Biblically speaking, lust is NOT merely being sexually attracted to or turned on by looking at someone of the opposite sex. Men today have been ridiculed for their nature and saddled with a great burden that comes from feminism on one side, and on the other comes from the church. They are often told that any sexual pleasure they receive from seeing a beautiful woman is sin unless they are married to that woman.
Many Christian books and websites want to “help men with their problem of lust”. Feminist bloggers want to help men to stop “objectifying women”.
But is a man’s natural desire for, and pleasure from, seeing youthful and beautiful women a problem to overcome? Or is it a gift from God, to be appreciated and accepted by both men and women alike?
Lust = Covetousness
In the Bible, lust is synonymous with covetousness. Covetousness is the strong desire to possess something that belongs to another.
Covetousness is not simply admiring something that someone else has, but actually fantasizing about how you can possess that thing.
While it goes against modern western values, people in Biblical times could be the property of other people. The Bible lists these things as man’s property in the 10th commandment:
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.
– Exodus 20:17 (KJV)
The 10th commandment and the 7th commandment have something in common – they both talk about crimes against a man regarding his wife.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
– Exodus 20:14 (KJV)
In the context of sexual sin, Coveting (or lusting after) a woman is the sin of desiring to possess her outside of marriage. It is different than simply being attracted to her physically, or even being sexually aroused by her form or having a sexual fantasy about her.
Covetousness first begins when a man goes from finding a woman he cannot marry desirable (which is not sin) to him desiring to UNLAWFULLY possess her (which is fornication).
The second phase of covetousness is when a man goes from his desire to unlawfully possess her (which is already sin) and then he compounds this by actively planning in his mind HOW he could possess her; whether he acts on that plan or not, it is still covetousness and is a grave sin before God.
Fornication (which encompasses all sexually sinful activity) is when a man actually makes good on his covetous thoughts and then takes sexual possession of a woman he cannot marry and has not married. If the woman is another man’s wife, that is Adultery – which is a specific form of fornication.
But isn’t it lust when a man gets sexual pleasure from looking at any woman who is not his wife?
If you are someone who believes your pastor, priest or your church teachings are never wrong in their interpretation of the Bible then you should just close this page and go on believing what they have taught you about lust.
But before you close this article, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it wrong to enjoy the smell of pancakes as you enter your favorite pancake restaurant?
- Is it wrong to see a commercial on TV for one of your favorite foods and then it makes you feel hungry?
If you answered no to both of these questions above, then I think you should keep reading. But to do so, you will have to acknowledge to yourself the very real possibility that your church might be wrong about some of its teachings.
The Protestant Reformation was fought over this very idea, that church leaders are not always right in their doctrines or understanding of the Bible. That is why the battle cry of the reformation was “Sola Scriptora”, meaning “Scripture alone”. While the Protestants did a good job of removing a lot of unbiblical Catholic tradition and teaching, they did not remove it all. Some errors crept into the early church even while the Apostles were still alive. After they died, the flood gates opened and many errors entered the early church and then the Catholic Church piled on more.
So if you answered “no” to my two questions above, and you can at least entertain the idea that sometimes our church leaders are wrong in some of their teachings about what the Bible says – then I invite you to examine the evidence for yourself and make your own determination.
How many passages talk about a man lusting after a woman?
There are only two passages in all the Bible that deal with the subject of a man looking at a woman. I know, it’s hard to believe that an entire elaborate doctrine of our churches is completely based on two passages, right?
The first and most common passage I will deal with is found in the Sermon on the Mount:
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
– Matthew 5:27-28 (KJV)
This passage is part of the most famous sermon Jesus Christ ever gave.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that verse in youth group at my church growing up, or how many times my mom read that to me as a teenager. As an adult I have heard entire sermons preached on just those two verses.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? If a man looks at a woman with lust (sexual desire), he has committed adultery with her in his heart, even though he has not physically touched her, right?
Whenever we try to understand God’s Word, we need to make sure we are understanding his Word within the full context of how it was written. Luckily for us the full context is just two verses. There is one word in both these verses that gives us the context of what Christ is addressing – ADULTERY (English translation of the Greek word “Moicheuo”).
If you look up every Old Testament passage about adultery, it always means the sin of a man sleeping with another man’s wife. Basically, adultery was a property crime: if you slept with another man’s wife, you violated his property.
So if the context here is clearly talking about something involving a married woman, then why do the translators say “woman” in verse 28, instead of “wife”?
An excellent question. I am glad you asked it. The reason is “tradition”, since this verse has been traditionally used by the church through the ages to propagate a certain teaching about lust, they had to make it “woman”.
The actual Greek word they are translating is “Gune”, which can be translated as “woman” or “wife” – depending on the context. So let’s expand our context and show our Lord’s statements together:
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery[Moicheuo]:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman[Gune] to lust after her hath committed adultery[Moicheuo] with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife[Gune], let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife[Gune], saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery[Moicheuo]: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery[Moicheuo].
– Matthew 5:27-32 (KJV)
So as can clearly be seen, the translators of the KJV and all modern translations decided to follow the tradition of translating verse 28 as “woman” instead of wife, even though the context was clearly speaking of Adultery, which can only happen with a married woman! This was and continues to be, a completely political translation of Scripture.
So we have now handled two of the three key words to understanding this one and ONLY passage of Scripture that our current doctrines around sexual lust are built upon. The last key word is Lust. Our English word lust in verse 28 is translated from the Greek word Epithumeo. Once again this word, like Gune (“woman” or “wife”) can be translated differently depending on its context. The word literally means “to desire”. Sometimes it’s talking about desiring good things; other times it’s talking about desiring bad things.
With all that being said – I believe in all sincerity that this is the correct interpretation of this passage based on its context – Adultery:
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on [another man’s wife and fantasizes about how he may possess her for himself] hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
– Matthew 5:27-28 (KJV)
There is at least one undeniable truth from Matthew 5:27-28
The context is clearly talking about a married woman, so this in no way applies to single people. While the act of physical sex outside of marriage is forbidden, nowhere in the Scripture does it forbid a single man from having sexual desire toward a single woman, or being turned on by a single woman, or even sexually fantasizing about her. The same goes for a single woman: nowhere does the Bible condemn a single woman for being turned on by viewing the body of a single man.
But what about a man (married or single) who looks at a married woman and is sexually aroused by her form? What if he even imagines what she might look like naked? What if he later has a sexual fantasy about her? Is this all sin? Is some of it sin?
I submit to you that none of the above scenarios are sin. Where the sin occurs is when a man goes from finding a married woman desirable to him desiring to unlawfully possess her(fornicate with her). After he has allowed himself to desire to possess her, then he will most likely begin to fantasize about how he might possess her.
If he allows himself to desire to unlawfully possess her he has entered the realm of sin and has planted the seeds for further sin. If he then starts thinking about how he can lure her from her husband he has sinned even more even if he never acts on these plans.
A key principle regarding lust and covetousness is that even before he began planning on how to possess her – his first sin of covetousness was in allowing himself to desire to unlawfully possess her before any plan on how to do that came to mind. A plan on how to unlawfully possess someone or something that is forbidden is not required for covetousness to occur – simply the desire to possess something God does not allow us to possess is sin.
What about Job 31?
With everything we have learned while studying Matthew 5:27-28, we can now address the second of only two passages in the Bible addressing this subject of a man lusting after a woman.
1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
9 If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door;
10 Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.
11 For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
– Job 31:1 & 9-11 (KJV)
Clearly verses 9-11 are talking about a married woman – “my neighbour’s door”, so this is talking about committing adultery, or thinking about possessing another’s wife in one’s heart.
But what about verse one where he says he made a covenant with his eyes? Some translations translate this as “gaze at a virgin” and others “look lustfully at a virgin”. Again, we need to look at the actual Hebrew terms and scrape away translator bias and church tradition bias.
The Hebrew word “maid” here is “Bethuwlah” and it is always translated as talking about an unmarried woman or virgin. The Hebrew word translated as “think” is also translated as “perceive” or “consider”. Most people would agree that it is ridiculous to think Job is saying a man could never think about a young unmarried woman, otherwise no one would ever get married.
The problem in this passage is, we don’t have the context of what he is thinking about with this woman. Those who are proponents of the belief that it is sin for a man to be sexually aroused by any woman other than his wife will fill in the blank for us and say it is talking about sexual arousal or sexual fantasy about a virgin girl.
I submit to you that this is talking about more than just sexual arousal or even sexual fantasy, but instead Job 31:1 is the comtemplation of pre-marital sex. Job is saying “I will never look at a virgin and think of how I might take her sexually without marrying her”.
16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
– Deuteronomy 22:16-17 (KJV)
4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
– Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)
In the Law of Moses as well as the book of Hebrews in the New Testament we can see that God only sees three ways that sexual relations can occur between a man and a woman:
- Whoremongering (sex outside of marriage)
- Marriage (sex within marriage)
- Adultery (a man having sex with another man’s wife)
There is only one type of sexual relations between a man and woman that the Bible calls “honorable in all” and “undefiled” – and that is sex between a man and woman within the bounds of marriage.
This is what Job 31:1 is referring to – a man should never fantasize about how he can “entice” a young woman into having sex with him outside of marriage. This is also why prostitution is sinful, because it is sex outside the bounds of marriage.
Conclusion and Application
Matthew 5:27-28 is talking about the sin of a man coveting another man’s wife. It is the desire to possess a woman that belongs to another man.
Job 31:1 is talking about a man thinking of enticing a young virgin into having sex with him outside of marriage.
Remember at the beginning of this article I asked you these 2 questions:
- Is it wrong to enjoy the smell of pancakes as you enter your favorite pancake restaurant?
