Matthew Harmon

At first it might be tempting to conclude that Jesus had nothing to say about pornography; after all that word is found nowhere in the Gospels, or the entire New Testament for that matter. But simply because Jesus did not explicitly refer to pornography in the Gospels does not mean that he had nothing to say about the subject. After all, Jesus promised the apostles that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26). It was the risen Jesus who commissioned Paul as his chosen instrument (Acts 9:15), and that same Paul who wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17).

Jesus gave his words to his disciples (John 17:8), and the disciples faithfully passed those words on to us so we may believe and obey Jesus (John 17:20). So, what the apostles have written—not just in the Gospels but the entire New Testament—are the words of Jesus inspired by his Holy Spirit.

But Jesus does, in fact, address pornography in the Gospels. In Matthew 5:27–30, Jesus unpacks what God meant when he prohibited adultery as part of the Ten Commandments: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:28). According to Jesus, looking at someone and fantasizing about them sexually makes you guilty of adultery. Is that not the essence of pornography, regardless of the form it takes?

And lest we think that this issue is no big deal, Jesus urges swift and decisive action to avoid this sin: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (5:29–30). Jesus uses this hyperbolic language to stress that lust in its various forms (including viewing pornography) must be aggressively counteracted.

A second way that Jesus addresses pornography is when he condemns sexual immorality in general. The usual Greek word used in the New Testament is porneia, from which we get our word pornography. The word refers to a wide range of sexual activity outside the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Porneia is one of many things that comes out of the sinful human heart (Mark 7:21–23), and is so serious that it can be grounds for divorce (Matthew 19:1–12). No wonder Paul exhorts believers to flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18; Eph 5:3; 1 Thes 4:3)!

Pornography is a no small thing; it is a threat to your soul. If you are struggling to obey God in this area, there is help available. You can find helpful resources to grow in obedience in this area on the Covenant Eyes and Desiring God websites, as well as the blog of Tim Challies.