Guarding Our Eyes in a Visual Culture
Our culture has become a visual culture.
When my dad was a kid, there was no TV. He’d listen to “The Shadow” and baseball games on the radio. When I was a kid, we had a total of 13 TV stations that would go off the air at midnight. In Tulsa, after midnight the TV would broadcast only a picture of an Indian chief with beams of light radiating out from his head. Now there are 8 zillion channels that broadcast continually. There’s Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon and on demand stations, not to mention YouTube and Facebook and thousands of apps to feed our eyes.
Not only has the number of visual stimulants multiplied, but the sexual content in media has burgeoned. I sound like an old man here (but what the heck, I am), but when I was a kid, there was very little sexual content on TV. About the worst it got was an occasional episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Andy and Barney happened to meet a couple “floozies” who wore high heels, a lot of makeup, and fancy hats. Occasionally you’d know that Barney and Thelma Lou had been smooching because Barney’d have lipstick smeared on his cheeks and his hair would be a tangled mess. But TV was over all pretty wholesome, populated by The Lone Ranger, Beaver, and My 3 Sons. It’s much different today.
Solomon’s warning to his son in Proverbs is worth thinking about:
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. PR 4:25
Our eyes are the portal of our soul. Satan will tempt us from any angle he can, and our eyes are no exception.
Remember how Satan got Eve to look at the forbidden fruit.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)
Eve didn’t let her eyes look directly forward and her gaze be straight before her.
When David was on his rooftop and looked down and saw a woman bathing, he didn’t look away. He too failed to let his eyes look directly forward and his gaze be straight before him. In other words, he didn’t flee temptation. So when God tells us, “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you,” he is telling us to guard our hearts by watching what we expose ourselves to.
Men, we must guard our eyes. Jesus said if we look on a woman lustfully, we commit adultery in our hearts. Adultery! That’s serious. It might just be a lustful glance. It might only last a few seconds, but it’s a serious sin. Are you guarding your eyes at work? When you’re driving? Do you turn away from or turn off impure commercials on TV? Maybe you’re not into pornography, but you are giving in to lust in “lesser” ways. Don’t forget, though, it’s adultery of the heart. It’s sad, but you can’t even watch a football game without a remote on hand.
My friend Bob (name changed to protect the innocent) was always vigilant to protect his children when they’d watch TV. If something impure came on and he didn’t have a remote in hand he’d lunge in front of the TV, arms outspread, yelling “Ah-bah-bah-bah-bah!” to cover both the picture and the sound from the eyes and ears of his kids. One day a few years ago, he and a couple of his grown kids were watching a Sunday afternoon matinee in a local theater. An inappropriate scene came on in the movie. Bob automatically started yelling, “Ah-bah-bah-bah-bah!” then caught himself. One of his kids whispered an embarrassed, “Daaaad! I’m 22 now.” Fortunately there weren’t many people in the theater, but a number of curious heads turned to see the source of the “bahs.” Old habits die hard. But Bob’s instinct was to protect his children and himself from temptation.
Proverbs 6:25 says:
“Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes”
Our hearts are connected to our eyes. We guard our hearts by guarding our eyes. Let’s be vigilant men. Let’s pursue purity of heart and eyes.
Pray! When you’re walking through the city or down the hall at work, say, “Jesus, keep me clean and pure. Help me not to lust.” If you’re struggling, get a friend or two to pray for you. Remind yourself that lust is deadly to your soul. And dwell often on the beauty and majesty of Jesus. Desire his beauty. Ask Jesus to satisfy you. Lust won’t satisfy you. But Jesus will.
Be like Bob. Be vigilant. Probably don’t need to say “Ah-bah-bah-bah-bah!” in the theater. But better to go overboard with caution than over the edge in lust.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/SIphotography
Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.