For months now the question has been in front of me. It has been there in the document I open every day, the document that contains a list of articles to write, and questions to explore. “What will be the cost to the church if young men continue to give themselves to pornography?” What do we, as Christians, stand to lose if so many of our young men continue to spend their teens and twenties in the pursuit of pornographic pleasure?
The question has been on my mind all the more as I’ve begun to scope out a teaching series in Proverbs. Proverbs warns us at many times and in many ways of the “forbidden woman.” This is the woman whose lips drip honey, whose speech is smoother than oil. She is attractive and alluring; she knows just what to say and just what to offer to draw young men after her. And so they follow along behind her, oblivious to the fact that they are following her straight to foolishness, straight to harm, straight to hell.
In days gone by this woman may have been an adulteress or a prostitute. Today she takes the form of pornography. She is calling out to young men, she is offering herself to them, she is displaying all the pleasures she can offer, and they are following along. The Bible is honest and forthright about the cost (Proverbs 5:7-14):
Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.
Solomon says that the young man who follows the forbidden woman gives away his honor and his time, he loses his strength and his labor, and he even calls for consequences to his flesh and body. Ultimately, he calls down public humiliation and divine judgment upon himself. I have been considering one of these more than the others: strength.
We have the better part of a generation of young men who are giving their strength to this forbidden woman.
She is consuming their time and their strength. And this is not just any time and strength. Near the end of his life, at the conclusion to the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon would say, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.” He would go on to extol these days of youth, these days when energy is high, when possibilities are endless, when there is joy and excitement and ambition. These days are unique and irreplaceable. Solomon calls on young men to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” God wants these days, your best days, not only what is left over once you have had your fun and pursued all manner of false pleasure.
If we take Ecclesiastes 11 and 12 and hold it side-by-side with Proverbs 5, this is Solomon’s message to young men: You will never have greater strength than you do now. You will never have more energy, more ready ability to find excitement and motivation. You will never be less encumbered by the cares of life or the responsibilities of family. God has given you these days and equipped you with strength and energy to live them well and to his glory. God gives you strength, he gives you passion, he gives you enthusiasm, he gives you the desire to pursue joy. So why would you use that God-given strength, that God-given passion, that God-given enthusiasm to pursue the worst, the most vile, the most fleeting joy of all? Why are you giving your strength to her instead of to Him?
What will be the cost to the church if young men continue to give themselves to pornography? The church will be weakened by young men who give so many of their best days to the worst purpose. The church will be weakened by future leaders who set themselves back by years or even decades by deliberately pursuing an addiction that consumes them. The church will be weakened by men who could be leaders, but who pursue pornography and never escape its clutches. The church will be weakened as an entire generation of young men burden their pastors with constant counseling to escape a sin they wanted to pursue and an addiction they chose for themselves. The church will be weakened by families that are unstable because the husband has brought his love of pornography into his marriage. How many men could be serving in ministries, could be pastoring churches, could be training to preach, could be planting churches, except that they have given their strength to another? The cost is high. The consequences are fearsome.
Young man: The forbidden woman saps your strength. She steals it and never gives it back. Your pursuit of personal, pornographic pleasure harms the whole church. It harms your local congregation, and it harms the global church. We need your strength. We need your energy and enthusiasm. We need you now, not only what is left over after you’ve tried everything else and found it wanting. If you love Christ and you love his church, then for his sake and ours, you will put this sin to death.
(Note: Here is something else to consider: How much better is it to reject sexual sin, to pursue sexual integrity, and to find a wife who does not sap your strength, but who gives you strength?)