Summary: Lust in Scripture, especially in the New Testament Epistles, is human “desire for what God has forbidden.” It is an “obsessive sexual craving.”
The Seven Deadly Sins: Lust
The late Rev. Dr. John Rowan Claypool IV served as a pastor for 47 years, first in Southern Baptist Congregations in the South and then from 1986 to 2000 as the Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama. In his sermon entitled “The Future and Forgetting,” he shares this story:
“Two Buddhist monks were walking in a drenching thunderstorm. They came to a stream, and it was swollen out of its banks. A beautiful young Japanese woman in a kimono stood there wanting to get to the other side but was afraid of the currents. In characteristic Buddhist compassion, one of the monks said, ‘Can I help you?’
“The woman said, ‘I need to cross this stream.’”
“The monk picked her up, put her on his shoulder, carried her through the water, and put her down on the other side. He and his companion went on to the monastery.
“That night his companion said to him, ‘I have a bone to pick with you. As Buddhist monks, we have taken vows not to look on a woman, much less touch her body. Back there by the river you did both.’
“The first monk said, ‘My brother, I put that woman down on the other side of the river. You’re still carrying her in your mind.’” [SOURCE: --John Rowan Claypool, “The Future and Forgetting,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 109.]
Dr. Claypool’s story is an appropriate analogy of the sin our Judeo-Christian faith acknowledges as lust. Jewish rabbis through the centuries have condemned all sin not only as evil actions but also as evil desires that begin as a bad attitude in the heart. Jesus distinctly teaches in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Lust is an inner attitude or desire in one’s heart.
In Scripture it is difficult to distinguish between covetousness and lust. In the New Testament the same group of words that becomes “to covet” or covetousness in English is the same one for lust. A portion of the Tenth Commandment declares “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”
The group of words in the original Greek New Testament that translates either as covetousness or lust basically refers to “a strong desire or longing for something.” Covetousness is too strong a desire for materialistic gain. Lust implies a strong, unhealthy, inappropriate, immoral sexual desire that is in conflict with the will of God. It is any “impulsive sensual desire that is contrary to the will and pleasure of God.” It is wrong, sensual, selfish, sexual desires that oppose the revealed will of God in our intimate, sexual relationships with one another.
Craig Brian Larson, a Chicago pastor, wears many hats including serving as editor of the pastors’ resource “Preachingtoday.com.” He is especially talented in providing pastors with great anthologies from the movies that are excellent illustrations for sermons.
He shares this story. “As a kid, I saw a movie in which some shipwrecked men are left drifting aimlessly on the ocean in a lifeboat. As the days pass under the scorching sun, their rations of food and fresh water give out. The men grow deliriously thirsty. One night, while the others are asleep, one man ignores all previous warnings and gulps down some salt water. He quickly dies.
“Ocean water contains seven times more salt than the human body can safely ingest. Drinking it, a person dehydrates because the kidneys demand extra water to flush the overload of salt. The more salt water someone drinks, the thirstier he gets. He actually dies of thirst.
Lusting makes us like this man. “We thirst desperately for something that looks like what we want. We don’t realize, however, that it is precisely the opposite of what we really need. In fact it can kill us.” [SOURCE: Craig Brian Larson].
I also appreciate Billy Graham’s insight: “There must be firm control of the sex impulse. This God-given instinct has been dragged through the gutter by modern thinking, and we have made a cheap toy out of the most sacred gifts God has given us. Our procreative powers need to be dedicated to Christ.” [SOURCE: --Billy Graham, The Quotable Billy Graham, Compiled and Edited by Cort R. Flint and the staff of Quote, (Anderson, S. C.: Droke House, 1966).].
When practiced within the boundaries our Creator has set, there is nothing more sacred and holy than the intimate relationship between a man and a woman. This has been God’s plan since He created the human race. After He created our first parents, Genesis 1:28 tells us “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then Genesis 2:24 affirms: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”