- Is it wrong to see a commercial on TV for one of your favorite foods and then it makes you feel hungry?
You may be asking what these questions have to do with a man begin sexually aroused by the sight of a woman (married or single, it does not matter).
It is a biological fact that the same area of a man’s brain that causes hunger and gives pleasure from the smell, sight and taste of food is the exact same area that gives a man pleasure from the smell, sight and touch of a woman.
The average man’s brain is sexually stimulated by visual cues and is built for variety…
“Using functional MRI scans, researchers examined the brains of young men as they looked at pictures of beautiful women. They found that feminine beauty affects a man’s brain at a very primal level – similar to what a hungry person gets from a good meal or addict gets from a fix. One of the researchers said, “This is hard core circuitry. This is not a conditioned response.” Another concluded, “Men apparently cannot do anything about their pleasurable feelings [in the presence of beauty].””
– Dr. Walt Larimore, MD (pg. 99 “His Brain, Her Brain”)
“Telling men not to become aroused by signs of youth and health is like telling them not to experience sugar as sweet.”
– David M. Buss, PhD (pg. 71 “The Evolution of Desire”)
So the two questions I asked about food could then be changed to these questions:
- Is it wrong for a man to be sexually aroused by the scent of a woman?
- Is it wrong for a man to be sexually aroused if a beautiful woman accidentally rubs against him in a hallway?
- Is it wrong for a man to be sexually aroused by the sight of a beautiful woman – whether he is married to her or not?
The Biblical answer to all these questions is – it is NOT A SIN for man to be sexually aroused by the scent, touch or sight of a woman, whether he is married to her or not.
While most of what I have said here could also apply to a woman being sexually attracted to a man, this is something that affects men much more than women.
To the men reading this, you now have a choice to make. You have been presented with Biblical evidence that the sin of lusting after (coveting) a woman is when a man goes from finding a woman sexually desirable (he is aroused by the sight of her, wonders what she looks like naked or has a sexual fantasy about her) to this same mane desiring to unlawfully possess this woman(to fornicate with her).
In many cases, once a man has allowed himself to desire this forbidden married woman, or desire sex with a single woman outside of marriage, he will also begin to plan in his mind how he can bring this to pass. But the planning stage is not required for covetousness to occur; covetousness occurs the moment a man allows himself to desire to possess someone or something God does not allow him to possess.
Your choices are:
- Will you accept how God has designed you, that being turned on by a beautiful woman (married or otherwise) is no more a sin than being made hungry by the sight or smell of your favorite food?
- Will you continue to beat yourself up, and buy the lies of feminism that you are “objectifying women” if you are turned on by a woman simply by the sight of her without knowing anything about her?
- Will you continue to allow your church leaders to put you on guilt trips from receiving pleasure simply from the sight of beautiful women around you?
Remember, the sin only comes when your sexual attraction, or even fantasy about a woman, turns into a covetous desire to possess her sexually outside of marriage. It really is that simple.
Yes, the Bible tells us that we need to fight our sinful natures with the help of God, but it does not tell us that we have to fight how God designed us. We as men should embrace our design, not fight it.
That does not mean we need to shove all this information in our girlfriends’ or wives’ faces.
We can practice discretion. It also does not mean being rude and gawking at beautiful women and making them feel uncomfortable is ok. What it does mean is that if you get a quick glance of a beautiful woman, or accidentally brush against a beautiful woman on the train or bus and you get feelings of pleasure from that – you have done NOTHING wrong.
One final note. Anything can be abused; for example, hunger and the pleasure from eating food is something God built into men and women. But this same hunger for food can be abused and then it can become gluttony. In the same way we cannot allow ourselves to become obsessed with sexual pleasure to the point that it interferes with intimacy in our marriage, or other areas of our life. Everything needs to be kept in balance.
But just as men and women both hunger for and receive pleasure from eating food, so do men have a natural hunger for and receive pleasure from the sight, scent and brief touches of beautiful women, whether they are complete strangers or women they know; it makes absolutely no difference. It is absolutely by God’s design, and no man should ever feel shame for this. It is only when he allows his natural sexual desires to turn into a desire to possess a woman sexually outside of marriage that he has now entered the realm of covetousness and lust which is sin.
48 thoughts on “What does the Bible say about Lust?”
Of course I would never try and take or even think about taking a mans wife away but what about the married man sexually fanasizing about a single woman
There is nothing wrong with a man having sexual fantasies about a single woman or a married woman. The sin comes when you begin to have covetous thoughts about trying to get that single or married woman to actually have sex with you.
Let me give you an example from food to illustrate. Change a woman to a plate of steak at a restaurant. You walk in and see this guy’s plate of steak who is sitting across from you. It smells good, it looks good. It makes you hungry. You can’t afford the steak today, you have to get the hamburger instead, but you would really like that steak he has. You imagine how great that steak would be to eat. Up to this point the sin of covetousness has not occurred.
But then he gets up to go to the bathroom and leaves that steak on his plate while he is gone. He only took a bite or two, it’s still hot and fresh. You start thinking of how you could go over to his table and quickly cut off a few pieces to eat for yourself. That is lust, that is covetousness.
If you actually act on your covetous thoughts about his steak and take a few bites out of another man’s steak that is now theft. If the steak were a woman, that would now be adultery.
Does that make sense?
Let me just add this as well, you specifically talked about single women. The principle though would be exactly the same. The point is, until you purchase the steak(marry the woman), her body does not physically belong to you. So it would be wrong for you to actually possess her body, or even plan and scheme how you could just get a “bite” of the steak without first purchasing it.
Yes it does thanks for clearly that up . I always thought just thinking the sexual thoughts of the female was lust. Now I know it is only the thoughts of one trying to plan out how to retrieve her. You took a lot of pressure of me thanks.
Just to clear this up if I had a sexual thought without the plan of trying to get her in bed or etc.. It’s ok.
Yep it’s not only OK it is also perfectly natural. Again with our steak illustration, imagine if you if had to feel bad just for imagining what it would be like to eat a certain piece of steak you saw.
Could you train your mind that each and every time you thought about eating steak it was a sin and you needed to stop? Sure you can, Christian men and others have done this for thousands of years because of the false teachings of some Church leaders(like Augustine).
But why would you condemn yourself for something that is as natural as desiring food or thinking about eating food?
This is the reason I write the things I do, to set the captives free. To tell men they don’t have to be ashamed of being men, or ashamed of their sexual nature.
Just as our natural hunger for food can be abused, so to our natural sexual appetites can be abused. But it is only when we step outside of God’s boundaries.
Covetousness(which is what Lust is) is outside of God’s boundaries, hunger and desire are within God’s boundaries, it is how he made us.
Thanks a lot
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I started to ‘ plant the seeds’ of some of these truths with my wife, very discreetly I might add, and my wife had this strange look on her face and then said ‘ what are you getting at’ I think I’ll drop it for awhile.LOL
The reason your wife had that look on her face(as most wives would), is because women want to be the center of their husband’s world. They want to be the only woman their husband could ever desire, and to even suggest that you could have any desire or sexual attraction to another woman is a betrayal in their mindset. This mindset has been allowed for many centuries, since the Roman empire tried to get rid of Polygamy, and it imposed monogamy on the western world.
But before the Roman empire, most parts of the world practiced polygamy(including Israel), and yes wives still got jealous, but they understood that men were naturally polygamous and in the culture they were raised would have thought nothing of the fact that they were not the only woman in their world their husband could, and might desire.
Trust me 80% of women will not understand this concept, there are a few out there that would, and they are usually the few women who think more like men. Even when I tried to explain it to my wife one time the conversation got weird and I dropped it. On the other hand, when I have had this conversation with many Christian male friends of mine, they completely understand once I go through the scriptures with them and explain what words mean like I have here. Don’t get me wrong, my wife is not the jealous type at all. She does not scold me for glancing at other women. She just does not want me to explain the thought process behind the glance…LOL.
The fact is there are some things most men cannot understand about how the female brain works, and there are some things that most women will never understand about how the male brain works.
In fact this one of the many reasons I write on this blog, because we have a society today as of the last century or so, that shames men for being men, a society that has feminized our education systems, our government and our churches to the point where masculine traits are seen as bad and feminine traits are seen as superior.
In the Churches, if they are not controlled by feminist teachers, then they are often controlled by people who believe that our sexuality is a burden to born, not a gift from God to be celebrated within the boundaries he has given us.
All we can do is fight back with the truth, by one Christian man, teaching another, and Christian men teaching their son’s to not only NOT be ashamed of their masculinity(which their sexuality is a big part of) , but to be proud of how God designed them and to take a stand.
I agree with your findings….sadly, most women today aren’t taught to uphold any of the Scriptures that our Father handed down through Moses on how they should dress and behave. Men as well believe the Scriptures or “The Law” has been done away with, yet in those same early writings we find instructions and guidelines on how we should be living and what it is to look like. Our focus should always be on our Messiah and his sacrifice to atone for our sins. But do we really look into what is Sin? Grace and Peace to you my friend from our Lord and Savior Yashua Meshiach.
Take a stand by letting fantasies rule your mind? Yeah, that will work out well….
Our problem today is really the puritanical ideas, not the rampant “in your face” aspect of sex we face all the time. Playboy would be fine if they only had unmarried women in it, right?
Where did I say we should let fantasies rule our mind? While sexual fantasy is not sin in and of itself, we should not be “mastered” or “ruled” by it. That is like saying because I like food, and get think about my favorite dinner I will have at the end of my work day(a food fantasy) that I am sinning. If I think about food every minute of the day, and become a glutton then I have sinned. It is exactly the same thing for our sexuality.
I agree that sexuality has its place and time, and many times on television it is thrown in our face at inappropriate times. But there is a time and season for everything, but it simply must be at the right time, and for the right audience.
Playboy would be fine if they were not talking about sinful sex outside of marriage, swinger sex, and orgies. It even be fine if married women posed, as long as their husband’s consented. As long as a man is not thinking of how he can actually possess a woman, it is fine for him to appreciate her beauty, and even be aroused by it.
No Scripture speaks against sexual arousal – it only speaks against lust, which is covetous thoughts(fantasies about actually taking possession of someone, or something that does not belong to us, or that we could never have).
Reblogged this on Seeking The Truth.
I have loved every one of your blog posts that I have read , and your insight into the interpretation of the Scripture has got me to reconsider a lot of what I have learnt from elders and parents. I especially enjoyed reading your posts on lust and nudity.
What are your thoughts on nude beaches and naturism?
Having applied what you have said in your previous posts,
1. It’s perfectly alright to look at a woman and appreciate her beauty
2. It’s OK to be naked, as long as it’s for a specific purpose that is not sinful ( in the case of nude beaches, to get a proper tan with no tanlines or to simply experience the feeling of having the wind and the sun on your whole body ).
Naturism has a number of other benefits, but recently I have read a blog post stating that because of the naturist culture, people are being desensitized to looking at bare skin, and cannot get aroused that easily unless the person is wearing something extremely erotic or is exceedingly beautiful. It is here that I am at a loss, since your posts have only tackled the issue of being aroused and that its OK to be aroused, but they don’t tackle the issue of being desensitized to the point where it takes a lot to get turned on. Which can also happen if you constantly look at pictures of nude women every now and then.
Here’s the post where I read about it :
I would love reading your thoughts on naturism and the post above, whether a person can truly become that desensitized, and most importantly, whether naturism goes against anything in the Bible.
Well – while I don’t think nudity is wrong for specific purposes and specified amounts of time I think naturism takes it too far. This just encourages people to walk around nude far too often. It’s one thing to walk around your own house naked, assuming you don’t have kids. I think that nudity of adults in front of young people is not appropriate(like nude family beaches), I think nudity should be kept between adults.
As far as the desensitizing argument, I don’t really buy that. There have been studies(and I need to locate where I read them) of primitive tribes where women go with their breasts exposed all the time, and the men are still turned on by women’s breasts. Men don’t stop being turned on by the female form. But will there be less of a shock effect? Yes. But no arousal? I don’t think so.
“While the Protestants did a good job of removing a lot of unbiblical Catholic tradition and teaching, they did not remove it all. Some errors crept into the early church even while the Apostles were still alive. After they died the flood gates opened and many errors entered the early church and then the Catholic Church piled on more.”
I understand most Protestants don’t like Catholic teachings very much, but to me this seems straightforward.
Sexual arousal almost always leads to covetousness, which is a sin. Women lead men to sin by dressing like we do now. If we can help Christian men avoid this sin altogether, why wouldn’t we?
I dress like this sometimes, get much more looks, whistles sometimes. Obviously men are being sexually aroused, and that feeling leads to some, if not most, of them to think sinful thoughts.
Now, I realize it is kind of hypocritical of me to preach this but the truth is clear – sexual arousal leads to lust, and both the one who is arousing and the aroused are sinning. Catholic’s preach this because this is simply the truth. The Scripture is quite clear, but Protestants interpret it however they want to, of course.
I like Catholic teachings – when they are teaching what the Bible actually says, as opposed to teaching traditions that can’t be found in the Bible. There are things that we as Protestants and Catholics can and should be able to stand together on like opposing gay marriage and opposing abortion.
I respectfully disagree with your assertion that sexual arousal almost always leads to covetousness.
For instance – let’s say you as a woman think that the actor Chris Hemsworth(Avenger’s Thor) is hot(like my wife does).
If you were to be turned on by watching him in a show, or even have a fantasy about what it would be like to have sex with Chris Hemsworth – no lust or covetousness has occurred.
Why? Because in order to covet Chris Hemsworth – you would have to have covetous thoughts about actually possessing Chris Hemsworth. Are you thinking of looking up his phone number? Are you thinking of finding his home and trying to get him to take you out?
Covetousness is not sexual arousal, and it is not even sexual imagination. It is thinking thoughts of how you would could ACTUALLY possess someone you cannot outside of marriage
Emily lets break this down into separate activities so we can more clearly discuss them.
First lets discuss the situation of lusting after a married woman.
1. A man sees a married woman.
2. He notices her form and her beauty.
3. He is sexually aroused by her form and beauty.
4. He begins to wonder what she looks like naked.
5. He imagines himself having sex with her.
6. He begins to think of ways he can flirt with this married woman with her, to befriend her, and eventually get her to emotionally connect with him, and eventually commit adultery with him.
Only step 6 is Biblically coveting a married woman, or in other words lusting after a married woman.
Now lets discuss the situation of lusting after a single woman.
1. A man sees a single woman.
2. He notices her form and her beauty.
3. He is sexually aroused by her form and beauty.
4. He begins to wonder what she looks like naked.
5. He imagines himself having sex with her.
6. He begins to think of ways he can flirt with her, to befriend her, and eventually get her to emotionally connect with him so she will marry him and then he will have sex with her.
Obviously a single man does not marry a woman just to have sex with her, but that is a big factor in a man being drawn to woman. None of these steps would be sinful, or lustful for single man with regard to a single woman.
But what if we changed step 6 to this:
6. He begins to think of ways he can flirt with her, to befriend her, and eventually get her to emotionally connect with him so he can get her to sleep with him outside of marriage.
Again only if a man thinks in his mind how he might get a woman to have sex with him outside of marriage – is this covetousness and lust.
Not one passage of Scripture teaches that sexual arousal is sin. Not one passage of Scripture teaches that sexual imagination is sin. The scriptures teach that covetousness(which is lust) is sin.
I maintain that a man(or a woman) could do actions 1 to 5 and it never reach the point of covetousness.
We cannot say – well because steps 1 to 5 might lead to step 6, then we have to stop ourselves at step 1 even though these things are not sin. That is adding to God’s Word, and unfortunately that is something the Catholic Church has exceeded at for many centuries.
For instance the celibacy of the Priests is completely unbiblical.
The apostle Paul maintained his right to marriage:
“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?”
I Corinthians 9:4(NIV)
Paul states here it was his right, as it is the right of any minister of the Gospel to take a wife. He even alludes to the fact that Cephas(Peter), and James both had wives.
Paul even foresees people falsely trying to ban people from marriage:
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
I Timothy 4:1-5(NIV)
Emily – God created marriage and called it good. Yet the church starting around 304 AD started trying to ban marriage, telling priests to abstain from relations with their wives. Eventually a total celibacy ban was established 1074 and 1139. They had ZERO Biblical authority to take away a right that Paul said all ministers had, and that Peter who Catholics claim as their first Pope, exercised.
I assume then, you wouldn’t consider masturbation a sin? Since I am just acting on something you consider a pure desire and doing something the Bible never explicitly forbids.
I’m not trying to attack you, but it seems to me that we are standing on shaking ground with such free interpretation of lust.
No I do not consider masturbation as sin. The Bible never forbids it or condemns. Some of have tried to use Onan’s sin to say god does condemn masturbation but that is not true. God killed him for defrauding his dead brother’s wife by having sex with her but then pulling out so she would not get pregnant. It had nothing to do with masturbation.
Leviticus 15:16-18 actually prescribes the clean of masturbation and does not required a sacrifice for it because it was not sin.
“16 “‘When a man has an emission of semen, he must bathe his whole body with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 17 Any clothing or leather that has semen on it must be washed with water, and it will be unclean till evening. 18 When a man has sexual relations with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both of them must bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.”
Verse 16 describes a man having and emission of semen apart from a woman, verse 18 describes a man having an emission as part of sex with a woman.
Masturbation is not only NOT condemned in Scripture, it is clearly allowed. I believe it is a natural release valve that God has given us to experience the gift of sexuality he has given us.
I always thought of that as describing nightly ejaculation that cannot be controlled.
What makes you think it refers to masturbation?
And where do you think pornography comes in? You cannot possibly think it is acceptable with all the immorality it spreads and the destruction it does to women and men, both who play in thosr movies and those who watch them
No Leviticus 15 would include noturnal emissions, but it is not limited to them. Nocturnal emissions are described in Deuteronomy 23:10:
“If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp:”
Basically this something that “accidentally” happens by night. Leviticus 15 puts no such qualifier on it. It is simply if a man has an emission of semen by himself(whether through nocturnal emission or masturbation).
On the issue of pornography I will just paste in here a reply I gave to another person just a while back when asked the same question on a different post https://biblicalgenderroles.com/2015/10/10/the-church-women-and-barbeques/:
1. As the heart of this article suggests, I do not believe it is wrong for men to have sexual imaginations of women. What they need to be careful of is that their sexual imagination does not turn to sexual covetousness.
2. Porn addition is as real as food addiction or any other kind of addiction. Some men are compelled to look at porn all the time to the neglect of their other life responsibilities(family, job, other) and it overpowers them and takes over their life. But just because some people can become addicted to something does not make it bad. I know many friends who believe any drinking of alcohol is wrong because some people might become addicted to it, but just because something has the potential for abuse does not make it wrong – only the abuse of it is.
3. I am not a supporter of the porn industry or unmarried people having sex in any situation, whether it is captured on film or done in private. But it is possible to find a lot amateur erotica online(people posing nude or married couples having sex). There are sex scenes in normal movies(as opposed to porn) movies that are just simulated sex. It really depends on where a person believes the line is to be drawn. I say all this to say it is possible to view erotic material without supporting the professional porn industry. There is some more I could say on this, but I think I am going to leave it here for now as this by itself is massive challenge to Church tradition.
