Filial payments

“Will my allowance be enough for me to send my mother a cash payment each month?” George* asks Liz*, his member care worker.

Although Singapore is his passport country, George has studied, lived and worked in Australia for 15 years. George’s mother lives in Singapore* along with all his aunties, uncles and cousins.  He has been sending regular cash (filial) payments to his mother ever since he started working. George and his extended family are ethnically Chinese.  

George is in the process of applying to work as a cross-cultural worker in Indonesia* with an Australian agency. The agency staff were surprised that George, as well as his extended family, regarded sending regular payments to support his mother as his responsibility. George’s agency doesn’t have policies or procedures regarding filial payments, since this is the first time they have had a cross-cultural worker raise this issue. 

During initial discussions with agency staff, there is concern expressed about the rising cost of sending George should filial payments be added to his budget, so he wonders about offering to do some extra part-time work on location to cover them.  

George also asks, “Will my leave allowance be sufficient for caring for my mother should she become ill, as well as for regular visits?” 

What would you say or do?


Cultural issues

Historically, George’s agency has been run mostly by anglo-Australians and thus it’s policies and practices reflect this cultural perspective. In contrast, however, in George and his family’s worldview, family responsibilities are primary, assumed and non-negotiable.

George’s filial payments are an expression of his sense of filial responsibility, ‘the obligation or duty of providing support and care to one’s parents’  (Chou, 2019). Filial piety is ‘one of the bedrock values of Chinese society. Rooted in Confucianism, it is the belief that honoring one’s parents is a person’s most important responsibility’ (Filial piety: A Christian Perspective, 2014).

Confucianism has significant influence in a number of countries including Singapore, Taiwan, China, Japan and Korea (Park and Müller, 2014), as well as in immigrant populations from these countries.  George may not be consciously aware of the influence of Confucianism in his life. Tokunaga argues that for many Asian Americans, 

‘Confucianism is not a religion or even a philosophy to which they would intentionally devote themselves. Rather, it permeates the social and family structures, much in the way Americans do not recite the Declaration of Independence but certainly have the values of the Declaration woven into the fabric of their society’. 

Tokunaga, 1998: 22

 The influence of Confucius means that ‘children must honour and obey parents, putting their parents’ comfort, interest and wishes above their own’ (Tokunaga, 1998: 20-21). Many immigrant and refugee families have struggled through transition (including financially) in a new country so that their children can have access to better opportunities (Tokunaga, 1998: 23). Accordingly, ‘their children feel strong needs to “show gratitude” for those struggles: “I want to do well in school to honor my parents. I want to get a good-paying job to help my family. It is the least I can do’” (Lou, 1989). George’s family may also have made significant sacrifices to fund George’s education in Australia, creating a sense of obligation for him.

Many countries have no social security, and in others it is limited. Adult children in such countries are expected to financially support their parents.  It is common in many communities for adult children to be a parent’s sole retirement fund. In other cases, adult children are supplementing their parents’ income whether sourced from a limited social security system or elsewhere. A wide spectrum of countries, from China and Singapore in the East, to Germany and France in the West, have laws that reflect the expectation that adult children are to support their elderly parents (Ting and Woo, 2009: 72; Aboderin, 2005). Some US states also have filial responsibility laws, with filial responsibility being ‘the legal term for the duty owed by an adult child to their parents for their parents’ life necessities’ (Gerber, 2022).

Filial payments are therefore very common in many communities.  In George’s home culture, for example, ‘well over 70% of the respondents involved in Singapore’s 2011 National Survey of Senior Citizens, reported that cash transfers from children represented their greatest source of income’ (Serrano, Saltman and Yeh, 2017). One survey reported that Singaporeans give about 10% of their salary to their parents with the median amount given being $500 per month (Miao, 2021).

