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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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When Unclothed Is Unfitting: Thoughts on Selling with Sex

From the writings of John Piper:

Jonathan Edwards once said that godly people can, as it were, smell the depravity of an act before they can explain why it evil. There is a spiritual sense that something is amiss. It does not fit in a world permeated with God.

Ephesians 5:3 says that some things “are not fitting” among saints.” “Fitting-ness” is not always easy to justify with arguments. You discern it before you can defend it. That’s good, because we have to make hundreds of choices every day with no time for extended reflection.

But from time to time we need to pause and give rational, biblical expression why something is not fitting. Some years ago I came to that point when, week after week, a local newspaper put scantily clad women on the second page of Section A in order to sell underclothes. I wrote a letter to the paper with nine reasons why they should stop using this kind of advertising.

Perhaps my reflections will help you deal with the hundreds of abuses of God’s good gift of sexuality in our culture. Here is what I wrote.

As a 14-year subscriber and reader of the [name of paper omitted], I am writing to express the persuasion that your sexually explicit ads that often turn up in Section A are increasingly offensive and socially irresponsible. I mean that the effectiveness of catching people’s attention by picturing a woman in her underclothes does not justify the ads. The detrimental effects of such mercenary misuse of the female body are not insignificant. The harm I have in mind is described in the following nine persuasions.

1. This woman could not go out in public dressed like that without being shamed or being mentally aberrant. Yet you thrust her out, even in front of those of us who feel shame for her.

2. This portrayal of a woman sitting in her underclothes at a table with a cup of tea disposes men to think of women not as persons but mainly in terms of their bodies. It stimulates young boys to dwell on unclothed women’s bodies and thus lames their ability to deal with women as dignified persons. I have four sons.

3. The ad stimulates sexual desire which in thousands of men has no legitimate or wholesome outlet through marriage. In other words, it feeds a corporate, community lust that bears no good fruit outside marriage, but in fact many ills.

4. The ad makes sensibilities callous so that fewer and fewer offenses against good taste feel unacceptable, which spells the collapse of precious and delicate aspects of personhood and relationships.

5. The ad makes thousands of women subconsciously measure their attractiveness and worth by the standard of rarefied, unrealistic models, leading to an unhealthy and discouraging preoccupation with outward looks.

6. The ad feeds the prurient fantasies of ordinary men, lodging a sexual image in their minds for the day which can rob them of the ability to think about things greater and nobler than skin.

7. The ad condones the proclivity of males to mentally unclothe women by reminding them what they would see if they did, and by suggesting that there are women who want to be publicly unclothed in this way. This reminder and this suggestion support habits and stereotypes that weaken personal virtue and jeopardize decorous relationships.

8. The ad encourages young girls to put excessive focus on their bodies and how they will be looked at, adding to the epidemic of depression and eating disorders.

9. The ad contributes to dissatisfaction in men whose wives can’t produce that body and thus adds to the instability of marriages and homes.

I realize that the bottom line is big bucks for page two, and lots of attention for [name of department store omitted]. But please know that at least one assessment of your standards of fitness for print is that it is part of a tragic loss of modesty and decency that may, for now, feel like mature liberation, but in generations to come will reap a whirlwind of misery for all of us.

From John Piper, A Godward Life, published by Multnomah Books.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Freedom Is Not Indifferent To Religion

Quoting Justice Joseph Story:

The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God: the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues–these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can exist without them.

Seeking Wealth To Find Happiness

In the article below, Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) reminds us that the journey to achieve great wealth may not yield the results we hope for:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 ESV)

In these striking words we see that [Solomon] found the path of riches a disappointing path also. Finding bitterness in the path of wine, finding no peace in human wisdom alone, he turned to the path of riches, hoping therein to find the joy and the peace the human heart needs.

See how rich he was.

  • “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold.” (I Kings 10:14)
  • “And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold, six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. And he made three hundred shields, of beaten gold; three pounds of gold went to one shield; and the, king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.” (I Kings 10:16,17)
  • “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.” (I Kings 10:22)
  • “And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.” (I Kings 10:26)
  • “So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” (I Kings 10:23)

Yes, gifts poured into his coffers in a continuous stream so that he was able to hire men singers and women singers able to build himself and his wives gorgeous palaces able to enjoy all that money could provide. He was able at any time to pay a king’s ransom for a day of pleasure. He had riches till the end of his life. He never knew the pinch of poverty; never knew any anxiety about his daily bread. Yet, even in the security of his nest of wealth, he fully realized the futility of their values. “Vanity of vanities ! “

No man can buy a contented heart.

Money is powerless to furnish this. No man can purchase with riches a soul at peace with God. No man can pay in money the price of the hope of immortality and of a meeting in the Great Beyond. No man can find in riches the purchase price of God’s favor or the realization of eternal salvation.

Not even in this day does money guarantee health, or hold friends, or bring contentment! (“Paths of Disappointment”)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV)

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