During the time of his trials, Job endured sorrow and suffering, ridicule and reproach, but the wild accusations of sin leveled against him by his own friends clearly upset him—as we surely can understand. They had charged him with a multiplicity of sins, assuming the worst due to the suppositions of their erroneous theology. In Job 31 Job responded to a series of these accusations one after another, defending himself against their false indictment and citing his own character as the reason why he would not participate in such behaviors. The whole of the response contains many valuable lessons, but the very first stands out as a type for all of them. Contradicting their claims, Job asserted, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1). Indeed, Job likely gave it this prominence because of how difficult a problem this can be for a man, and his self-defense says much about Job as a godly man.
Men (and women for that matter) have the responsibility to control where they allow their eyes to wander so as to avoid lust (1 Jn. 2:16). There is no doubt that modesty is a pressing problem in today’s world, but just because someone else introduces temptation does not give us license to lust (Jas. 1:13-15). Job took responsibility for what and at whom he looked, and we share that same obligation today (Matt. 5:28). This internal commitment, rooted in our determination to serve God, is at the heart of self-control and submission to His will (Matt. 6:22-24). It does not matter whether the temptation presents itself online, on a billboard, or in an office building, the responsibility does not change. Just because a woman gives you permission to look at her sexually does not mean that God has given His permission too. The fact is that people tend to look at sexual sins from the sin backward instead of from righteousness forward. Men will start by trying to justify fornication and then work their way back trying to create a compromise so that they can get as close to that as possible. A Christian should start with what God says and never challenge His wisdom.
In the verses that follow Job’s original declaration, he explained very simply why this mattered so much. He recognized that God sees every glance, every click, every wandering eye, and every lustful gaze (Job 31:4). He also knew that if he were to drop his guard and give in it would negatively affect his relationship with God (Job 31:2). These two combine to remind us of an essential fact: God sees every sin and will judge us for every sin (Job 31:3). It can have devastating immediate consequences in life by destroying relationships, but it most definitely has the consequence of destroying a relationship with God. When I was a teenager, a married man—not a Christian—once argued, “Just because you’ve made your purchase doesn’t mean you can’t go window shopping.” It is a common justification to try to separate the sin of looking lustfully on someone from the sins that often follow. This is the beginning point of so many problems, and that makes it the right place to start in order to conquer them all.