The responsibility to send filial payments is not limited only to countries influenced by Confucianism. Yep et al. (1998: 12) note that South-East Asian, Indian, Pakistani and Filipino communities face similar pressures.  This suggests that future applicants from a wide range of communities may have similar responsibilities.

In Australia and the United Kingdom, in contrast, social security or superannuation cover much of the costs of living for elderly parents, and therefore filial piety does not often take the form of financial assistance. The home staff from George’s agency have probably assumed, up until this time, that this is the case for all their cross-cultural workers.  

How much does George need to pay his mother each month?

Broader context

Filial payments are a key facet of filial responsibility, but there are other responsibilities George is likely to have. These include caring for his mother during illness, regular visiting and meeting her sundry other needs. Traditional Asian cultures have a collectivist orientation, rather than an individualist orientation, which means the group, ‘defines the individual’s identity and destiny’ (Jao, 1998: 44).  Thus, George’s extended family’s expectations regarding his responsibilities towards his mother are also a contributing factor.


Another issue worth considering is the impact of George’s payments on his witness. 

What kind of witness are his filial payments to his extended family?

What kind of witness are filial payments in the culture George is to serve in? 

Let’s now reflect on a story in the Bible.

A story to consider

The book of Esther records an extraordinary story of  a Jewish girl, elevated to be the queen of Persia.

Haman, the highest official in the land, becomes angry when Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, refuses to bow down to him, as the king had commanded. Haman then sends out an order in the king’s name to every territory to destroy the Jews.

After this Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, appears at the city gate in sack cloth.

Esther’s male and female attendants came to her. They told her about Mordecai. So she became very troubled. She wanted him to take off his rough clothing. So she sent him other clothes to wear. But he wouldn’t accept them. Then Esther sent for Hathak. He was one of the king’s officials. He had been appointed to take care of her. She ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai. She wanted to know why he was so upset.

So Hathak went out to see Mordecai. He was in the open area in front of the palace gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him. He told him about the exact amount of money Haman had promised to add to the royal treasures. He said Haman wanted it to be used to pay some men to destroy the Jews. Mordecai also gave Hathak a copy of the order. It commanded people to wipe out the Jews. The order had been sent from Susa. Mordecai told Hathak to show the order to Esther. He wanted Hathak to explain it to her. Mordecai told him to tell her to go and beg the king for mercy. Mordecai wanted her to make an appeal to the king for her people.

Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther directed him to give an answer to Mordecai. She told him to say, “There is a certain law that everyone knows about. All the king’s officials know about it. The people in the royal territories know about it. It applies to any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard without being sent for. It says they must be put to death. But there is a way out. Suppose the king reaches out his gold scepter toward them. Then their lives will be spared. But 30 days have gone by since the king sent for me.”

Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai. Then he sent back an answer. He said, “You live in the king’s palace. But don’t think that just because you are there you will be the only Jew who will escape. What if you don’t say anything at this time? Then help for the Jews will come from another place. But you and your family will die. Who knows? It’s possible that you became queen for a time just like this.”

Then Esther sent a reply to Mordecai. She said,“Go. Gather together all the Jews who are in Susa. And fast for my benefit. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days. Don’t do it night or day. I and my attendants will fast just as you do. Then I’ll go to the king. I’ll do it even though it’s against the law. And if I have to die, I’ll die.”

So Mordecai went away. He carried out all Esther’s directions.

Esther 4:4-17

After this, Esther takes her life into her hands when she approaches the king without being summoned.  However, in so doing, she saves her family and people from mass extermination. The king kills Haman instead of the Jews!

It was costly for Esther to approach the king, on behalf of her people, just as it costs George to care for his mother.

Prior to going before the king, Esther asks Mordecai and her people to fast for her. Perhaps George and his agency staff can also fast and pray, as they consider the way forward.

In this story, Mordecai shows great faith in God’s sovereignty. Similarly, George and his agency staff can remember that God will bring his purposes about, come what may.  Maybe George is the one to break new ground for other cross-cultural workers from similar communities.

