Lust: Defining It, Understanding It

Ben “asks”: another very good question:

bq. Everyone decries it, but no one really explains. I spent some time today trying to find someone, somewhere on line who had a good handle on what it is. Obsessive sexual desire, or just sexual desire? To hear some, you’d think the latter, but I can’t believe that. The investigation continues.

The KJV uses the word ‘lust “53 times”:, where the NIV uses it only “31 times”:, usually in a sexual context. Probably the most accurate definition of ‘lust’ is ‘any selfish “desire”:, particularly one that interferes with a right relationship with God and that dominates the entire individual such that he or she leans in an obsessive and worshipful manner toward attaining said desire.’ There is nothing wrong with temptation, _per se_, since all of life is comprised of temptation. But temptation crosses over into lust when we allow ourselves to succumb to it, when we ruminate on that desire and obsess over it. Such obsession controls us, effectively ruling over us because it dominates our minds and our behaviors, as we fantasize about having it, about what we would do with it, about how we would go about acquiring it. This level of obsession then interferes with any pursuit of God by taking our attention away from Him.

The definition of ‘lust’ has narrowed over the years because few things cause such obsession as sexual gratification. I can lust over a car to the point where it is all I think about and such that it controls my behavior so that the only things I do are focused completely on acquiring said vehicle. But more and more our society is driven by sexual gratification first and foremost, and so when we say that someone has committed the sin of lust, we generally think of the sexual application of the term.

To answer Ben’s question more specifically, lust is _not_ just sexual desire, for sexual desire is natural and part of how God created us. Lust arises out of an obsessive sexual desire that is purely selfish and dishonoring, both to God and the object of the desire. In the instance of sexual relations, for instance, a man lusts after a woman when his only thought is how to use her for his own pleasure and enjoyment, with little care given to her. True romantic love, on the other hand, involves the mutual sexual gratification of both lovers, which is, in itself, glorifying to God. (Note: it should not have to be said that only monogamous, heterosexual intercourse between a man and woman married to one other is pleasing to God.) Ben, I think the reason why so few explain lust is because few people really understand it. Few Christians today, especially, consider it a ‘pure’ topic to think about, let alone discuss, and so it leaves a gap in our teaching and training that really ought to be filled.

Have anything to add to the conversation?