Though I have several objections to this view (related to licentiousness, opening the door to dirty and damaging fantasies and looks inna church meeting, etc), I have another question.
What do you think about how this freedom – to look at all kinds of women with any desire you want (as long as it’s not a decision to commit adultery) and even masturbate on erotic material – can constitute a divide between husband and wife, and the man is finding his sexual satisfaction in other things than his wife, thus damaging the relationship and the sexual dependency between the two. Sounds to me like a serious departure from the original idea of God making man and woman (as a one flesh union) in His image.
I am in a unique position here and add another thing. Being 24 you would think that my sex drive is high. but its not it is almost dead to the point that would cause ED. But still sometimes I do get aroused it can go either way with me. Either I do not act on it or I CAN go for quite a while of not being sexually aroused.
I don’t need sex to be happy, I don’t see women as objects nor do I date people only for their looks in fact its the opposite for me i go for personality when courting someone BUT i still do masturbate usually for stress relief boredom which leads to depression for me and to prevent night emissions.
I’m not going to lie. sometimes I look at a woman covetusly but more often than not I dont want said person and i dont obsess over it. For me its just visual aids to help with my lack of imagination. Now the thing for me is yeah i could go with out it but not having any kind of sexual release at all for possibly the rest of your life is what i have a problem with while i am trying to live a better more Christ-like life suppressing all absolutely all sexual urges which God has given us would be impossible because of the reasons i listed above. It really helps me more than anything.
Now I’m only talking about masturbation without letting it control you to the point that it interferes with a large part of my life. I have had out of marriage sex before and i do regret it alot. I don’t believe masturbation turns into sin until you either cheat or commit adultery or dedicate more time to it than you should.
God did’nt just give us the ability to feel sexual pleasure just to tell us NOT to enjoy it. I also believe masturbation was given to us to prevent us from commiting adultery. Now I have a feeling im going to get some rude and hateful comments about the way i see it. Please dont do this I respect your right to free speach but please dont judge me because of this. By the way i am a male. If anyone has any questions please ask and ill do my best to answer them thank you
You are right that God gave us our sexuality to enjoy and there is nothing wrong with masturbation as long as it does not become the central focus of your life.
God did not install an “off switch” on our sexuality unless he gave us the rare gift of celibacy. You can enjoy your sexuality as you do with masturbation and visual aids(erotica) without having to feel depressed about it. There is no sin that. Those pictures you look at our simply images. You cannot fornicate or commit adultery with an inanimate object. Fornication and adultery require actual interaction between two human beings either mentally(cyber sex) or physically.
Now yes there is the mental adultery Christ spoke of in Matthew 5:28 – but this is speaking of covetousness. You finding a woman sexually desirable or imagining her naked or having a sexual imagination about her is NOT covetousness. Simply finding a woman sexually desirable is not covetousness, it is the desire to actually take possession of her that becomes covetousness. When you start fantasizing in your mind ways and schemes to actually get that woman to have sex with you outside of marriage – that is covetousness.
I pray God will give you peace and the ability to fully embrace and enjoy your sexuality within the bounds of his law while you continue to look for the woman he has for you.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts here in your blog. I pray that God guides all of us always to His understanding of sexuality.
The word translated as lust in Matthew 5:28 means passionate desire. Matthew 5 literally states that longing for or desiring this woman very much is adultery. Since it is entirely possible to lust after someone’s wife, per this definition, without an additional connotation of thinking about how to make that happen or wanting to make that happen, then why would we need to add words to the verse in order to interpret it? Why would Jesus not have added a further meaning to the word lust if that is what He meant or wanted to say?
There is a parallel verse to look at which might help, which is Matthew 5:21-22. Jesus says “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment.” Most people interpret the Greek word orgizomenos as “being angry with” someone. This is generally not interpreted as only meaning anger to the point of contemplating how to get back at or murder someone, just as lust is generally not interpreted to only mean desire to the point of contemplating how to fulfill that desire.
Have a great weekend!
1937 epithyméō (from 1909 /epí, “focused on” intensifying 2372 /thymós, “passionate desire”) – properly, to show focused passion as it aptly builds on (Gk epi, “upon”) what a person truly yearns for; to “greatly desire to do or have something – ‘to long for, to desire very much’ ” (L & N, 1, 25.12).
epithyméō actually has these different meanings depending on the context it is used. Strongs Greek dictionary actually defines it as “to set the heart upon, i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise)”
“to set the heart upon” means “to be determined to get or do someone or something” and even to “long for” has a similar meaning. To simple find something desirable or be aroused by someone is not the same as coveting them.
I can see my next door neighbor cooking steak – which gives me a graving and desire for steak. It might even prompt me to desire to go up to the store and buy my own steak to cook and eat. But that initial desire evoked in me by smelling and seeing his steak was not sinful. It is only sinful if I desire to unlawfully use or take possession of something that does have not right to use or possess.
On the issue of Matthew 5:21 and being angry at your brother when we look at the complete witness of Scripture we can understand better what Christ was saying. He was not saying it was wrong to be angry with your brother – if this was the case then the Scriptures contradict:
So the Bible tells us it is possible to be angry, and yet not sin. But if we are not careful that anger can be used by the devil to turn into bitterness or murderous and wicked thoughts.
In the same way – it is highly possible and happens every day that men find women(whether they be single or married) sexually desirable but as long as they do not allow this normal and God given sexual arousal to turn into a covetous obsession with this person no sin has as occurred.
MissSunshine – we have a God who judges not our only our thoughts – but our intents.
God cares about what our intent is, as much as what our thought is. There is no sin in a man finding a woman sexually desirable or the fact that the sight of her body turns him on and gives him pleasures anymore than him seeing a commercial for his favorite restaurant makes him hungry. It is all in what he does with that natural God given arousal and does he let it turn into covetousness or obsession.
Thanks for writing!
Here’s what I wrote from what I read in the Scriptures after reading your post.
DAVID’S REBUTTAL: LUSTING
“Your desire and ability to imagine the female form in all its splendor is a gift from God, just don’t allow your sin nature to corrupt this gift into thoughts of premarital sex or adultery.” …but by love SERVE ONE ANOTHER (Gal 5:13)!!! Fantasizing sexually has zero LOVE for another or SERVICE for another in it. It is wholly selfish. We are freed from doing what we want so we can do what He wants. Read Romans 7. The context is a single man speaking about marriage, coveting, and sin making him do what he doesn’t want to do. Sin lives inside your flesh/body and is your flesh’s master, but with your YOUR MIND, you yourself can be governed by and serve the law of God, not the law of sin.
So sure, you experience the slight scent, touch, or sight of a beautiful woman which sexually arouses you, BECAUSE SIN LIVES IN THE MEMBERS OF YOUR BODY! Sin is against God’s law, which is holy, righteous, and good, so SIN wants to distract your MIND from focusing on serving others in love by allowing your body to experience a pleasure that would tempt you to do something outside the will of God. This article is basically saying “It’s not sin to be tempted” which is true. But why would you ever put yourself into a situation of temptation where it will be EXTREMELY EASY to think a lustful/covetous thought? That sounds so foolish. If you can’t control your sexual passions, get married and glorify God with them.
Read 1 Corinthians chapter 7
Read I 1 Thessalonians 5:22-24
Ephesians 5:3 hints at and 5:5 states that there are three aspects of sexual sin: “Sexual immorality (fornication and adultery)”, “all impurity (including sexual)” or “sexually impure”, and “all coveting (including sexual)”; “or who is covetous.” If it says “sexually impure OR who is covetous,” then there must be a distinction. Where does the sexual impurity happen but in the mind controlled and mastered by the law of sin instead of the law of God?
Read Ephesians chapter 5
Additionally, 1 Timothy 4 seems to say that the answer for dietary hunger is God’s provision of food received with faith and thanksgiving because it is made holy through the word of God and prayer, and hints that the answer for sexual hunger is MARRIAGE received with faith and thanksgiving because MARRIAGE (not selfish masturbation or looking at women) is made holy through the word of God and prayer.
Read 1 Timothy 4
Read 1 Timothy 5
Read Titus 2: 2-4
DAVID’S REBUTTAL: MASTURBATION
Read Genesis 38:8-10
The intentions of Onan’s action was selfish. He did not want to give offspring to his brother. This passage does not say anything about whether he took pleasure from the sexual encounter; however, for a man to have an erection, the surroundings have to be sexually pleasurable. Therefore, Onan was using his sexuality and the body of his brother’s wife for his own pleasure only. He did not use it for the good of the woman nor the good of procreation. God’s wrath was rightly due. The tool between man’s legs is meant for the pleasure of woman and the procreation of humans.
DAVID’S REBUTTAL: CONCLUSION
Our redemption: Understanding what the will of the Lord is. Namely, that we would be totally pure and ready for our Bridegroom. May the sexual thoughts that enter a person’s brain be channeled to the bed of marriage in a way that longs for the unhindered, unashamed spiritual intimacy that the Church will have with her Bridegroom on their wedding day.
May we yearn for the beauty of the single-minded devotion and love that the Body of Christ will share with Jesus Himself to the glory of the Father through the spiritual union of the Holy Spirit. This will be delightful and life-bringing for all eternity, and this is the mystery worthy of our fantasy as well as the joy worthy of our time and intention. This is fun. This is God’s will.
Let me first say that I have looked at your blog and I can see you truly love the Lord and have a passion to serve him and that is to be greatly commended.
But respectfully I feel that based on reading your rebuttals that as Paul said of the Israelites you have “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”(Romans 10:2).