What happened? How was this cross-cultural worker cared for?

Liz encourages George to enquire from the agency about what his allowance will be on location. Once this occurs, George realises that his allowance will be insufficient to cover his filial payments. 

Liz then advocates for George with the agency staff in working out a solution. The agency staff prayerfully consider make changes to George’s budget to add a filial payment as a budget item. Then the agency staff discuss the possibility of changing their policies and procedures, so that they can add filial payments as a budget item for cross-cultural workers from similar cultural backgrounds in the future.

Liz also enquired about the provision of leave for George to care for his mother should she become ill. She discovered that the agency could give some paid compassionate leave for George to care for his mother should the need arise. However, if it was an extended period, George would be able to take unpaid leave for quite some time.

George has broken new ground for his agency providing a smoother way forward for other applicants from similar contexts.  

A few years later George reports to Liz

“Once I had settled into Indonesia, I started to experience a lot of pressure from my extended family to buy an apartment for my mother.”

George owned a flat in Perth* but had planned to keep that to live in after he finished working in Indonesia.  

George’s aunts and uncles became increasingly frosty in their communication with him, asking,

“When are you going to do something for your mother?”

“Do you want to put her in a nursing home?”  (Shameful in their family context)

They also say,

 “No landlords want to have someone die in their apartment” (George’s mother is currently renting in Singapore).

And lastly, and most powerfully,

“Your mother has no son.”

In response to this pressure, George decides to sell his flat in Perth to finance the purchase of an apartment for his mother in Singapore.  George consults her about the selection of the apartment as well as the size of the mortgage to take on and proceeds to purchase one.

After George’s aunts and uncles hear that he had purchased an apartment for his mother, the relationships became much less icy.  

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity.


Thank you to David Bird for his editorial assistance.

Recommended Reading

Yep, J. et al. (1998) Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press.


Aboderin, I. (2005) ‘“Conditionality” and “Limits” of Filial Obligation’. Oxford Institute of Ageing. Available at:

Chou, R. (2019) ‘Filial Responsibility’, Encyclopedia of Social Work. Available at:

Filial Piety: A Christian Perspective (2014). Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2023).

Hay, R. et al. (2007) Worth Keeping:Global Perspectives on Best Practices in Missionary Retention. Pasadena, CA: William Carey.

Impey, J. (2010) DW Made for minds. Available at:

Jao, G. (1998) ‘Honor and Obey’, in Following Jesus Without Dishonouring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, pp. 43–56.

Lou, R. (November/December) ‘Model Minority? Getting Behind the Veil’, Change, 7.

Miao, X. (2021) Here’s how much monthly allowance Singaporeans give their parents, AsiaOne. Available at: (Accessed: 22 February 2023).

Park, D.M. (2014) Confucian Filial Piety as a Challenge for Korean and Asian Churches. London: Lambert Academic.

Park, D.M. and Müller, J.C. (2014) ‘The challenge that Confucian filial piety poses for Korean churches’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 70(2). Available at:

Serrano, R., Saltman, R. and Yeh, M.-J. (2017) ‘Laws on filial support in four Asian countries’, Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, 95(11), pp. 788–790.

Ting, G. and Woo, J. (2009) ‘Elder care: is legislation of family responsibility the solution?’, Asian J Gerontol Geriatr, 4, pp. 72–75.

Tokunaga, P. (1998) ‘Pressure, Perfectionism & Performance’, in Following Jesus Without Dishonouring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, pp. 17–30.

Yep, J. (1998) ‘Your Parents Love You, My Parents Love Me’, in Following Jesus Without Dishonouring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship. Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, pp. 43–56.


I look at porn most days,” John* tells Dan*, his member care worker.  

John is married to Shirley and they have two small children.  He and his family are applying to work cross culturally with a sending organisation that has a policy of not sending those with active pornography habits (John may not know this).  The usual process for those who access porn at the frequency he is, would be to delay them, so that the applicant can to work on the issue with professionals until they are clear for 2 years.  

