jesus do? He kept resisting. Using scripture after scripture, he rejected the temptations that Satan presented. He said: “Go away, Satan!” and Satan left him. Just as Jesus never gave up in his fight against the Devil, neither should you. (Matt. 4:1-11) Satan and his world will continue to try to fill your mind with immoral thoughts, but do not give up the fight. The victory over pornography can be won. With Jehovah’s help, you can defeat your enemy.
PRAY TO JEHOVAH, AND OBEY HIM
Lean heavily on Jehovah in prayer. Paul said: “Let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) God’s peace brings relief in the struggle against sin. If you draw close to Jehovah, “he will draw close to you.”—Jas. 4:8.
The best protection against any threat is to have the Sovereign of the universe close to you. Jesus said: “The ruler of the world [Satan] is coming, and he has no hold on me.” (John 14:30) Why did Jesus have such confidence? He once explained: “The One who sent me is with me; he did not abandon me to myself, because I always do the things pleasing to him.” (John 8:29) As you do the things that please Jehovah, you too will never be abandoned by him. Avoid the trap of pornography, and Satan will have no lasting hold on you.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION