What does the Bible say about watching pornography?
When I was younger (we’re talking pre-teen years), my favorite thing to do during church on Sundays was to turn to the back of my Bible and scour the concordance for keywords. I looked up words like “gospel,” “faith,” and “righteousness.” Flipping between the thin pages of my Bible, I made notes that I still read today. I wanted to know every single verse that helped solidify my faith and help me to be able to share it with unbelievers.
There was one word, however, that I could never find in my Bible: pornography. You may have noticed too, of the hundreds of thousands of words written in God’s Word, it does not appear once. So is pornography in the Bible?
Where is pornography in the Bible?
The word “pornography” is actually a combination of two Greek words that appear frequently in the original text of the Bible, “porneia” and “graphe.” “Graphe” means “writings,” and “porneia” refers to sexual immorality. The English word “pornography” originally meant erotic books. As erotic photography and eventually video gained popularity, the meaning shifted so now it more commonly refers to images.
Bible Verses About Pornography (Porneia)
Here are just a few of the places where the Bible talks about “porneia,” or “sexual immorality”:
“But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints”
1 Corinthians 6:13b
“However, the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body”
“But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery.”
These Bible verse about “porneia” are about pornography! But there’s a lot more.
Other Bible Verses About Pornography
Here are some other verses in the Bible that talk less directly about porn, but are still related:
“Do not commit adultery.”
“I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I look at a young woman?”
“Don’t lust in your heart for her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyelashes”
“But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
“But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.”
I want to draw out what Bible has to say about “modern-day” pornography, without even saying the word. On that note, let’s dive in!
See related: What is lust in the Bible?
The Bible says Christians shouldn’t watch pornography.
We saw that Ephesians 5:3 says porneia shouldn’t even be named among Christians. That means Christians should live without sexual immorality, including porn.
Unfortunately, many Christians do watch pornography—and lots of it:
- 41% of Christian males aged 13-24 watch porn.
- 23% of Christians 25 years and older watch porn.
- Of Christian females ages 13-24, 13% watch porn.
- 5% of Christian females 25 and up watch porn.
- 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors say that pornography is a current struggle.
Other studies have found that upwards of two-thirds of Christian men and a third of Christian women have struggled with porn.
Why shouldn’t Christians watch pornography?
There are many reasons watching pornography is bad. Even if you’re not a Christian, it’s a good idea to quit. But for the Christian, Matt Fradd says the essential reason porn is wrong is that it treats people in an unloving way.
“[I]f we treat people as commodities that merely bring us pleasure, and we don’t treat others in a way that promotes their own good, we aren’t showing love.
John 13:35 says that love for people is a defining mark of Christians. When a Christians watches porn, it goes against who they are! You can read a more detailed explanation about this in “Is Watching Porn a Sin?”
Author’s note: Please keep in mind that there are instances when pornography is not viewed intentionally. For example, a child sees porn on another child’s device. Or, a random pop-up ad shows up on a device without permission. I am referring to those who are very purposefully watching it for sexual intentions. See The Common Reality of Early Porn Exposure.
The Bible teaches that our bodies were not created for pornography.
The Bible gives a further reason to avoid pornography: it goes against our created purpose. 1 Corinthians 6:13 says our bodies aren’t intended for porneia but for the Lord. The world teaches us to find as much pleasure for our bodies as we can. But the Bible says we have a greater purpose: bringing glory to God.
1 Corinthians 6:18
1 Corinthians 6 goes on to say that when you commit a sexual sin, like watching pornography, you’re sinning against your body (6:18). Science actually agrees with the Bible that our bodies weren’t made for porn! As we explain in our post, “How Porn Affects the Brain“:
“Porn activates the same pleasurable chemicals in your brain that make sex so enjoyable and meaningful. But porn isn’t real sex, and it actually short-circuits the system with disturbing side effects.”
At Covenant Eyes, our mission is to help people who have realized the disturbing side effects of porn and help them break free.
The Bible actually calls watching pornography “adultery.”
When God gave laws to the Israelites, he put the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. This indicates these are special laws with lasting importance. The Seventh Commandment says “do not commit adultery.” At its heart, this simple command teaches about the sacredness of marriage and God’s design for sexual activity.
Lots of people say, “Sure, I look at porn, but it’s not like I’m actually doing anything.” But in Matthew 5, Jesus teaches that the Seventh Commandment is about more than just avoiding an affair. God’s standard of sexual purity is about our hearts and desires, not just the physical acts we do or don’t do. “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
For more on this see, Yes, Using Porn is Cheating. Here’s Why.
What should I do if my spouse is watching pornography?
If your husband or wife is watching pornography, you’re likely experiencing a lot of pain and confusion. We have resources to help guide you process this and to guide you through the next steps:
The Bible says pornography hurts your relationship with God.
The Bible reminds us that things of the world like pornography are not from God. All the world’s porn will someday fade away. Our lives are short but God is eternal! Life with him is eternal and beautiful, so let’s pine after God for satisfaction that never ends!
1 John 2:17
“The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
The Bible might not directly speak of how porn addiction can enslave our hearts and separate us from God, but it does speak strongly of our calling as Christians and the devotion that God desires from us as believers.
2 Peter 2:10b
Peter tells us, “Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” Pornography has the capacity to take over a person’s life. It often becomes all that they think about. When that happens, it pulls a person further away from God.
The number one reason people come to Covenant Eyes is to help their relationship with God! That’s because they understand that God doesn’t intend for any of his children to be enslaved by pornography.
I would be perfectly content to end the article here, but I don’t want to leave you without hope. The Bible has more to say about pornography—and how to find freedom from it. Check out Will God Forgive Me For Watching Bad Things?
The Bible shows that pornography thrives in darkness.
I read countless stories of men, women, and even children who are completely miserable because they are hiding their struggles with porn. When you do something wrong and nobody knows, do you feel that twinge of guilt? Part of our human nature is that we know what is morally right and wrong. We feel the heavy weight of our conscience when we hide our sin, and the secret of pornography is no different.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
David was deeply weighed down by the heaviness of his sin. He compares it to one whose body is wasting away—weakening day and night. But—BUT! When he brought his sins into the light and confessed them before the Lord, there was forgiveness. Praise be to God!
There will be a day when we will stand before the throne of God and be held accountable for our sins. Even the sins that we have kept hidden will come to light. Paul assures us of this in Romans 14:12, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” There will be no good that comes from hiding your sin in darkness. For while pornography thrives in darkness, the beauty of God’s forgiveness shines as a bright light, removing this darkness.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy”
The Bible promises you can be free from porn!
One of my favorite things about the Bible is the hope that it offers. The Bible mentions a lot about sin and the rightful consequences that accompany it, but even more prominent are the words of salvation. While terrible and sad to God, our sins can be forgiven—freely!
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
What a message of hope this is! By turning to God in repentance, we can be freed from the shame and guilt of pornography. If you’re not sure what to do next, you can get started with our post, How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps
1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
For those struggling to overcome an addiction to pornography, the temptations can be unbearable at times. How amazing is it that God will never give us more temptation than we can handle? If you are struggling with addiction, be at peace knowing that God’s faithfulness is greater than your weakness. And, in that weakness, HE will make you strong. Turn to him today in prayer and ask for the strength to overcome!