Where do you read in Galatians 5:13 that “we are freed from doing what we want so we can do what he wants”? God has freed us from two things – bondage to the traditions and commands of men as well as bondage to our sin nature(our fleshly nature).
In fact he alludes to this in Colossians chapter 2 when her warns against the false doctrines of Christian asceticism that were creeping into the church telling people that all pleasures of the senses were evil for a Christian. He warned them against allowing themselves to be brought under the bondage of “the commandments and doctrines of men”(vs 22) that told them to “Touch not; taste not; handle not”(vs 21).
God does not tell me if I want to eat a hamburger that I can’t eat a hamburger. God does not tell me if I want to buy a car that I cannot buy a car. We are not as Christians forbidden from enjoying this world he has given us or enjoying the fruit of our labors and the world he has given us to enjoy.
So yes David we are to “do good” which includes serving others as God tells us in Galatians 5:13. But God also puts a desire in us to explore and enjoy the world he has created in all its beauty and splendor and to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of our labors – our ability to enjoy his creation and the fruits of our labors is a GIFT OF GOD.
But all these things are to be enjoyed with the bounds of God’s law. We can enjoy what he gives us, but should also give to others. We need to give to our time and money to our local churches and other ministries but this does not mean we cannot enjoy the time and money we have to left.
Galatians 5:13 tell us that God has set us free but then it warns not use our freedom “for an occasion to the flesh” – in other words we should not put ourselves in situation where we would be tempted to sin. I have written several posts on this blog recently about young Christian men and women avoiding temptations to premarital sex by following the old courtship rule that they are NEVER alone together before marriage.
But when Paul says “but by love serve one another” he is not saying that this is EXCLUSIVELY how we are to spend every moment of our time and that we are not to do anything for our own pleasure. This is the core false teaching of Christian asceticism – that we are forbidden from doing anything for our own pleasure.
So your are absolutely correct that “Fantasizing sexually has zero LOVE for another or SERVICE for another in it.” And guess what – that is OK. It is more than OK. It is right before God for to enjoy his creation as well as the fruit of our labors as long as we do not spend ALL our time seeking our own pleasure.
Let me ask you a question David – when you see a commercial for your favorite food and it makes you hungry for that food is that “wholly selfish” and sinful? If you go and buy that food and sink you teeth into it and enjoy the pleasure signals that your taste buds send to your brain is that “wholly selfish”? The answer is NO. When the Bible speaks of selfishness it is speaking about us enjoying something that is not sinful at THE EXPENSE of the needs of others.
Where does the Scriptures say that sexual arousal is any more sin than us being aroused by the sights and smells of our favorite foods? Not one Scripture passage you have cited states such a concept. It is sad to me that so many Christians are trapped by bondage to Christian asceticism condemning themselves every time they experience any pleasure in their bodies.
Actually that is not what I am saying at all. I actually believe it is a sin based on Galatians 5:13 to purposefully put ourselves in position where we might be tempted to sin(“occasion to the flesh”). It is one thing if we just happen upon a situation that causes temptation, but it is another to purposefully put ourselves in that position.
But if you believe that a “lustful/covetous thought” is a man being aroused by a woman, then imagining what she looks like naked and even imagining what it would be like to have sex with her – then I agree that would be EXTREMELY EASY to do if you allowed yourself to enjoy even a momentary glance of her.
But that definition of lust IS NOT supported anywhere in the Scriptures. When we understand that lust is directly equivalent to covetousness and that covetousness is strong desire to unlawfully possess something that does not belong to us – in this case to unlawfully sexually possess a woman than NO it is NOT extremely easy to lust and covet in this case.
If it were then this would be the same as saying is extremely easy to covet someone’s dinner because we enjoy the site of food on someone else’s plate. Enjoying arousal at the sight or smells of food, or the site and smells of the opposite sex is a gift from God – it is not something we have to run from and it is NOT outside the bounds of God’s law to enjoy the pleasure this arousal brings us.
I absolutely believe it is possible for a person to have “unclean” or “impure” sexual thoughts apart from covetous thoughts. But then we must ask our self what is an “unclean” or “impure” thought? It is when we think of something that God did not design for us to enjoy. If a man has thoughts of homosexuality – even if he is not thinking of any particular person or coveting any man that is by definition an “unclean” or “impure” thought.
But if a man is thinking of normal heterosexual between a man and woman this is by the design of God. Normal heterosexual thoughts by a man are NOT “dirty” or impure. It is as pure as the driven snow. It is part of all the things God has made “beautiful in his time”(Ecclesiastes 3:11) and it is “the gift of God”(vs 13).
Onan’s sin was simple. He did not want to give his brother’s wife offspring, yet he wanted to still enjoy his brother’s wife sexually.
Nothing in this passage indicates that it is sinful for a man to enjoy the pleasure of his own sexuality apart from his wife in marriage. Nothing says that “The tool between man’s legs is meant for the pleasure of woman and the procreation of humans”. That is something you believe – but it is not supported by the Scriptures or even by God’s creation in human beings(biology).
PART of the design and purpose for a man’s “tool” is for the pleasure of his wife and procreation of humans. On that we can agree. But those are NOT the exclusive purposes of a man’s tool. If a man’s penis was not designed to give HIM pleasure then he would not have the thousands of extra nerve endings in it compared to other parts of his body. God would not have given him the immense pleasure that he receives from his orgasm, let alone just the thoughts of a woman’s body if his “tool” was simply meant for the pleasure of his wife and procreation.
Your view that we must spend all our time and energy serving others and do nothing for our own pleasure is not supported by the Scriptures or by examination of God’s creation in our own biology. It based on a very old false doctrine of Christian asceticism that poisoned the early church and has remained within church for centuries.
Certainly we must guard against overindulgence, covetousness, selfishness and addiction. We must lead balanced lives and enjoy God’s creation within the boundaries he has set for us.
Thanks for writing back, and so quickly too!
I agree that the “tool” is also man’s pleasure, yet he has the opportunity to, in his mind, use it PRIMARILY for the pleasure of his wife over himself. I absolutely agree with Eccles and 1 Timothy 6:17 that God has provided “everything for our enjoyment.” So yeah, I’m definitely a Christian Hedonist if you like that term.
I also believe in Colossians 1 where it speaks about Jesus:
“ALL THINGS have been created through Him and FOR Him.”
“Through Him to RECONCILE to Himself all things”
If you want to believe in a God who made the world to run and then left it alone, okay great. Believe it. But you can’t believe the Bible too, because God wants active involvement in every area of a believer’s life. He wants to RECONCILE, to BRING TOGETHER what is separate. Which SIN separated. Namely, every area of creation (which will happen – see Revelations 21&22) when CHRIST is physically King of kings.
I personally have EXTREME ENJOYMENT in life because I have COMMUNION WITH CHRIST in everything I do, or at least strive to. By His grace. This is wonderful. I think of Psalm 16:11, Psalm 27:4, and Philippians 1:21.
Yes, you have freedom to enjoy this world, and I hope you will, but please remember that there are souls going to an eternity in Hell when they could enjoy an eternity WITH JESUS that could begin now and be for their ULTIMATE PLEASURE. Jesus truly is the best source of delight. I have lived with Jesus as my SOUL/BODY/MIND SATISFIED for the past 10 years, and by His grace, haven’t lusted for 10 years, haven’t masturbated for 10 years, and have yet to have a bored minute. I honestly don’t even want to. I am excited to marvel over my wife and adore her to the utmost possible. But as for now, He’s with me and I’m with Him. He is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Another thing is that you didn’t respond to Romans 7 and 8.
I wrote what I did with it as my context and I fully stand by what Romans 7&8 says. I really can’t make a Biblical argument without THE BIBLE being included.
Here it is with my emphasis:
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have DIED TO THE LAW through the BODY of Christ, so that you may BELONG TO ANOTHER, to him who has been raised from the dead, IN ORDER THAT we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful PASSIONS, AROUSED by the LAW, were at work in our MEMBERS (of our bodies) to bear fruit for DEATH. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the NEW WAY of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to COVET if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But SIN, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of COVETOUSNESS. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, DECEIVED me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! IT WAS SIN, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my actions. FOR WHAT I DO NOT DO WHAT I WANT TO DO, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, BUT SIN THAT DWELLS WITHIN ME. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, IN MY FLESH. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my MIND and making me CAPTIVE to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this BODY OF DEATH? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself SERVE the law of God with my MIND, but with my FLESH I serve the law of SIN.
So Paul says he serves the LAW OF SIN with his body. He can’t help the impulses and yearnings for sex, food, sleep, etc. That’s what his body serves. But HIS MIND serves the LAW OF GOD because JESUS has DELIVERED him from his body of death. I highly doubt that if someone is willing to be satisfied with the things of this world, rather than yearn for the things of Christ–the kingdom of His love, joy, and peace–not physical, at least not yet, then that person might not know the FREEDOM of being redeemed from the pattern of this world (which is to look at porn, look at women for your pleasure rather than theirs, eat the hamburger you see on the TV just because you want it without any concern for those without food whom Christ loves very much). I know your response is going to be that I’m hindering myself, but that just isn’t true. I haven’t watched TV since I was 14, and I haven’t watched a full movie in years. I don’t have any interest in looking at women for my own pleasure, BECAUSE I AM FULLY SATISFIED IN JESUS. He is my Shepherd and I have no want. Psalm 34:10 The young lion suffers want AND hunger, but those who SEEK THE LORD LACK NO GOOD THING.
This is weird. I know you speak of believing the Bible, but a question I have is: Is looking at porn okay? Is that not directly feeding your flesh instead of setting your mind of the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5)?
