The Lesser Voice of Pornography and The Call to Marriage

I have been writing about the call to manhood and the hand on a boy’s shoulder to get him there, and mentioned one of the lesser voices in a boy’s life: pornography.


It is important to call attention to this hijacking siren since pornography use is a ubiquitous warping evil in our day. Women can also be addicted to pornography but I have encountered it more often in men. 79 percent of men, ages 18-30, view pornography at least once a month. It destroys marriages (a study ten years ago showed that 56% of divorces cite Internet porn as a major cause in the breakup) as well as one’s spiritual life. Most sad for me, it affects many in the church. Because I kept reading statistics on this over the years, I began to emphasize its destructiveness in my preaching (here’s an example from way back, 15 years ago now, directed to married guys, based on Proverbs 5:15-23: Pornography: What’s the Big Deal?) and hit it pretty hard in my book on dating.


I also started and led groups for strugglers who wished to be free of porn use. In doing so, I found out something surprising. The Bible contains some counterintuitive counsel to assist single guys in reaching freedom from this scourge: an exhortation to get married.


In speaking about sexual relations the apostle Paul tells a married couple in 1Corinthians 7:


“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (v5).”


And to singles he gives parallel advice:


“But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (v9).


It might feel like Paul’s direction here cheapens marriage because he is telling singles to marry to avoid sexual sin, if they are “burning” because of their lack of “self-control.” But keep in mind that the same apostle who wrote this also wrote (according to Eph 1:1) Ephesians 5, from which we get our most exalted view of what marriage is.


One might also fear Paul’s instruction to encourage a situation where a guy will expect marriage to eliminate all sexual sin in his life. But again, bear in mind that the same apostle wrote the chapter right before, 1Corinthians 6. There he gives multiple lines of spiritual argument to counter sexual sin and exhorts us all to flee from sexual immorality. Paul is realistic about the temptations of married folks. So I encourage wives in the church who have husbands using porn, if appeals to get help fail, to be brave and contact their church’s leadership. An important benefit of your church membership is that you need not continue alone in a bad marriage situation, which includes porn use. Both you and your husband are under the spiritual authority of the church, which means, in a situation of unresponsiveness, you may need to go over your husband’s head. Hopefully, they will assist with confidentiality and sensitivity. Paul would not tolerate a husband blaming his wife for his pornography use or someone feeling responsible for a spouse’s sexual sin.


So, then, why does Paul give this stark directive?


Instead, I have found Paul’s words to be a crucial component of creating hope for young single guys whose lack of self-control caught them up in porn use. There are other important parts to helping people overcome sexual temptation, as Paul well knows, including accountability and a deeper grasp of the gospel. But such strugglers also need to grasp that sexual desire is a good thing, for which God has created the good gift of covenant love-making. Porn perverts that good desire in them. Considering marriage helps them connect their desires to taking needed steps to make themselves marriageable. It motivates them to take steps of responsibility, financially, relationally, spiritually, including healthy relationships with women. When a man gets a sense of responsibility for the close women in his life, it changes how he reacts to porn.


That is what I believe Paul is getting at, even if he says it briefly in 1Corinthians 7, without a lot of the other valuable helps for addressing sexual sin he gives in 1Corinthians 6. I have seen that Paul’s counsel really does help young single guys move forward into manhood.


Those who want to break their compulsion might find some additional resources helpful:


The more the culture minimizes gender, the more porn will dominate men’s lives. Let us, instead, encourage each other in healthy relationships.



  1. Steve Goble

    Thank you for reminding us that God has made us for real, healthy relationship with Him and others! Porn defrauds us of the desire, energy and capacity for real relationship. I’ve found that learning to take joy in the daily responsibilities God has given me, “financially, relationally, spiritually, including healthy relationships with women,” is an antidote to the seducing allure of porn.

  2. Steve Goble

    Another antidote to the perniciousness of porn is staying transparent and accountable with trusted brothers (for men) and sisters (for women) in Christ. In doing so, we experience the grace of God personally and can take heart in these truths from God’s Word: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin….If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9). Good news indeed!

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