“The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best.”1
This quote by Charles Spurgeon reflected upon Psalm 51:1, David’s cry for mercy after his sin with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam 11).
Job was a godly man who avoided this kind of sin. He was the godliest man of his time (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; cf. Ezek 14:14, 20). He was conscious of what Spurgeon implied—even the godliest of men can fall into sexual sin and need to take heed to themselves (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 4:16). Job tells us how he lived a life of moral integrity in Job 31:1–12. We can learn from his example.
A Bit of Context
Job suffered greatly (Job 1–2), and his friends repeatedly suggested sin as the cause for his woes (Job 3–37). God contrasted their wrong explanation with no explanation at all (Job 38–41). Even in suffering, Job needed only to trust the wisdom of his sovereign God, patiently and without question. Job did, and he saw God’s blessing, compassion, and mercy (Job 42; cf. Jas 5:11).
In his last reply to his friends (Job 26–31; cf. 31:40b), Job defended his moral integrity. We will consider just Job 31:1–12 in order to focus on sexual purity, dividing the passage into three sections.
First, do not lust (Job 31:1–4).
Job had made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon what would provoke his lusts (Job 31:1; in this case, “a virgin”—an unmarried, younger woman). A life of unrighteous lust would forfeit his portion from God who would give him calamity and disaster instead (Job 31:2–3). God sees our every way and numbers our every step (Job 31:4). He will judge our evil and our good, whether seen by men or only Him (Ps 139:3; Prov 5:21; 15:3; 1 Tim 5:24).
Job lived as Isaiah would later describe: “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly… shuts his eyes from looking on evil” (Isa 33:15). He knew the truth of what Christ would say: “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). He is an example of Paul’s command for us today: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14).
Second, do not lie in order to act upon your lust (Job 31:5–8).
These verses refer to falsehood and deceit in general, sins stemming from an inordinate desire in the heart to take wrongfully from another what can be seen with the eyes (Job 31:5, 7; cf. Prov 27:20b; 1 John 2:16). Job repeats the notion that God knew his integrity and would judge him for this matter as well (Job 31:6, 8).
Applying Job 31:5–8 to sexual sin, we must remember that what the eyes can see may lead to sinful desire in the heart. Then, in order to act upon this desire, we could lie and deceive to feed our sinful flesh. A life of lust and lies can only lead to spiritual ruin. It seems Job knew the process that James would articulate in time—unchecked temptation gives way to sinful desire, sinful desire gives way to sin, sin gives way to habitual sin, and the end thereof is death (Jas 1:14–15). Do not lust, and do not lie in order to carry out your lustful desires. Be honest and righteous instead.
Third, do not commit adultery (Job 31:9–12).
As in the previous verses, Job again pictures how a lustful heart can lead to sinful action. He supposes himself seduced and stealthily waiting at his neighbor’s door in order to sneak in and sleep with his neighbor’s wife (Job 31:9). Perhaps the woman waits for her husband to leave as well, just as the adulteress in Proverbs 7 (cf. Prov 7:12, 19–20), but Job does not say.
Whatever the case, Job feared that God would judge such adultery in multiple ways. His wife could become a slave to do other men’s work and fulfill their immoral desires (Job 31:10; cf. Exod 11:5; Isa 47:2–3). Judges would punish him for his crime (Job 31:11). The consequences would swallow his wealth and haunt him to the grave and beyond (Job 31:12; cf. Prov 6:20–35; Rev 21:8). Job knew neither lust nor adultery but was an example of moral integrity. Like him, we must flee all lust and pursue righteousness from a pure heart (2 Tim 2:22). Lay aside this sin, look to Christ, and let your joy be in Him and heaven above (Heb 12:1–2).
In every section of Job 31:1–12, Job appealed to his righteous actions and the all-seeing eyes of God. He did nothing wrong in this area of his life, God knew it, and he was an example of moral integrity. If Job was the most righteous man on earth in his time, how much more should we take care to live lives of moral integrity?
Don’t give way to lust. Don’t deceive to carry out your sin. Don’t give in to adultery. Put on Christ, and live a life that looks like Him.
- Charles Spurgeon. Morning and Evening (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), “August 29.”