Dan asks John, “Does Shirley know about your habit?” John replies, “Yes.”

Then Dan asks, “What impact does it have on her?”  John replies, “Shirley says it doesn’t bother her.”

What would you say or do?


What’s the problem?  

This habit will be effecting John’s relationship with Shirley and with God, as well as the effectiveness of his cross-cultural service, should he proceed as planned.  Pornography use often leads to an addiction.  Does John’s vulnerability mean the end of his dreams? 


The use of pornography is very common both outside and inside the church.  Chester (2010: 14) defines pornography as ‘anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not’.  Experienced addiction clinicians in New Zealand, Harris and Dickinson (2016), write ‘anecdotally, 90% of all white collar men have accessed pornography in the last year’. Donnelley (2014) reports that surveys indicate 76% of men and 36% of women watch pornography in the UK.  Covenant Eyes (2020) found that within the Christian community, 64% of men and 15% of women say they watch porn at least once a month.  

In society at large, pornography is normalised.  Some material that would have been considered pornography a generation ago, is now considered mainstream.  Covenant Eyes (2020) found that 90% of teens and 96% of young adults are either ‘encouraging, accepting, or neutral when they talk about porn with their friends’.  Merrit (2016) reports that, ‘Teens and young adults say “not recycling” is more immoral than viewing pornography’.   

Increased prevalence

Psychologist Dr Alvin Cooper (2009) argues that pornography use has increased in recent years due to ‘the Triple-A engine’, referring to the anonymity,  affordability and accessibility provided by the internet.  Cyber access has provided anonymity, such that it is easy for people to keep their pornography habit secret.  Previously, while purchasing porn, whether magazines or movies, users had to face shop personnel and there was always the risk of meeting someone they knew.  Porn is now more affordable, with much of it free.  Just as pokie machines have provided twenty-hour gambling opportunities in recent times, so has the internet increased the accessibility of pornography. 

You can’t see me

You won’t know I’m spending on it since it’s part of our normal bill

I can access it anytime I am by myself

Harris & Dickinson (2016)

Is John addicted?

He may be. Pornography use often becomes an addiction.  Addiction can be defined as 

a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioural addiction. 

Felman (2018)

Addiction is a ‘primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, … and extended amygdala in the same manner as do drugs of abuse’ such as heroin. Addictions have various patterns including an escalating momentum downwards.  Harris and Dickinson (2016) argue that as an addict’s habit intensifies, they become committed to an unhealthy form of self soothing and become very protective of their habit. Watts (2008: 16) points out that pornography becomes an addict’s best friend; they spend their free time together and many of life’s activities are stopped in preference to it.

Brain Effects

The brain is rewired by porn. Watts (2008: 84) writes about the changes to the neural pathways of the brain that occurs during porn usage, such that ‘the more the pathways are exercised, the stronger the desire becomes’. He likens it to driving a 4-wheel drive vehicle on sand in a desert which is slow the first time but gradually becomes faster when the track is used repeatedly. If the habit continues, the track can morph into a highway! Watts (2008: 151) also refers to a trance like state of mind that can come about during porn use, due to the soothing and arousing effect of various hormones/chemicals that are released. This makes a porn habit very hard to quit.


The frequency, duration, severity and depth of engagement need to be explored using questions such as:

  • What age did you first access porn?
  • How often are you accessing porn?
  • What is the duration of each session?
  • How long have you been accessing it?
  • What type of material are you looking at?  (Note that the viewing of child pornography of any sort is a criminal offence).
  • Are you opening sites, downloading it, sharing, producing or masturbating whilst watching?

So what exactly is the problem for John and Shirley?

