The Lust Temptation

Geeta Pandey, a BBC correspondent, wrote the following on the Deepika Padukone’s “cleavage controversy” on September 15, 2014:

Bollywood stars have joined hundreds expressing outrage after a top Indian newspaper published a photo and report on actress Deepika Padukone’s cleavage. On Sunday (14 September 2014) the Times of India tweeted a photo taken last year with a link to a web photo gallery and caption: “Oh My God: Deepika Padukone’s cleavage show”. An angry Padukone responded on Twitter: “YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??” Much of the outrage is summarised by the comment posted by Hindustan Times columnist Madhavan Narayanan’s tweet: “They think Deepika Padukone has a cleavage. I think she’s got a spine.”

This whole debate brings to the fore some core issues that concern today’s youth – issues for which we need direction from God’s Word – the Bible. The first issue concerns ogling. What would God thinking of gawking? Does the Bible give place for a believer in the Lord Jesus to gaze at a woman with impure intent? One would certainly say, “no”. But then the more subtle question is, “is it okay to look at a woman you are not married to and think that she is beautiful?” I think, there is nothing wrong about this. Yes, admiration of beauty of a person from the opposite sex isn’t wrong. Let me show that to you from Scripture. We are told that every writer of Scripture was inspired by God when he wrote (2 Tim. 3:16). Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Moses, a man, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes this about Rebecca, a woman who was not his wife, thus: “The girl was very beautiful, a virgin…”(Gen. 24:16, NASB). While the Spirit-inspired Moses was generic in his observation that Rebecca was beautiful, he was even more specific when he talked about Rachel – another woman who was not his wife. He wrote that Rachel was not only “beautiful” (a generic description of her beauty) but “lovely in figure” (that is specific indeed!) (Gen. 29:17, NIV). Moses was not sinning when he wrote thus, as he wrote those words under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration (2 Pet. 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16). Therefore, just looking a woman, and thinking that is she is beautiful or looking at a man and thinking that he is handsome is not sin, per se. In fact, we must praise God that each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” – this the Scripture teaches (Psa. 139:14).

Please wait, I haven’t finished yet. If you quote me, please quote me along with the rest of the lines in this piece, please! Having said this, I must say that we must be careful and diligent that our admiration of beauty of the opposite sex does not graduate into lustful look. What is lustful look? It is to strip the person of the opposite sex who is not our spouse, naked and imagine situations of sexual intimacy with that person. Famous Indian author Khushwant Singh, who died in 2014 at the age of 99, once said, “When I meet some women, I imagine what it would be like, if I went to bed with them.” I am talking about that Khushwant Singh kind of sinful look here.

Job talked about how conscious he was not to do this very thing we are talking about: “I dictated a covenant (an agreement) to my eyes; how then could I look (lustfully) upon a girl?” (Job 31:1, Amplified Version). Eugene Peterson renders the same verse so that it speaks directly to present-day people who are used to hearing straight talk when it comes to matters of sex: “I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes” (Job 31:1, The Message). In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (NRSV). His point is clear: “You don’t need a bed to commit adultery. All you need is a dirty head!” The story of Noah lying naked and exposed may be relevant here. One of his sons (Ham) got to see what Noah did not intend him to see: his nakedness. He had no control over two things: his eyes and his mouth. He saw the nakedness he was not supposed to see and went and told his two brothers about it. Yes, he had no eye control and no mouth control. But his brothers, Shem and Japheth, “took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness” (Gen. 9:23). While God “cursed” the “ogler Ham”, he “blessed” Shem and Japheth, who, as one Bible scholar puts it, “refused to take indecent advantage to see something they had no permission to see” (Gen. 9:25-26). The Bible is direct that we must not engage in looking lustfully at women we aren’t married to, when it says: “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes” (Prov. 6:25).

So, let us assert what we learnt from the Scriptures on the burning issue of ogling from the Bible: admiration of beauty is fine but stripping the person of the opposite sex in the mind and imagining sex acts with that person is not. If we have fallen into that sin, we must acknowledge it, confess it to the Lord Jesus who died for oglers (and, of course for everyone) on the cross, get washed by His blood and live holy life with the enabling power of the Spirit (Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:7-9; Rom. 8:13).

Radhika Santhanam wrote thus to Times of India in response to the Deepika Padukone’s fiery tweet: “Your response to her (Deepika’s) cleavage is no different from that guy on the street who whistles at a woman when she walks by — fully clothed or not — or the man on the bus who leers at a woman when her dupatta slips. What is the difference, really? They are zooming in with their eyes; you’re zooming in with your camera.” Here are some brutally frank questions for us: When we travel alone on a bus, will our eyes be holy like Jesus’? Let’s say we are at our job, and let’s imagine that a female colleague had to bend to do something, would our eyes be pure like that of Job’s?

Let us not ogle!

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