Summary: Lust is more than sex. It is about power. It is about the overwhelming desire for power. Sex was not the main issue in David’s sin with Bathsheba. It was the lust for power and control.
Lust at First Sight
March 6, 2005
This fellow had a dream in which he was transported to heaven. In his vision, St. Peter was showing him around the place when the guy noticed that there were clocks everywhere. Everywhere he went there were clocks…thousands of them, hundreds of thousands of them, millions of them.
None of them had the same time because they were all ticking away at different rates. Under each clock was a name plate with someone’s name on it. He asked St. Peter what all the clocks were for and was told that each one was designed to keep track of a particular individual’s sins. Each time a person committed a sin, his or her clock would make a complete revolution.
This fellow began to look around and couldn’t find his clock. So when he asked St. Peter about it, he was surprised at the reply. “Oh, your clock? Well, we moved it back into the office and are using it as a fan.”
It’s interesting, isn’t it? We really don’t like to call sin by its real name anymore. We call it by other names that don’t sound so harsh. We don’t like to admit to sin, but will admit to miscalculations, or errors of judgment, or mistakes. You do remember, don’t you, the Kobe Bryant incident out in Colorado a couple of years ago? I remember the news conference he held immediately after being charged with a crime. He said at that time that he had made the “mistake of adultery.” Call me a little old fashioned if you wish, but I think that adultery is a little more than a mistake.
The story is told of Moses, who, when coming down off the mountain with the stone tablets, said: “The good news is that we were able to hold God to only ten commandments. The bad news is that adultery is still there.”
I have to admit to you that I struggled with this sermon a little bit. Here we are, continuing the series on the seven deadly sins, and we have come to lust. I studied and studied, thought and thought, hoped and hoped…in order that I might keep this at no more than a PG13 rating. I don’t know if this sermon is one which you have been hoping for, or one which you have been anticipating with great fear and trepidation.
There is a series of books out on the seven deadly sins. I have picked up and read a few of those. I finished the one on lust and decided that you have to be smarter than I am to understand what the author was saying. He is a professor of philosophy at Cambridge University and does a lot of talking about Platonic and Aristotelian thought. He brings in Shakespeare and Freud and a whole lot of other people I’d never heard of. He talks about the animal kingdom, about evolutionary psychology, and was really no help at all.
We do have some Christian and biblical resources to help us get at lust. We know that Jesus said, “…everyone who looks on a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). You will remember that St. Paul subscribed to the theory that it was better to marry than burn. Actually, he said that it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion and lust (I Corinthians 7:9). If you can’t control your desire, he said, then go ahead and get married. But it is better if you remain single and celibate.
People in the early generations of the church used to be so afraid of the possibility of lust that they felt that the only way to control it was to become a desert hermit. Saint Jerome makes mention of it this way.
There was I, therefore, who from fear of hell had condemned myself to such a prison, with only scorpions and wild beasts as companions. Yet I was often surrounded by dancing girls. My face was pale from fasting, and my mind was hot with desire in a body as cold as ice. Though my flesh, before its tenant, was already as good as dead, the fires of the passions kept boiling within me. (As referred to in “Lust: The Seven Deadly Sins,” 2004. Simon Blackburn. The New York Public Library: Oxford University Press. page 54)
St. Augustine of North Africa, before he became a saint, lived with a woman for a number of years, having a child without ever marrying. His mother had a firm hand in the end of this story. She insisted that he get rid of the woman and the child and go to Italy to study with the great Christian masters. In his Confessions, he admits his struggles with lust and passion. “As a youth I had been woefully at fault, particularly in early adolescence. I had prayed to (God) for chastity and said, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”