John’s habit will be effecting his relationship with Shirley, and Shirley’s relationship with John.  John’s watching of pornography involves sexual fantasies about someone other than Shirley.  Despite her denial, John’s porn habit will be significantly impacting Shirley, as well as the couple’s sexual relationship.  Her denial may suggest she feels powerless or discouraged in the relationship.

Porn encourages men and women to see others as objects to be consumed.  Chester (2010: 25) refers to a study by the American Psychological Association that concluded that pornography ‘is preventing boys and young men from relating to girls and women as complex human beings with so much to offer them. It is preventing boys from forming healthy friendships and working relationships with girls and women.’  

Pornography reduces satisfaction regarding users’ sex life with their partners.  Paul (2007) writes that many men report that ‘while using porn, they have trouble being turned on by “real” women, and their sex lives with their girlfriends or wives collapse’.  Pornography distorts expectations of sex and results in a view of sex that is detached from relationship and intimacy.   

In real life, sexually speaking, women are crockpots [or slow cookers] and men are microwaves. But in pornography all a man does is touch a woman and she’s howling in delight. Today, pornography is so widely used by young men, they learn these falsehoods. There’s good evidence that the more porn men watch, the less satisfied they are with their partners looks and sexual performance…

Sex in porn is just a physical activity, nothing more. But real sex, sex as God intended, is the celebration and climax – quite literally – of a relationship. Godly sex is part of a package that includes talking together, sharing together, deciding together, crying together, working together, laughing together and forgiving each other. Orgasm comes at the end of a process that began with offering a compliment, doing the chores, recalling your day, unburdening your heart, tidying the house. Sex that disregards these things is hollow. It will drive you apart, rather than bring you together as God intended. If you view sex as personal gratification or the chance to enact your fantasy, if you have sex while disregarding intimacy or unresolved conflict, then that sex will be bad in both senses of the word: poor quality and ungodly.

Chester (2010: 22-3)

Porn addiction distorts people slowly.  As Harris & Dickinson (2016) argue, porn use involves delusional thought processes that impact the reality perceived.  Chester (2010: 23) refers to a study that found an increased exposure to pornography was associated with an ‘increased tolerance towards sexual explicit material, thereby requiring more novel or bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal or interest’.  For example, distortions such as sadomasochism are seldom appealing in the beginning but may become so.

Effect on work

John ’s habit will impact his effectiveness in all areas of life including work.  For example, late night viewing results in sleep deprivation and affects productivity. Woodhouse (personal communication, 2020), an experienced member care worker, noted that typically porn users will experience an internal struggle with their integrity, consuming considerable energy.

Spiritual Effects

Shame and guilt are likely to be associated with John’s porn usage, since his behaviour is inconsistent with his faith beliefs. Lies and excuses are often employed to avoid exposure. John’s public self and his private self are at odds with each other (Watts, 2008: 41).        

Some argue that the use of pornography is a form of idolatry.  Chester (2010: 85) asserts that in spite of the shame it brings, porn puts users at the centre of a fantasy world in which they are worshipped.

Addictions are associated with a disconnection from God and a withdrawal from church. Many addicts fear the negative reactions of others which leads to isolation and sometimes the church community is unhelpful in response to addict’s revelations. Chester (2010: 38) notes that pornography use is a habitual struggle which causes some to experience doubts about their salvation.

Transition is a vulnerable time

Many applicants with John’s issue don’t realise how much more vulnerable they are likely to be during a transition into another culture.  When a person is in a pressure cooker situation, such as transition, character issues surface, and in fact, usually escalate.  A two-year study of short-term mission participants showed that most experienced a significant decline in personal purity both during their sojourn and the year following their return home (Friesen, 2005). 

Organisational policy issues

John’s organisation’s policy of delaying applicants until they are clear of pornography use for two years, may in fact drive applicants’ issues underground. The delay resulting from disclosure of a pornography issue provides significant temptation to lie about it. Some organisations take a less hard-line approach, working towards elimination but accepting there will be brief relapses by cross-cultural workers from time to time. Watts (2008: 226) reports that for Christians, the typical pattern is abstinence followed by a relapse in the form of a binge, rather than constant use of pornography. These periods of abstinence may be for significant stretches of time.

