Today's Study...

The Harm Principle
A Three-minute Bible Study
Print, Study and Apply

Read the following Bible passage, then answer the short questions. Consider the practical suggestions at the end of the study.

Philippians 2:4*

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.


1. What does this verse mean?


2. How can its message help us resist temptation?


Practical help

Some modern ethicists make an interesting claim: Governments should make no laws that restrict human behavior — unless someone gets hurt. They call this innovation the "harm principle."

The law was not always thus. At least until the early modern thinkers, ethicists tied their systems to varied conceptions of the good. But Hobbes, Mill and Locke redirected ethics toward conceptions of rights, not what was good. Transcendent good dropped out of the discussion, and the harm principle took its place.

The harm principle allows porn to exist. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the Supreme Court used it to strike down anti-smut laws. The reasoning? Porn may have artistic value, and besides, it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Really? Many families explode because family members become addicted to pornography. Serial killer Ted Bundy admitted that hard-core porn inspired his grisly crimes. And — perhaps most laughable to the modern ethicists and the Supremes — porn degrades the individual. By coarsening our sexual appetites, it harms those who use it.

The apostle Paul understood this. His all-encompassing definition of "harm" rules out pornography. First, he urged believers to "look out for the interests of others." But how can we look out for our families and our society by ingesting smut? Paul also counseled us to look out for our own interests. And there’s no better way to do that than by avoiding the corruption of pornography.

Smut is the harm principle writ large.