Turn Your Eyes Away From Worthless Things!
“Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless; preserve me alive in your own way.”—PS. 119:37.
1. How important is the gift of sight?
HOW precious our sight is! By means of it, we can instantly grasp our surroundings—in depth and in color. Our sight enables us to see beloved friends or unwelcome dangers. Through it, we perceive beauty, appreciate the wonders of creation, and receive evidence of God’s existence and glory. (Ps. 8:3, 4; 19:1, 2; 104:24; Rom. 1:20) And as a highly important channel of communication to the mind, sight plays a major role in our acquiring knowledge of Jehovah and building faith in him.—Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2, 3.
2. Why should we be concerned about what we see, and what can we learn from the psalmist’s earnest request?
2 What we look at, however, can also be to our detriment. The link between our sight and our mind is so strong that what we see with our eyes can initiate or intensify ambitions and desires in our heart. And because we live in a depraved and self-gratifying world ruled by Satan the Devil, we are bombarded with images and propaganda that can easily lead us astray—even if we would give them only a quick glance. (1 John 5:19) It is no wonder, then, that the psalmist implored God: “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless; preserve me alive in your own way.”—Ps. 119:37.
How Our Eyes Can Mislead Us
3-5. What Bible accounts illustrate the danger of allowing our eyes to seduce us?
3 Consider what happened to the first woman, Eve. Satan suggested that her eyes were “bound to be opened” if she would eat the fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” Eve must have been intrigued by the thought of having her eyes “opened.” Her interest in eating the forbidden fruit was further heightened when she “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.” Looking at the tree with longing led Eve to disobey God’s command. Her husband, Adam, also disobeyed, with disastrous consequences to all humankind.—Gen. 2:17; 3:2-6; Rom. 5:12; Jas. 1:14, 15.
4 In the days of Noah, some angels were also influenced by what they saw. Referring to them, Genesis 6:2 relates: “The sons of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose.” Lustfully looking upon the daughters of men aroused in the rebellious angels an unnatural desire for sexual relations with humans, and those angels fathered violent offspring. Man’s badness at that time resulted in the destruction of all mankind, with the exception of Noah and his family.—Gen. 6:4-7, 11, 12.
5 Centuries later, the Israelite Achan’s eyes seduced him into stealing some items from the captured city of Jericho. God had commanded that all things in that city should be destroyed except for certain things that were to be given to the treasury of Jehovah. The Israelites were warned: “Keep away from the thing devoted to destruction, for fear you may get a desire” and take some items from the city. When Achan disobeyed, the people of Israel suffered defeat at the city of Ai, and a number of them died. Achan did not admit to his theft until he was exposed. “When I got to see” the items, Achan said, “then I wanted them, and I took them.” The desire of his eyes led to his destruction, along with “everything that was his.” (Josh. 6:18, 19; 7:1-26) Achan desired in his heart what was forbidden to him.
The Need for Self-Discipline
6, 7. Which of the “designs” of Satan is often used to ensnare us, and how do commercial advertisers make use of it?
6 Mankind today is tempted in a way that is similar to what was used in the case of Eve, the disobedient angels, and Achan. Of all the “designs” used by Satan to mislead mankind, the appeal to “the desire of the eyes” is most powerful. (2 Cor. 2:11; 1 John 2:16) Modern commercial advertisers well know the age-old power of eye appeal. “Sight is the most seductive sense of all,” states a leading European marketing expert. “It often overrules the other senses, and has the power to persuade us against all logic.”
7 No wonder advertisers bombard us with images that are cleverly designed to make the greatest visual impact and stimulate desire for their goods or services! A researcher in the United States who studied how advertising influences individuals stated that it is “designed not just to convey cognitive information, but more importantly, to produce particular emotive and effectual responses.” Provocative sexual imagery is one form that is often used. “Sex sells” is a well-known adage. How important it is, then, that we control what we look at and what we allow to enter into our mind and heart!
8. How is the need to guard our eyes emphasized in the Bible?
8 True Christians are not immune to the desire of the eyes and of the flesh. Therefore, God’s Word encourages us to exercise self-discipline in connection with what we look at and long for. (1 Cor. 9:25, 27; read 1 John 2:15-17.) The upright man Job was one who recognized the strong link between seeing and desiring. He stated: “A covenant I have concluded with my eyes. So how could I show myself attentive to a virgin?” (Job 31:1) Not only did Job refuse to touch a woman in an immoral way but he would not even allow his mind to entertain such a thought. Jesus emphasized that the mind must be kept clean of immoral thoughts when he said: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matt. 5:28.
Worthless Things to Avoid
9. (a) Why must we be particularly wary when using the Internet? (b) What can result from even a brief view of pornography?
9 In today’s world, it has become increasingly common to ‘keep on looking’ at pornography, particularly on the Internet. We do not have to look for such sites—they look for us! In what way? An ad with an enticing picture may suddenly appear on one’s computer screen. Or an innocuous-looking e-mail, once opened, may explode into a pornographic picture designed in such a way as to make exiting from it difficult. Even if a person gets only a glimpse before deleting it, the image has already made an impression on his mind. Just a brief brush with pornography can have sad consequences. It can leave an individual with a guilty conscience and a struggle to erase immoral scenes from his mind. Worse yet, someone who deliberately “keeps on looking” needs to have his illicit desires deadened.—Read Ephesians 5:3, 4, 12; Col. 3:5, 6.
