Lust

Preaching and Worship Resources about Lust

Lust is the intense, often preoccupying desire for sexual pleasure that is un-submissive to whole-person love. In contemporary American culture, the lust machine runs 24/7. Salacious ads, sexting, and ubiquitous porn insure that anybody with a pulse will be tempted. But lust is dehumanizing.

In Scripture

Examples Shechem’s rape of Dinah (Gen. 34:1-2) Potiphar’s wife with Joseph (Gen. 39) David with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:2-5) Amnon with Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1-22) The adulteress of Proverbs 7 The profligates of Romans 1:24, 26-27 The pagans of 1 Peter 4:3 The “worldlings” of 1 John 2:16

Warnings “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty. . . . Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?” (Prov. 6:25, 27, NIV) “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28) “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime . . . not in sexual immorality and debauchery” (Rom. 13:13, NIV) “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Vice lists Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, Colossians 3:5

Points to Ponder

Disintegrating Healthy people enjoy the freedom that is born of contentment (a “freedom from want”) and integrate their sexual desire into a committed relationship bonded by vows and trust. But lustful people disintegrate sexual desire from whole-person love, seeking sexual pleasure just for themselves and just for its own sake. But this is dehumanizing. Human beings are much richer than their mere appetites, and relational trust, commitment, and vulnerability are some of the choicest of those riches. To burn straight and true, sexual desire needs a secure context; the fire needs a fireplace.

Addictive Like the other appetitive sins, lust easily becomes addictive, capturing whole tracts of a person’s attention and imagination and requiring regular and fresh fixes. Avarice, gluttony, and lust exhibit a combination of exaggerated and misplaced longing. Addicted people display the addictive syndrome: a childish, self-seeking impatience with delayed gratification and a refusal to accept reasonable limits on behavior. In addition, addiction tends to split and bind the will, to work itself into a habit of the heart, and to hide itself under layers of self-deception. Finally it locks itself in by attempting to cure distress with the same behavior that caused it.

Bondage of the will At the center of his Confessions, St. Augustine ponders the bondage of the will, “the violence of habit by which even the unwilling mind is dragged down and held.” Scripturally, Augustine is moving among those Pauline passages (Rom. 7:22-25, Gal. 5:17) that speak of the war between flesh and spirit—the inner war we lose whenever we will what is right but do what is wrong. Experientially, Augustine is talking about his long battle with lust. The eerie dynamic of appetitive evil, he says, is that we enslave ourselves to it. As in all tragedy, the enemy is within as well as without. We know we are doing wrong, we want not to do it, and still we do it. The reason is that at some other level of our being we do want to do it. Giving in to that want at that level leaves a bondage we both create and resent: “I was bound not by an iron imposed by anyone else but by the iron of my own choice. . . By servitude to passion, habit is formed, and habit to which there is no resistance becomes necessity” so that “a harsh bondage held me under restraint” (Augustine, Confessions 8.5.10-11).

Antidotes Seeking by spiritual means a heart that is full of satisfaction with the gifts of God, i.e., a heart that is “rich toward God”; following the counsel of Matthew 5:29-30 which, shorn of Middle Eastern hyperbole, means we have to do whatever is necessary, whatever it takes, to tame lust (such steps might include getting plenty of exercise, practicing sturdy mind control, and making “a covenant with one’s eyes,” as in Job 31:1); defusing lust by confessing it to a confidant other than the lustee; honest, patient prayer and striving for self-control; seeking protection by using the incest taboo to deliberately view potential lustees as brothers and sisters within the family of God


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.