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.