If you want LIFE and PEACE, then set your MIND on the Spirit (Romans 8:6) but if you want to be deceived into believing that everything is okay because your body tells you so and you read Scripture for your own gain, then please follow Romans 8:6a “for to set the mind on the flesh is death”
Additionally, I wrote this. Do you have any thoughts?
1 Timothy 4:1-4 seems to say that the answer for dietary hunger is God’s provision of food received with faith and thanksgiving because it is made holy through the word of God and prayer, and hints that the answer for sexual hunger is MARRIAGE received with faith and thanksgiving because MARRIAGE (not selfish masturbation or looking at women) is made holy through the word of God and prayer.
Hebrew 13:9 says that is it good for the heart to be strengthened by GRACE, not by FOODS, which have NOT BENEFITED those devoted to them.
I feel so harsh in these words. For anyone reading this, please know I would much rather sit down and speak in person than type this out. I pray earnestly that you will feel the love of Jesus right now. The grace that He has to offer. To strengthen you, to comfort you. That in your weakness, He would be strong, so that you could DELIGHT in weaknesses, insults, hardships, difficulties, and persecutions (2 Cor 12:8-10). I love ya. Jesus loves you. Because of this, He wants this VERY BEST life for you. A life of denying yourself, picking up your cross, and following Jesus into the homes of the hungry, into the brothels of sexual immorality, and into the unreached regions of this world to save sinners from their fleshly/bodily prisons so they can enjoy the love, joy, and peace of setting their minds of the things of the HOLY Spirit.
David in Christ
“Onan’s sin was simple. He did not want to give his brother’s wife offspring, yet he wanted to still enjoy his brother’s wife sexually.
Nothing in this passage indicates that it is sinful for a man to enjoy the pleasure of his own sexuality apart from his wife in marriage.”
I agree that this passage isn’t addressing the marital aspect of Onan’s decision.
I still see full reason to believe that Onan’s intentions were selfish and he was using his sexuality and the body of his brother’s wife for his own pleasure only. He did not use it for the good of the woman nor the good of procreation. God’s wrath was rightly due for this selfish act. How is this any different than masturbation, where a man “relieves himself” or “delights himself” sexually for his own good alone rather than also for the pleasure of woman and the procreation of humans?
Do not worry about having “harsh words” – I have heard far worse from those who oppose my understanding of the Scriptures and I can appreciate your passion for God as I have it has well. We simply are like Paul and Silas – brothers in Christ that have a sharp disagreement(Acts 15:39). And I am very familiar with John Piper’s “Christian Hedonism” teachings.
Also on the issue of quoting Scripture – I have no problem with you quoting the Scriptures as I often do on this site. The Bible must be the foundation for what we believe in life – that is the entire premise of this blog. But when you paste whole chapters of the Bible it is hard to have a discussion – a few verses here and few verses there makes for better discussion and if you want to reference an entire chapter – just say “read Romans chapter 7”.
I respectfully disagree with your assertion that Romans 7 and 8 are speaking of “a single man speaking about marriage, coveting, and sin making him do what he doesn’t want to do.” These passages are speaking to us all, married, single, male and female. While sexual sin could certainly be included in the sins Paul mentions it is certainly not the central focus of these chapters. So on that we will agree to disagree.
I do not believe in a God who made the world and simply left it alone. He is very much involved in his creation and has been from the beginning. However we also serve a God that continually offers us choices(we are not made as robots) and he also encourages us to enjoy his creation both in serving others, but also in enjoying the fruit of our labors, time with our wives and children eating and drinking and also his great gift of sexuality that he has given us not only for the pleasure of our wife but also for our own pleasure as well. We simply must be careful not to be mastered by things like food, work or sex – all things he has given us for our pleasure.
No where in Romans 7 does Paul equate the sinful nature with “yearnings for sex, food, sleep, etc.” This is a big part of our disagreement my brother. There were false doctrines in the early church involving Gnosticism and asceticism that taught that the body itself – the flesh itself was evil. The problem with that is that our Lord Jesus Christ “was made flesh”(John 1:14). So we must reconcile the fact that our perfect and sinless God was made “made flesh” with Paul’s statement “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing”(Romans 7:18).
The answer is simple – when the Bible refers to the “flesh or fleshly” nature in a negative sense(as opposed to Christ becoming flesh) it is referring to the desires of our sinful nature. It is NOT referring our bodies natural God given desires including our yearning for food, sleep or sex. That is a false view of what the Bible means when it speaks of “fleshly desires”.
For instance our sin nature, will take and corrupt our natural desire for food into gluttony. It will take or natural desire for sleep and turn it into laziness. It will take our natural desire for sex and turn it into a desire for perverted sexual things like homosexuality, group sex, incest, bestiality or it will take our natural heterosexual desires and pervert them in a covetous desire for premarital sex.
So again our yearnings for food, sex and sleep and the other pleasures we can enjoy like listening to music, reading a good book or watching TV are not wrong. It is only when these things become the central focus of our lives, or when we live for pleasure(which is lasciviousness or sensuality – the overindulgence and obsession with physical pleasures of the senses).
Our war is not against our the natural desires of our mortal body that God has given us but rather against the desires of the sinful nature inside us.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” – Romans 6:12 (KJV)
David I don’t think you know what the “freedom from the pattern of this world really is”. It is the freedom to obey God’s law. Before we were saved we were slaves to sin – “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” (Romans 6:20) but then “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”(Romans 6:18). We can now as believers choose to obey God’s ways when before we were slaves to our sinful nature. That is the freedom we enjoy in Christ, the freedom NOT to have to obey our sinful nature as we once were compelled to do.
Why in the world would you think it is wrong to look at women for your pleasure? Why in the world would you think it is wrong to to see a commercial for a hamburger you like and go and eat it? Who said anything about not having any concern for those who hungry? Who taught you this false dichotomy? Yes it is selfish if we live ONLY for own pleasure and ONLY to meet our own desires. But it not selfishness for us to do as God exhorts us to do and “eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour”(Eccesiastes 3:13 (KJV).
Do you know what you are describing in your actions – its called “will worship”:
The way of life you are following in telling yourself that you cannot “Touch not; taste not; handle not” or experience any pleasures God has given you as gifts is not of God. It is a self imposed “will worship” where you believe by denying yourself things like enjoying the sight of a beautiful woman(other than your wife), or enjoying a good television show, or good music or a well made meal that somehow this will help to restrain you from falling into lascivious(the overindulgence of physical pleasures). The pattern of life you are practicing is textbook Christian asceticism.
If by “porn” you mean looking at a picture or painting of a naked woman? Or picture or painting of a man and a woman having normal heterosexual sex? Do I think porn by that definition is OK for Christian to enjoy and take pleasure in? Then the answer is yes I think it is just as OK as watching a cooking show and talking pleasure in the beautiful food that is created and imagining what it would like to taste that food.
You say that a man looking at a picture of a naked woman or a picture or painting of a man and woman having sex and him enjoying any pleasure that brings his mind is “feeding his flesh”. Again let’s look at the negative way in which the Bible talks about “the flesh” – it means the sinful nature. So it is it wicked or sinful or feeding the sinful nature to enjoy the site of a beautiful woman or a depiction of a man and woman having sex? The answer is NO. We are designed by God to enjoy the sight of a beautiful woman(and not just our wife) and we are designed to enjoy the thought or depictions of heterosexual sex.
It is no more “feeding your flesh”(feeding your sinful nature) then imagining eating your favorite food, or laying out on the beach soaking up some rays and feeling the sand between your toes is feeding the sinful nature.
Absolutely we should set our minds on the Spirit of God,and obey the righteousness decrees of God! Amen. We should obey the God’s decrees that we “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body”(Romans 6:12), the we should not do the works of the flesh(the sinful nature) which are:
But we should also heed God’s decree that “that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:13 (KJV)
I agree 100% with you that just “because your body tells you so” does not make something right. What makes our enjoyment of what God has given us(including our pleasure in food, sex and other pleasurable activities) right is if it follows these principles:
1. Does this violate God law or a boundary God has set?
2. Even if it does not violate God’s law have we allowed ourselves to become addicted to this pleasurable activity to the point that we are neglecting our service to God, service to our family or does causes us personally harm in doing this activity?
If we do something God designed us to enjoy then it honors God as long as we are not mastered by it or brought under its power(become addicted to it or obsessed).
So literally if I enjoy the smell of my favorite food being cooked and my mouth is drooling over it – that honors God.
When I sink my teeth into my favorite food that honors God – he have me taste buds to enjoy food.
Now if I become a glutton and overeat and weight 400lbs then my pleasure in food no longer honors God. I have allowed something that he gave us for good and our pleasure and turned into an idol.
It is no different with sex. When a man is aroused by the sight of a beautiful this part of the gift of God to him. If are aroused by things that are evil and that God did not intend for that that is evil arousal. But arousal itself is not sin when it comes from things God designed us to be aroused from.
Lets look at this passage:
Certainly we must pray for God’s provision each and every day. I pray with my children every night and we thank God together for my job and the provision he brings us through my job. We thank him for the food he gives to eat the roof he puts over our head. We thank him for the health he give us.
But this passage is not about thanking God for his provision which of us should do. It is actually talking about something very different. Paul is again warning against asceticism and not long after his death some church fathers were pushing hard for celibacy and abusing Paul’s words on the subject telling married couples to take vows of celibacy. Both the pleasure of marriage and the pleasure of food were given to us as gifts by God. They are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
As far as marriage being the answer to sexual hunger – I do not disagree that is AN ANSWER, but it is not the only answer. Masturbation can help with sexual hunger as well and Leviticus 15:16-17 even describes the cleanup of masturbation.
