The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
We live in a world saturated with sin; “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). The wicked one uses every possible means for his “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16) to burn the Christian mind. The apostle John warned against the dangers of the spiritual battlefield—the world. In his first epistle (2:16), he divided worldly seductions into three categories:
- The lust of the flesh is everything that appeals to carnal and physical appetite. Although natural body desires are not inherently evil (e.g., the need for food, drink, and sexual fulfillment), the devil can use these licit desires (licit within their own limits) to enslave man (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12). In this category of temptation, Satan uses internal licit desires to produce illicit carnal passions (e.g., gluttony, fornication). The Israelites succumbed under this type of sin when “[t]he people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (1 Corinthians 10:7; cf. Exodus 32:6). The devil tried to tempt Jesus by the lust of the flesh when he urged him to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3).
- The lust of the eyes is everything that appeals to the eye’s insatiable demands (Ecclesiastes 1:8). In this category of temptation, Satan uses external attraction (whether inherently good, as a desire for a house or a car, or inherently bad, as a desire for a neighbor’s wife) to produce covetousness. Eve (Genesis 3:6), and Achan (Joshua 7:21) succumbed to this type of sin when they coveted what was prohibited. The devil tried to tempt Jesus by the lust of the eyes when he “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8-9).
- The pride of life is everything that appeals to haughtiness, arrogance, and pride. In this category of temptation, Satan uses contemplation of personal achievement (e.g., popularity, academic success) to produce an anarchical self-sufficient attitude. When a person falls prey to the pride of life, there is not longer a battle against the flesh; the wicked one has won the sensual and intellectual battle. The Israelites succumbed to this type of sin when they “acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed [God’s] commandments” (Nehemiah 9:16). The devil tried to tempt Jesus by the pride of life when he “took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple”, and urged Him to defy God (Matthew 4:5-7).
While we deal daily with this world’s attractions, let us remember that “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).