Truth for Young Believers: The Problem of Sexting

Don’t send the picture. Once you send it, you have given up control of that image, with the possibility that it may never be totally deleted. Better yet, don’t even take the picture – it serves no good purpose to anyone. Sharing nude or semi-nude pictures is not part of a healthy relationship and it goes against the standard of purity to which God calls us in Christ. “For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1Th 4:2-5 ESV).

Nakedness in the Bible

The right to see someone naked or partially naked is reserved for a husband and a wife. Beyond marriage, you should never expose yourself to anyone for romantic or sexual purposes. It was a husband and a wife that “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25 ESV). Sin brought a shame to nakedness (e.g., Isa 47:3), so when Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them clothing to cover their shame. It is only within marriage that nakedness can become good again (e.g., Heb 13:4). Pursuing it outside of the security of marriage disrespects the sacredness, beauty and uniqueness of that God-given covenant relationship.

How much people cover themselves with regular clothing does vary some from culture to culture. But when the human body is used as an analogy for the church, it is stated that there are parts of our body that are unpresentable and require more covering (1Co 12:23-24) – it is a given that they are not to be seen by others. You are NOT being empowered by exposing yourself, and you certainly aren’t empowering others by asking them to expose themselves to you. You are sowing seeds of shame, guilt and insecurity.

Is There Any Harm?

Smartphones and social media apps are brilliant examples of the danger of acting without thinking, and the strange tendency to open up through technology in a way we never would in person. We can so easily say and do things and share them publicly, and later regret it. Once something is sent into cyberspace or across mobile networks, you have no guarantee that it will be erased. The significance of what you just shared often doesn’t sink in until afterwards. The guilt can be difficult to cleanse because you wonder how often it will be viewed. “What if we don’t actually get married – what will he do with what I shared?” “If she sent them so easily to me, has she done the same with others – do I have her to myself?” “If he says he needs this from me now, what will he need later … and where will he look for it?” The anxiety can lead to bigger issues if not properly dealt with – far better to not have to deal with it.

Feeling sexual attraction is not wrong or unnatural. But purposely stirring up those desires without a God-ordained opportunity to satisfy them is wrong – “Let us walk properly … not in sexual immorality and sensuality …. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:13-14 ESV). Sin is harmful, and sexting will only lead to further sin, as at the very least you are promoting lust (see Mat 5:28). Do you want to push a brother or sister towards sin? You may think to yourself, “Okay, I will send just one picture” – but “never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Pro 27:20 ESV). Beyond the lustful thoughts, there is also a real danger that once you have pushed through one moral boundary, you will more easily push through another … and another … and another. Our sinful flesh is powerful and you may very well find yourself engaging in behaviour that is more serious and harmful.

But even if the sexting never leads to inappropriate physical contact, it has still harmed your appreciation of God’s good gifts. Scripture views human sexuality as more than just a physical act. Sexting is a “counterfeit intimacy” that risks distorting a proper view of the individual in the photo and negatively influencing true intimacy down the road – “sexting cheapens the meaning of real love.”[1]

You should also be aware that, depending on your local laws, the age of those involved, whether there was pressure exerted, and whether unintended people viewed the images, sexting can also result in criminal charges. A momentary decision can massively mess up lives. Don’t take the picture. Don’t ask for pictures. And don’t keep them if you’ve been sent them.

There is Grace

This article is intended to be preventative, but it is possible a reader has already fallen victim to this temptation. I am not writing to increase your guilt, but to offer a warning against future mistakes. God fully forgives sin, including sexual sin. Cherish the cross of Christ and rejoice in the mercy God extends (cf. Psa 51; 1Co 6:9-11; 1Jn 1:7-9). For older saints reading these lines, remember that we did not have smartphones available to us in our teen years – and what sort of trouble might we have gotten ourselves into if we did? “Smartphones do not invent new sins; they simply amplify every extant temptation of life …. Old temptations are given new levels of attraction and addiction and accessibility.”[2] But God is always gracious.

Closing Counsel

Young men – treat “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1Tim 5:2 ESV). Would you violate your sister this way? “View the temptation to ask for nude pictures the same way you would view the temptation of incest.”[3] And young women – if a guy asks you for an inappropriate picture, or is messaging you in sexually suggestive language that is making you uncomfortable, you need to question whether he is the godly man that you are to marry. “Trust in the LORD, and do good …. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psa 37:3-4 ESV).


[1] Focus on the Family

[2] Tony Reinke

[3] John Piper