There is no doubt that we can only experience God’s gift of sexuality to the fullest intent that God has for it in marriage. Also marriage is the answer to avoiding fornication(sex outside of marriage)(I Corinthians 7:2) and it is better to marry than to burn with passion for a woman and try to remain celibate(I Corinthians 7:9). Celibacy is a special gift from God that only certain people are given. The rest of us have the gift of sex, not the gift of celibacy.
But just because we cannot fully experience God’s gift of sexuality before marriage it does not mean that we cannot partially enjoy his gift of sexuality before marriage through masturbation. There is nothing selfish about masturbation in and of itself. It is not selfish to give one’s self pleasure by watching one’s favorite show, listening to one’s favorite music, eating one’s favorite food or even in giving one’s self sexual pleasure.
Now any of these things can become wrong if they become obsessive. And masturbation in marriage can become wrong if it causes you to deny your spouse sexually because you would rather just take care of your self instead.
Again you have not presented any Scriptures which tell us that we cannot enjoy the pleasures God has given us and designed our bodies to enjoy. Our yearning for things like food, sleep and sex are not part of our sinful or fleshly nature. They are given us by the design of God. Whether that is reading a great story, watching a great movie, listening to wonderful music or even enjoying our own sexual arousal which God has gift us with. We must simply utilize God’s gifts within the boundaries of his laws while continuing to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ and doing our part in spreading the Gospel of Christ.
I do not disagree that Onan’s actions were selfish. But it was not because he pulled out and masturbated(coitus interuptus). But the same action can be honorable or selfish and sinful depending on the context in which it occurs. If a man kills someone in self defense it is honorable before God. But if he were to kill someone in anger or spite that would be sin before God.
If a man when having sex with his wife does not also look out for her pleasure but only his own pleasure that is selfish and sinful. If a man purposefully sets out to deny giving his wife a baby while having sex and pulls out and masturbates to avoid pregnancy that is a selfish act. But if a man masturbates on his own and has an emission of semen that is not sin and it is not selfish. It is not anymore selfish than him enjoying his favorite hamburger.
Thanks for writing.
I’ll prayerfully consider these things as I read all of the Scriptures.
As far as I see it, God will judge a man according to his actions and his intentions behind them. If there is a spectrum of very selfish –> a little selfish –> neutral –> a little loving –> very loving .. I would rather focus all my thoughts, energy, desire, dreaming, and actions on the rightward end of that spectrum.
If Romans 14:23 can be applied to this discussion, I may be the “weak in faith” brother because I am wrong or I may be the “strong in faith” because I’m right. Nevertheless, may I walk in the faith that is to my best knowledge founded in Scripture and, from what you write, it seems that you’re trying to do the same.
Grace and peace,
Excellent definition of lust. I have, for YEARS, been telling my church leaders how wrong they are for teaching young men that their carnal desires are sinful. How can that be when God made men with carnal desires. It’s like they’re asking men of all ages to deny God and His creation.
Kudos to you for not only writing this but sticking by your science based religious opinion.
I must disagree with you on one point you made in a comment on JUNE 24, 2014 AT 3:33 PM. You’re talking about the steak dinner and how one may not be able to afford the steak but is eyeballing another man’s steak.
You said, “You can’t afford the steak today, you have to get the hamburger instead, but you would really like that steak he has. You imagine how great that steak would be to eat. Up to this point the sin of covetousness has not occurred.”
Here’s where I disagree. “You imagine how great THAT steak would be to eat”. That’s covetous. As soon as THAT steak becomes the desire, you’re coveting. If the thought is simply, “I want a steak just like that one.”, coveting has not happened. Coveting isn’t just an action, it’s also a thought. It’s the thought about “THAT” steak that creates the temptation to act to get “THAT” steak.
I agree coveting is not an action – it is indeed a thought. It is the desire to unlawfully possess something or use something. You can look something that belongs to someone else all day long and enjoy it and even imagine using it(whether it was a car, a speedboat or yes even his wife). It is when your finding it desirable turns into you desiring to unlawfully possess it or use it that covetousness has occurred. You see covetousness is what always proceeds theft(which is what adultery is).
Covetousness has two stages. The first is where you allow your mind to go from finding something or someone desirable(which is not sin) to desiring to unlawfully possess or use that thing. Then the second stage occurs as you begin to allow that desire to unlawfully possess or use that thing to grow and fester and you begin to plan how you would take possession of or use that thing unlawfully. After Covetousness has completed its course this is when the theft occurs(or in the case of a man’s wife adultery occurs).
So, we agree (I think). You just defined covetousness exactly as I did but used different words.
The fault in your analogy (from your reply, which is the 2nd comment in this thread of comments) was using the words “THAT steak”, meaning the very steak the other man is eating. You are now “desiring to unlawfully possess or use that thing.” I copied and pasted your explanation.
Your analogy is incorrect based on your answer to me. Reading it again, I believe you simply mistyped what you were attempting to convey.
Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I’m not pointing out a fallacy in your post. I’m pointing out a fallacy in your comment to Thomas asking about a married man lusting or coveting a single woman. If you scroll to the top of the comments, Thomas made the first comment which you answered with an incorrect analogy.
I’m not trying to nit pick. When dealing with sin, we should be circumspect in how we go about following the commandments. You have many followers, for good reason, and I’d hate to see a typing error lead others down the wrong path.
Here was my response to Thomas:
I have bolded “that steak” where I put it. While I do make a lot of typos both in my comments and actual blog articles that was actually not one of them. I mean’t to say it exactly as I did “that steak” and not what you thought maybe I meant to say “I want a steak just like that one.”
There is nothing wrong with finding a woman sexually desirable even if she is married. There is nothing wrong with imagining what she looks like naked or having a sexual fantasy about her.
I am arguing that a man taking pleasure in looking at a woman(single or married it does not matter) and imagining her naked or imagining himself having sex with her is him finding her sexually desirable and this is NOT covetousness and it is not sin.
However if a man’s thoughts about a woman go from him imagining her naked or imagining himself having sex with her(finding her sexually desirable) to him desiring to unlawfully possess or use her then his thoughts have gone into covetousness and therefore sin.
What I am saying is that God judges “the thoughts and intents of the heart”(Hebrews 4:12).
So as men we must ask ourselves when we look at a woman what is our intent? Is our intent simply to enjoy the view and our imagination or do we truly have a lustful or covetous desire to actually unlawfully possess or use this woman for sex outside of marriage?
Some have asked me if I think covetousness requires active planning to unlawfully possess and I have said my answer is no. You don’t have to be actively planning to unlawfully possess to simply desire to unlawfully possess or use something. As I said in my previous comment to you I think covetousness has two phases and you may never get past the first phase which is simply the desire to unlawfully possess or use something.
I hope you don’t take this as being argumentative. I’m trying really hard to understand your position. I read your comment rules and am not trying to be negative or cause an argument. To that end, I’ll propose my thoughts again but in a different way.
I’m going to shift gears and relate this back to a man looking at a woman and use your words about the steak. I’ll break it down.
“You can’t afford the steak today,” – You’re not married to that woman.
“you have to get the hamburger instead, but you would really like that steak he has.” – you have a sexy, attractive wife but you would really like to have sex with the woman he has.
“You imagine how great that steak would be to eat.” – You imagine how great the sex would be with THAT woman. (This is where I believe his thoughts take him from normal male behavior to lustful covetousness. He went from admiring her beauty to thinking about having sex with HER, not his wife.)
How is this not the very requirement you place on “where you allow your mind to go from finding something or someone desirable(which is not sin) to desiring to unlawfully possess or use that thing.” is escaping me.
On my blog, a user submitted a story about his weekend away with his wife. In the hotel bar, she was seated while he went to get drinks. He came back to find his wife talking to another couple. The other wife, as he describes her, was quite attractive and sexy. He admits he couldn’t take his eyes off her breasts. I call that normal male behavior.
When he found himself aroused by the sight of the other woman’s breasts, he excused his wife and himself to their room in the hotel and made passionate love. He admits to thinking about the other woman’s breasts during their lovemaking. Again, I call that normal male behavior.
He never once admitted to thinking about having sex with THAT woman, but his arousal by her sexiness and his fantasy of her while making love to his wife. Again, normal male behavior.
I’ll await your answer and if we’re still in disagreement, I’ll let it go. Thanks for your time and willingness to discuss this.
First please don’t worry you are nowhere near the line of crossing violating any rules on my comments policy. Pretty much the way people break that is by attacking the person rather than the position or just being belligerent and rude – neither of which you have done.
What I see in the Scriptures about covetousness and how I interpret it makes perfect sense to me and many of my readers but I also realize there are many Christians that struggle with where that line is and may not understand what I am saying or may not be able to accept where I draw line.
I do think we disagree based on your comments as to where the line is. So I will try and put back to you where I think the heart of our disagreement is and let you confirm it.
In your example you believe it was ok for a man to be turned on by the sight of another man’s breasts and even think about them during the time he is having sex with his wife.
But you draw the line at him just thinking of her breasts, not him actually imaging himself having sex with this other man’s wife.
The reason is because I think you believe that a man having a sexual fantasy(imaging himself having sex with another man’s wife) is him “desiring to unlawfully possess or use that thing” to use my words. But I am saying sexual fantasy does not automatically translate to a desire to unlawfully possess or use something and I think you think it does.
Let me first use my Ferrari illustration that I have used other places on my site and then I will talk about a woman. Most people will never be able to drive a Ferrari in their life time, let alone own one. But if my neighbor own’s a Ferrari can I not admire its beauty? You and I would agree there is no sin this. But what about me imagining myself driving it? I think if we equate “driving a car” to “having sex with woman” then you would say I am now coveting my neighbors car if I imagine myself driving his Ferrari.