10. Why are children especially vulnerable to pornography, and what may result from their viewing it?
10 Children can be drawn into pornography by their natural curiosity. If that happens, it may have lasting effects on their view of sexuality. These effects, notes a report, may range from a distorted sense of sexual norms to “difficulty maintaining a healthy, loving relationship; an unrealistic view of women; and potentially, pornography addiction, which can interfere with school work, friendships and family relationships.” Even more devastating can be the effects later in a marriage relationship.
11. Give an example to illustrate the danger of looking at pornography.
11 “Of all the addictions that I had before I became a Witness, pornography was by far the most difficult to break,” wrote a Christian brother. “I still see these images at the oddest times—triggered by a random smell, some music, something I see, or even a stray thought. It is a daily and constant battle.” As a child, another brother had looked at his worldly father’s pornographic magazines when his parents were not at home. He wrote: “What a horrible effect those pictures had on my young mind! Even now, 25 years later, some of those images are still burned into my brain. No matter how hard I fight, they are still there. This makes me feel guilty, even though I don’t dwell on them.” How wise it is to avoid having such burdensome feelings by not looking at worthless things! How can a person accomplish that? He needs to strive to bring “every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.”—2 Cor. 10:5.
12, 13. What worthless things must Christians avoid viewing, and why?
12 Another “good-for-nothing,” or worthless, thing to avoid is entertainment that promotes materialism or the occult or that features violence, bloodshed, and death. (Read Psalm 101:3.) Christian parents have the responsibility before Jehovah to be selective about what they allow to be viewed in their home. Of course, no true Christian would deliberately involve himself in spiritism. Still, parents need to be aware of films, TV series, video games, and even comics and children’s books that highlight uncanny practices.—Prov. 22:5.
13 Whether we are young or old, our eyes should find no pleasure in video games that feature violence and depict killing with gory realism. (Read Psalm 11:5.) We must refuse to focus our mind on any activity that Jehovah condemns. Remember, Satan is targeting our thoughts. (2 Cor. 11:3) Even spending too much time viewing entertainment that may be considered acceptable can encroach on family worship, daily Bible reading, and our preparation for meetings.—Phil. 1:9, 10.
Follow Jesus’ Example
14, 15. What was noteworthy about Satan’s third temptation of Christ, and how was Jesus able to withstand it?
14 Regrettably, we cannot avoid seeing some worthless things in this wicked world. Even Jesus had such things thrust upon him. In Satan’s third attempt to draw Jesus away from doing God’s will, “the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (Matt. 4:8) Why did Satan do so? No doubt, he wanted to exploit the powerful influence of the eye. Having a look at the splendor of all the world’s kingdoms might induce Jesus to give in to a desire for worldly prominence. How did Jesus react?
15 Jesus did not focus on this tempting offer. He did not let his heart entertain wrong desires. And he did not have to contemplate the Devil’s offer in order to reject it. Jesus reacted immediately. “Go away, Satan!” he commanded. (Matt. 4:10) Jesus kept his focus on his relationship with Jehovah and replied in harmony with his purpose in life—that of doing God’s will. (Heb. 10:7) As a result, Jesus successfully thwarted Satan’s cunning scheme.
16. What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ example of resisting Satan’s temptations?
16 We can learn much from Jesus’ example. First, no one is immune to Satan’s tactics. (Matt. 24:24) Second, what we focus our eyes on can reinforce the desires of our heart, for good or for bad. Third, Satan will exploit “the desire of the eyes” as much as he can in his attempt to lead us astray. (1 Pet. 5:8) And fourth, we too can oppose Satan, especially if we act without delay.—Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:21.
Keep Your Eye “Simple”
17. Why is it unwise to wait until something worthless confronts us before we decide what to do?
17 Our dedication to Jehovah includes a solemn promise to turn away from what is worthless. In vowing to do God’s will, we join the psalmist in stating: “From every bad path I have restrained my feet, for the purpose that I may keep your word.” (Ps. 119:101) It is unwise to wait until something worthless confronts us before we decide what we will do. Matters that the Scriptures condemn have been made clear to us. We are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes. When was Jesus tempted to change stones into loaves of bread? After he had fasted for 40 days and nights and “felt hungry.” (Matt. 4:1-4) Satan is able to perceive when we are weak and more likely to succumb to temptation. Thus, now is the time to give careful consideration to these matters. Do not put it off! If we keep our dedication vow to Jehovah in mind day by day, we will be firmly determined to turn away from what is worthless.—Prov. 1:5; 19:20.
18, 19. (a) Contrast a “simple” eye with one that is “wicked.” (b) Why is it important to keep on considering what is valuable, and what advice does Philippians 4:8 give in this regard?
18 Each day, we face a wide array of eye-appealing distractions, and their number keeps increasing. We can appreciate all the more, then, Jesus’ admonition to keep our eye “simple.” (Matt. 6:22, 23) A “simple” eye is totally focused on one purpose—that of doing God’s will. By contrast, a “wicked” eye is crafty, covetous, and drawn to things that are worthless.
19 Remember, our eyes feed our mind and our mind feeds our heart. How important it is, therefore, that we keep on considering what is valuable. (Read Philippians 4:8.) Indeed, may we continue to echo the prayer of the psalmist: “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless.” Then, as we strive to act in harmony with that prayer, we can be confident that Jehovah will “preserve [us] alive in [his] own way.”—Ps. 119:37; Heb. 10:36.
What Should We Remember About . . .
• the connection between our eyes, mind, and heart?
• the dangers of watching pornography?
• the importance of keeping our eye “simple”?
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What worthless things must Christians avoid viewing?