What is the Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes & the Pride of Life? (1 John 2:16)
1 John 2:16 says: 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.
The word “lust” in this Scripture means: longing desire; eagerness to possess or enjoy; unlawful desire of carnal pleasure; evil propensity; depraved affections and desires.
The Bible reveals that since the beginning of creation, the temptation to sin will always come in 3 basic categories: These 3 categories are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
For example, when Eve was tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, she was tempted in these 3 categories.
Genesis 3:6 says: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate…
Similarly, during the temptation of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:1-12), the devil tempted Jesus by using the same categories of: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
The first temptation Jesus faced was the lust of the flesh. Luke 4:3 says: The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
So whilst Christ was fasting, the devil tempted Jesus to remove His hunger and satisfy His flesh.
The second temptation Jesus faced was the lust of the eyes. Luke 4:5-7 says: And the devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to Him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If You, then, will worship me, it will all be Yours.”
In this temptation the devil showed Jesus the “kingdoms of the world” in an effort to lure Christ to worship him in exchange for the worldly kingdoms he paraded to Christ.
The third temptation Jesus faced was the pride of life. Luke 4:9-11 says: And he took him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
In this temptation the devil wanted Jesus to test God; a temptation to prove if God will submit to an individual’s personal will or motives, instead of man submitting to God.
What is the Lust of the Flesh?
The lust of the flesh is any temptation or sin that appeals to our carnal and physical appetites. It is any sin that gives people sinful pleasure and attempts to satisfy our emotional senses and physical desires through sin.
Examples of the lust of the flesh include: sexual sins such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality etc.
Other examples of the lust of the flesh include drug addiction, alcoholism, gluttony, physical violence, materialism, gossip, idolatry and so forth.
Galatians 5:19-21 says: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
What is the Lust of the Eyes?
The lust of the eyes is to look at things for which we are forbidden to see. The lust of the eyes includes visualizing and fantasizing about things God has forbidden us from thinking about; it is coveting and desiring to look at something that you should not be looking at.
For example, Jesus says that adultery is not only a sin that one commits through physical sexual contact. Instead according to Christ, adultery begins in the mind through looking or fantasizing.
In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The lust of the eyes also involves seeing and desiring something that does not belong to you but belongs to someone else.
Examples of the lust of the eyes include: pornography, coveting other people’s possessions, erotic and adulterous fantasies, the visualization and desire to receive forbidden things.
What is the Pride of Life?
Pride of life is the temptation and desire for power, personal recognition and personal glory. The pride of life is also when someone believes he/she is better or superior than others based on acquired material possessions, social status, education and the like.
The pride of life appeals to arrogance, conceitedness, narcissism and all manner of self-exaltation and superiority complexes. The pride of life also tempts people to seek popularity and admiration from others at any cost.
The pride of life contrasts and opposes a life and attitude of humility.
Romans 12:3 says: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Philippians 2:3 says: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves
Proverbs 8:13 says: The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate
James 4:6 says: But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is linked to one’s love for the world. Therefore when we have a culture of enjoying & yielding to these 3 categories of temptations, then we expose ourselves as being lovers of the world and not lovers of God.
In context, the Scripture says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
To overcome temptation we must take the example of Jesus Christ and be spiritually rooted in knowing and understanding God’s word for every situation we face in life.
Whenever Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil, Jesus would always respond to each temptation with Scripture (Luke 4:1-12; Matthew 4:1-11).
Christ did not only know the Scriptures, but He obeyed them. This is the example we must take from Jesus Christ whenever we are tempted with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.