The Bible condemns the exploitation and objectification of human beings. Throughout Scripture, we see God’s heart for the oppressed and His commands to defend the vulnerable. So what does the Bible say specifically about pimps and the sex trade?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible clearly prohibits prostitution and pimping, which exploit and commodify women created in God’s image for selfish gain.
Definitions and Context
Define key terms like ‘pimp’ and ‘prostitute’
A pimp is someone who controls and financially benefits from the work of prostitutes. Historically, pimps have often forced women into prostitution through threats, violence, or drug addictions. Today, some see pimps as business managers or protection for sex workers, but exploitation and abuse still occur regularly.
A prostitute is someone who sells sexual services for money or goods. The terms “sex worker” or “commercial sex worker” are sometimes preferred because they don’t carry the same negative connotations. Prostitution has occurred across cultures and eras, and religious texts like the Bible contain many references to it.
Provide historical context of prostitution in biblical times
In ancient cultures like Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, sacred or temple prostitution was common. Women engaged in the practice to serve fertility goddesses like Ishtar or Aphrodite. This differed from commercial prostitution, which focused on pleasure and money.
Commercial prostitution flourished in biblical times, often associated with idolatry and pagan worship. Shrines and temples dedicated to foreign gods used prostitutes in their rituals. Centres of worship, like the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, also hosted a large number of sacred prostitutes.
Besides sacred prostitution, some biblical texts mention commercial sex workers who solicited clients in public places. The book of Genesis records Judah visiting a veiled “shrine prostitute” (Genesis 38:15).
Proverbs warns about the temptations of the adulterous woman or loose woman who flatters with her words (Proverbs 5-7).
Direct Biblical References
Old Testament verses prohibiting prostitution
The Old Testament contains several verses that prohibit prostitution and condemn the practice as sinful. Here are some of the key passages:
- Leviticus 19:29 – “Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.” This verse prohibits fathers from prostituting their daughters.
- Deuteronomy 23:17-18 – “No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both.” This clearly condemns prostitution.
- 1 Kings 14:24 – “There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.” Male prostitution is mentioned as a detestable practice.
New Testament verses condemning sexual immorality
The New Testament continues the sexual ethics of the Old Testament and condemns all sexual immorality, including prostitution:
- 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 – “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” This clearly states that visiting prostitutes is immoral.
- 1 Corinthians 6:18 – “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Sexual sins like prostitution are considered especially corrosive.
- Ephesians 5:3 – “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” No hint of sexual immorality is allowed.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” Avoiding sexual immorality is God’s will.
Indirect Principles and Commands
Human dignity and equality
The Bible teaches that all human beings, both men and women, are created equally in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (Genesis 1:27). Exploiting others through pimping violates their fundamental human dignity.
We are called to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
Jesus treated women with dignity and challenged the prevailing attitudes of his day that diminished women (John 4:7-30, 8:1-11). The apostle Paul declared that among believers “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
All are equal in God’s sight.
The Bible promotes sexual purity and reserves sexual intimacy for marriage between one man and one woman (Hebrews 13:4). Pimping promotes sexual immorality, which is repeatedly condemned in Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Christians are urged to flee from sexual immorality and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (2 Timothy 2:22).
Jesus reiterated God’s standards for sexual purity (Matthew 5:27-30) and forgave the woman caught in adultery, while commanding her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Sex is a gift from God meant to be enjoyed within the covenant of marriage.
Exploitation of the poor and vulnerable
God commands his people to defend the weak and needy (Psalm 82:3-4) and rescue those being led away to death (Proverbs 24:11-12). Instead, pimps prey upon the poor and vulnerable to exploit them for selfish gain. This is sinful.
Throughout Scripture, God shows special concern for the poor, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow (Psalm 146:9). As Christ’s followers, we must open our eyes to see people’s needs around us and extend compassion to those trapped in darkness (Matthew 25:31-46).
Objectification and commodification of women
The Bible presents women as whole persons created in God’s image, not as objects to be exploited (Genesis 1:27). Yet pimping inherently commodifies and objectifies women’s bodies for selfish purposes. This violates biblical values.
Women should be viewed as partners and co-heirs with men, not as property (Genesis 2:18, 1 Peter 3:7). Modesty and moral purity are praised, while lust is condemned (1 Timothy 2:9, Matthew 5:28). Christians must elevate attitudes toward women and renounce the patterns of this world that demean them.
How the church can combat sex trafficking today
The church has a vital role to play in combating the evil of sex trafficking in our world today. Here are some practical ways the church can make a difference:
- Educate congregations about the reality of sex trafficking both globally and locally. Many people are unaware of how widespread this issue is, even in their own communities. Churches can host speakers, show documentaries, and raise awareness to mobilize people for action.
- Partner with anti-trafficking organizations to receive training and learn best practices for serving trafficking victims. Organizations like the Salvation Army and International Justice Mission equip churches to identify victims, provide trauma care, and connect survivors to restorative services.
- Develop mercy ministries that provide housing, counseling, job assistance, and spiritual support for survivors. Survivors often need material, psychological and spiritual help to heal and build a new life after escaping their traffickers.
- Outreach to vulnerable populations such as runaway youth and those in the sex industry with an attitude of love and compassion, offering real help and a way out. Building trust is key.
- Petition local and national governments to implement laws that curb trafficking demand and provide greater protections for victims. The church can advocate for policy changes that fight trafficking at systemic levels.
The church is uniquely positioned to destroy the darkness of trafficking through education, partnerships, advocacy and on-the-ground mercy ministries. With over 2 billion adherents globally, the church can promote justice, speak hope and provide healing to countless victims of trafficking.
Providing support for women seeking escape from prostitution
Women trying to leave prostitution often face enormous obstacles and need significant support. Here are some key ways the church can provide help and hope to these courageous women:
- Safe housing and shelters specifically designed for former prostitutes and their children. Providing a safe environment is crucial in the early stages of transition.
- Access to health care, drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs, and psychological counseling to begin dealing with trauma. Many carry deep wounds and addictions that require professional treatment.
- Education and job skills training to establish financial independence. For some, getting a GED or vocational training can open doors to a new life.
- Childcare assistance for those with children. Quality childcare enables mothers to go back to school and start working.
- Legal aid regarding custody issues, record expungement, and accessing public benefits. Legal expertise helps remove obstacles to forward progress.
- Peer support groups led by former prostitutes who can relate and provide guidance from experience. Fellow survivors often make the best mentors.
- A compassionate spiritual community that accepts them as loved children of God. Many need to re-build their identity and self-worth.
With an estimated 80% of women in prostitution wanting to escape this life, churches have an amazing opportunity to be agents of transformation. It takes patience, resources and determination – but helping women find freedom, healing and purpose makes it all worthwhile.
In conclusion, while the Bible does not directly address the term ‘pimp,’ the biblical principles regarding human dignity, sexual ethics, care for the vulnerable, and the intrinsic value of all people clearly indicate that pimping and prostitution are grave sins in God’s eyes.
As Christ followers, we must combat the forces of exploitation and treat all people, including prostitutes, with the honor, love and compassion they deserve as precious image-bearers of God.