John’s attitude

A number of questions to consider:

–  Does John understand his habit is a problem?

–  Is he motivated to change?  

–  Has John tried to change in the past?  If so, what happened?

–  Does he know that there is more on offer for him?

A story to consider

It was spring. It was the time when kings go off to war. So David sent Joab out with the king’s special troops and the whole army of Israel. They destroyed the Ammonites…  But David remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David got up from his bed. He walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman taking a bath. She was very beautiful. David sent a messenger to find out who she was. The messenger returned and said, “She is Bathsheba. She’s the daughter of Eliam. She’s the wife of Uriah. He’s a Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him. And he slept with her. Then she went back home. All of that took place after she had already made herself “clean” from her monthly period. Later, Bathsheba found out she was pregnant. She sent a message to David. She said, “I’m pregnant.”

So David sent a message to Joab. David said, “Send me Uriah, the Hittite.” Joab sent him to David. Uriah came to David. David asked him how Joab and the soldiers were doing. He also asked him how the war was going. David said to Uriah, “Go home and enjoy some time with your wife.” So Uriah left the palace. Then the king sent him a gift. But Uriah didn’t go home. Instead, he slept at the entrance to the palace. He stayed there with all his master’s servants.

David was told, “Uriah didn’t go home.” So he sent for Uriah. David said to him, “You have been away for a long time. Why didn’t you go home?”

Uriah said to David, “The ark and the army of Israel and Judah are out there in tents. My commander Joab and your special troops are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink? How could I go there and sleep with my wife? [I could never do a thing like that. And that’s just as sure as you are alive!]”

Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day. Tomorrow I’ll send you back to the battle.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. David invited Uriah to eat and drink with him. David got him drunk. But Uriah still didn’t go home. In the evening he went out and slept on his mat. He stayed there among his master’s servants.

The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab. He sent it along with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front. That’s where the fighting is the heaviest. Then pull your men back from him. When you do, the Ammonites will strike him down and kill him.”

So Joab attacked the city. He put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest enemy fighters were. The troops came out of the city. They fought against Joab. Some of the men in David’s army were killed. Uriah, the Hittite, also died…”

David told the messenger, “Tell Joab, ‘Don’t get upset over what happened. Swords kill one person as well as another. So keep on attacking the city. Destroy it.’ Tell that to Joab. It will cheer him up.”

Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead. She mourned over him. When her time of sadness was over, David had her brought to his house. She became his wife. And she had a son by him. But the Lord wasn’t pleased with what David had done.

1 Samuel 11

What was David doing, or rather not doing, when Bathsheba was bathing?  Normally kings were out at war, so why wasn’t he?  Was he neglecting his duty? 

What was Bathseba doing bathing at this time?  Some have suggested that she was being inappropriate, however, Bathsheba was in fact, performing a ceremonial washing ritual as required by the law of Moses (Richardson, 2018).

David’s sin of adultery led to an escalation of sin, culminating in murder.  Later the prophet Nathan reproves David using a story (2 Samuel 12:1-6). In response, David repents.  Despite David’s sin, he received special favour from God and was described by God as ‘a man after my own heart’ (Acts 13:22).

How was this cross-cultural applicant cared for? 

It is important that Dan honour John’s courage about being honest about his porn problem. Dan might say, “I really admire your courage in disclosing this information.”

It may be helpful for Dan to normalise John’s porn problem, if he is feeling that he is abnormal. Normalisation could be achieved by saying, “Unfortunately, many men struggle with pornography issues these days. Statistics suggest that more than 60% of Christian men access pornography.” This normalisation is not in anyway endorsing John’s porn usage.

It is vital that Dan shows grace to John, but not cheap grace. 

