What is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? Simply stated, these are the three temptations to sin that every human will experience. In a previous article, I talked about the two types of sin every human will commit: Sins of commission and sins of omission. Now let’s examine these three temptations to sin that every human will experience.
We read about these three temptations in First John:
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
Here, John gives us three temptations that are of the world. Every adult human in history has been tempted with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It is important to beware of these three areas of temptation that we will all face, for every sin we commit will be preceded by at least one of these temptations.
What is the Lust of the Flesh?
The lust of the flesh is that temptation to feel physical pleasure from some sinful activity—to do something to make the flesh feel satisfied. It can involve any type of sinful activity that will bring pleasure to the body. Examples of the “lust of the flesh” include the following:
- Sexual sins
- Physical violence
- Drug use (marijuana, pills, cocaine, alcohol, etc.)
- and more
The Apostle Paul gives us a nice example of the “works of the flesh,” many of which are works we do when we succumb to the lust of the flesh:
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
What is the Lust of the Eyes?
The lust of the eyes is that temptation to look upon things we shouldn’t look upon, or to have things that we shouldn’t have. In other words, it is to cast our eyes upon something with desire or pleasure, even though God has told us not to look upon those things.
The sin of coveting is a prime example of the result of succumbing to the lust of the eyes. We rarely hear of the sin of coveting in today’s time, but “thou shalt not covet” was the 10th commandment that God gave to the Israelites.
To covet means to have a yearning or a strong desire to have something that rightfully belongs to someone else. “That’s not fair that he has such a beautiful wife. I want her as my wife,” is a prime example. Other examples of the lust of the eyes include looking at pornography, desiring others’ material possessions, status, appearance, etc. It’s the recognition that something sinful has visual appeal, and then wanting it for the sake of it’s visual appeal.
Consider this passage in Second Samuel with regards to King David and Bathsheba, the woman with whom David would soon commit adultery:
“And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon” (2 Samuel 11:2; emphasis mine).
What is the Pride of Life?
The pride of life is that sinful temptation for excess greatness or power that we all feel the temptation to attain. Pride itself is one of the sins that God hates most. It is the sin that made Lucifer (the beautiful angel) turn into Satan (the adversary). Some examples of this sin include the following:
- Desiring to get credit or glory for things that others (or God) did
- Desiring for others to worship us or hold us in excess esteem, “to make a name for ourselves”
- Desiring to feel valued or more important than others around us
- Desiring to have positions of power over others in a way that puffs up our own ego for the sake of bragging rights (Jesus said that those who desire to be great should be the greatest servant)
Consider the words of Satan himself, who was so filled with pride that he wanted to be God:
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14).
Looking at These Three Temptations in Action
Every sin we commit will involve at least one of these three temptations, but it may include all three. Notice how Satan used all three temptations with Eve in the Garden of Eden, and with Jesus in the New Testament. Eve succumbed to the temptations, yet Jesus resisted them:
Eve’s Temptation by Satan
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).
Jesus’ Temptation by Satan
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread [lust of the flesh]. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone [the pride of life]. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them [the lust of the eyes]; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:3-10).
It’s important to note that it is not a sin to enjoy physical pleasure in things in which God allows us to feel pleasure. For example, God created food to taste delicious. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a delicious meal (we have to eat to live), but gluttony is a sin. God also created sex. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying intimacy with our spouses, but adultery or fornication is sin.
There is nothing wrong with looking at beautiful things. There are many beautiful paintings, materials, and even creation itself is breathtaking. Is there anything more beautiful than a rainbow, a mountain landscape, the ocean, or the stars? But when we lustfully look upon things God has commanded us to avoid, such as pornography, other people’s spouses, or other people’s possessions, it becomes sin.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with having ambition or desiring to work hard. However, when we fail to give glory to God, when we desire to be praised for other’s efforts, or when we desire power or knowledge for the sake of puffing ourselves up, we become entangled in the pride of life.
Conclusion: You Will Be Tempted in These Ways
We will all face the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. However, the Bible tells us that when we are tempted, God will always give us an escape option:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
No matter how tempted you may be in a situation, Jesus felt that same temptation. God promises us that no matter how hard the temptation is, He will always provide an escape route. We can always choose obedience over sin.
How should we respond to these temptations? The same way Jesus responded to Satan. When Satan tempted Him, Jesus took the Word of God and rebuked him. We should all have God’s word in our minds and hearts, so that we can rebuke sin and evil, and resist it. Remember, the Bible say this:
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
May God deliver you from temptation, and keep you from the evil one.