It is possible that Christians may remain lonely in spite of daily worship together, prayer together …  For the pious community permits no one to be a sinner.  Hence all have to conceal their sins from themselves and from the community.  We are not allowed to be sinners…

However, the grace of the gospel, which is so hard for the pious to comprehend, confronts us with the truth. It says to us, you are a sinner, a great, unholy sinner. Now come, as the sinner that you are, to your God who loves you. For God wants you as you are, not desiring anything from you—a sacrifice, a good deed—but rather desiring you alone. “My child, give me your heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to make the sinner blessed. Rejoice! This message is liberation through truth. You cannot hide from God. The mask you wear in the presence of other people won’t get you anywhere in the presence of God. God wants to see you as you are, wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and to other Christians as if you were without sin. You are allowed to be a sinner. Thank God for that; God loves the sinner but hates the sin.”

Bonhoeffer (2005, p108)

Just as Nathan challenged David, John needs people who will challenge his behaviour. Chester (2010: 124) argues that, ‘People struggling with porn are often desperate for someone to be tough with them: to say it as it is’.  Dan asked John questions (set out above) to explore the issue.  Then John’s responses were used to determine the wisest way forward using the sending organsiation’s Porn Use Table⁠1.

Could John be encouraged to see that there is more on offer for him?  If John is willing to work on this issue with a professional, it may lead to better outcomes in his relationship with Shirley and God, as well as with his cross-cultural engagement in the future.  Dan referred John and Shirley to a counsellor for professional follow up regarding his habit.  

Dan could also encourage John to read ‘IP: DIY – Internet Pornography: Do-it-yourself treatment guide for men’ by Phil Watts which assists in understanding the issue better and helpful suggestions for tackling it. Alternatively, Dan could recommend ‘Captured by a Better Vision’ by Tim Chester (2010) which argues that greater pleasure can be found in God.

Dan might tell John the story of David.  Piper urges users to develop ‘gutsy guilt’, like David, and not let sexual failure cause them to drop out of mission or leadership (Piper, 2007).  Gutsy guilt involves confession, repentance and asking God for faith to trust that He taken away our guilt, shame and fear.  The alternative is being ‘knobbled’ in our spiritual walk.    

The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every good radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your Lakeside rocking chair.’  

Piper (2007)

It is vital that John is walked alongside through this challenge within a supportive community. Men’s support groups are often helpful in this regard.  It is a long-term struggle to escape addiction, so ongoing accountability is vital.

I’ve used accountability software. It’s been a huge help, but only because the person who receives my reports will respond appropriately – strongly, but graciously.” 

Chester (2010: 125)

Dan said to John, “The sending organisation will require a report from the psychologist/counsellor indicating that the issue has been satisfactorily followed up.  Our organisation uses accountability software called Covenant Eyes.  Please use this software and select an accountability partner who will receive reports about your internet use and will be strong and straight in his dealings.”     

At all times, Dan focused on the gospel rather than on the sin.  

* All names of people and places in this blog have been changed to provide anonymity.

Chester, T. (2010) Captured by a Better Vision. Nottingham, England: Intervarsity Press.

Watts, P. (2008) IP: DIY – Internet Pornography: Do-it-yourself treatment guide for men. Perth, Western Australia: Ogilvie.

Other References

Bonhoeffer, D. (2005) Life Together, Prayerbook of the Bible, Works. Fortress.

Camp, K. (2020) ‘13 Challenges Foreign Missionaries Face’, KennethACamp. Available at:

Cooper, A. (2009) CyberPsychology & Behaviour, 1(2). Available at:

Donnelley, P. (2014) We have sex just once a week… 76% of men said they watch pornography, half of women read erotic fiction and it’s all the economy’s fault, Mail Online. Available at:

Felman, A. (2018) What is addiction? Available at:

Flood, M. (2016) Inquiry into the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the internet. Wollongong.

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