I however believe that only if allow myself to UNLAWFULLY desire to possess or use my neighbor’s Ferrari that then and only then have I sinned. So first I start with the desire to unlawfully use his Ferrari and then I may or may not allow that to grow into a plan of how I might unlawfully use his Ferrari.
So now let’s fully apply this to a woman. Salma Hayek is one of many actresses that I think are hot. Now she is married to a French businessmen. Let’s say I was watching one of her old films like “Desperado” with Antonio Banderas and the sex scene between him and her in that movie turns me on. Later I have a fantasy about having sex with Salma Hayek – another man’s wife. But I have absolutely no desire to unlawfully possess or use Salma Hayek sexually. I am simply enjoying the imagination of her.
I think we will still disagree but hopefully I have made my position clearer.
I don’t think we’re very far apart in our thinking. You define a lot of Biblical terms through the language it was originally written in, which is one of the reasons I actually trust your versions of beliefs more than others. I try to do the same when I research. Context means everything. Intent also has to be brought into play.
Maybe this will help to understand where I come from on coveting. Coveting someone’s property or possessions means, by dictionary standards, to want something someone else already has. Merriam-Webster has one definition as, “to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably”.
In your analogy of the Ferrari, I would call your desire to drive it coveting. Why? Because you’re thinking about something that belongs to someone else, not simply a Ferrari. You don’t simply want to drive a Ferrari, you want to drive the neighbor’s Ferrari. Wanting to drive the neighbor’s Ferrari shows intent, which could lead to an action. While you may not have done something illegal to drive the Ferrari, you’re still thinking about driving your neighbor’s Ferrari. How did that turn out for King David?
My analogy would be closer to this: My neighbor has a Ferrari. I love looking at it. It’s beautiful and pleasing to the eye. I would LOVE to drive a Ferrari just like his. I don’t have to drive my neighbor’s Ferrari. It’s HIS Ferrari and I shouldn’t be thinking about driving HIS Ferrari when there’s a Ferrari dealership in town. I need to focus on a test drive at the dealership, not on my neighbor’s Ferrari.
If you’re fixated on driving your neighbor’s Ferrari, you’re eventually going to figure out a way to drive your neighbor’s Ferrari. If you’re fixated on simply driving a Ferrari, you can do that without messing with your neighbor’s. If you get a test drive, you can imagine all you want that it’s your neighbor’s Ferrari. There’s no harm in that.
Coveting isn’t simply a sin unto itself. When you covet, you’re actually wanting something someone else has, not something SIMILAR to what they have. To get what you covet, someone else has to lose it. To get what you desire because your neighbor has one is simply you making the effort necessary to get what you want. No one loses. Well, except the sin of pride, but that’s another story.
So to put things back into the marriage box, if my neighbor has a trophy wife, I’m going to look. I’m going to be aroused if I see her sunbathing nude in her backyard. I’ll be turned on. But, dang, she’s married and so am I. I can fantasize, but I can’t dwell on the thought of having sex with her. If I must act on my arousal, I better take it out on my wife. If I’m constantly looking at his wife with the thought of having sex with her, I’m eventually going to do something stupid. Again, intent. Remember what the road to hell is paved with.
I’ve been turned on by many other women since my marriage in 1984. There was a time I actually went looking for a different woman. The times I could have gotten into trouble were when that arousal was focused on what was turning me on, and not on my wife. I’ve had great sex with my wife while thinking about another woman, or (as fantasy goes) women.
Let me take your “marriage box” example and show you what I believe.
In your example why are you aroused by your neighbor’s wife sunbathing nude in her backyard? It is because God has programmed your brain to receive pleasure from viewing the opposite sex. When you receive this pleasure from viewing something whether it his wife or his Ferrari(to use our car example) you find that object(a person or thing) to be desirable. Specifically you are aroused by her because you find her sexually desirable as God has designed you to.
But here is where you and I differ(and I know where you are coming from because I used to think exactly like you until the Lord showed me differently).
You believe because she is married and thus belongs to another man that you cannot “dwell on the thought of having sex with her”. But why? thinking of what it would be like to have sex with her is not the same as desiring to unlawfully possess her or use her.
So to come back to our word definitions again:
I believe to desire another man’s wife is not simply to find her sexually desirable, be aroused by her, wonder what she looks like naked, or imagine what it would like to have sex with her.
I believe to desire another man’s wife is desire to unlawfully possess her or use her.
A lot of this comes down to relational context. You keep coming back to that she is married and you are married and you can’t think what it would be like to have sex with her because you are both married. But in our Ferrari example – you can imagine yourself driving a Ferrari whether it is your neighbors or one at the dealership without having to imagine the details of how you actually got to drive that Ferrari. In fact we imagine ourselves doing things all the time without having to plan out how we could do that.
I write about this very subject of fantasy and relational context in this post:
You see as men it is far easier for us to fantasize outside a relational context than women. Most Women need that relational context in their sexual fantasy to truly enjoy a fantasy. But we as men don’t need that context.
So what I am saying is it is perfectly possible for a man to enjoy the sight of his neighbor’s wife nude sunbathing and go either masturbate or have sex with his wife while imagining himself having sex with his neighbor’s wife and he can have absolutely no covetous desire toward her whatsoever. He is just enjoying the image of her body in his mind.
Now what happened with King David? Rather than him just enjoying the view of Bathsheba bathing or maybe even having fantasies about her that he just acted on with one of his many wives he went from finding Bathsheba sexually desirable to desiring to possess or use her unlawfully. This is when his natural drawing toward her beauty turned to sinful desire. Then after he allowed himself to desire to possess her in an unlawful manner he began the second phase of covetousness and planned how he would lure her, seduce her and eventually get her to have sex with him and then he acted on those plans.
This is why I maintain that a man having allowing himself fantasize about what it would be like to have sex with a woman(whether she married or single) is not covetousness, lust or sin. Sexual fantasy is an natural part of finding someone sexually desirable and there is no sin this. It is when Sexual fantasy turns to desire to unlawfully possess that sin has just been born.
Let’s go back to your example of your wife’s neighbor sunbathing nude in her back yard. So here you are in your upstairs window just enjoying the view of her. Maybe she does this every few days and over several days and weeks you go from just being aroused by her and imagining having sex with her to now desiring to unlawfully possess her.
After you allow your lust to grow two things could happen as a result.
If you are a psychopath you might just look to see when her husband is not home and then plan how you will break in her backyard and rape her.
If you are a normal man you will start to plan on how you can talk to her and get to know her. So whenever she goes to run an errand you “just happen” to be going out to so you can say hi to her the drive away. Sometimes you both just “happen” to be at the same grocery store at the same time so you can talk to her. You see where I am going – you plan on making an emotional connection with her with the hopes of one day sexually possessing her. Even if you plan is never successful – it is still covetous desire.
It all started with you allowing yourself to desire to unlawfully possess her before a single plan of how you might do that came into your mind.
I actually maintain that fantasy is a gift from God. We can imagine our own worlds in our head – we are not constrained by the reality of the world we live in.
Take this story for example. An elderly man cares for his elderly wife who has mental and physical illnesses that preclude him from having sex with her. He sees his young neighbor’s wife nude sunbathing in their backyard a few times a week. The site of her body brings joy to him each week. Each of those days he goes in after soaking up the beauty of her body and he imagines himself as king in ancient times when men had more than one wife. He imagines taking that young woman as one of his new wives as he continues to care for his older wife in her sickness. He masturbates to this sexual fantasy of taking that young woman as additional wife but he has absolutely no desire or intent to actually unlawfully possess that woman in his real life.
I maintain that there is absolutely no sin what this elderly man has done. I maintain that his ability to fantasize and create his own world in his head is a gift from God.
Now are some people mentally unstable and confuse fantasy with reality? Yes. But just because some people abuse fantasy and confuse it with reality does not make fantasy wrong.
If your “thought of having sex with her” means your desire to unlawfully possess her than I agree eventually you may do something stupid.
If however you simply have thoughts about “what it would be like to have sex with her” then I do not agree that you will eventually do something stupid.
I will say this though – and I have said something similar in posts and comments on my blog. I do believe the more realistic the possibility of actually be able to have illicit sex with a woman the more we need to be careful of our thoughts. So I would agree that it would be more dangerous for a man to allow himself to entertain sexual fantasies about his neighbor’s wife if he actually talks to her on a regular basis and they are on friendly terms. It is definitely more dangerous for a man to allow himself to entertain sexual fantasies about his young secretary at work whom he is on friendly terms with.
This is why I maintain that porn and anonymous fantasies about women that we have no relationship with and no real possibility of ever being with sexually are usually safer. If I have a sexual fantasy about Salma Hayek even though she is married – there is basically almost zero percent chance that will turn into true covetousness where I desire to unlawfully possess her. But if I were to allow myself to have dwell on sexual fantasies about my female coworker at the office whom I am on friendly terms with that might be more dangerous in that it has much higher probability of turning into actual lust.
This does seem logical, but I am still unsure about it. I understand pastors and churches may have different doctrines on this, but I have personally felt shame and guilt when I look at a woman and have a sexual fantasy about her. How can I tell whether or not I am grieving the Holy Spirit in this scenario or not? I don’t want to be doing something that I think now isn’t sin, but it turns out I am sinning. I haven’t thought of actually desiring to unlawfully possess someone, but I still feel not good thinking about sexually fantasizing a woman. Please give me confirmation. Thanks!
I would refer you to the following passage:
Martin Luther in his 1527 Lectures gave the following commentary on the passage above:
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 30, pp. 279–281). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
His point was that he and the reformers were breaking many traditions of the Catholic church that had been followed for more than a 1000 years. So when priests started marrying did they feel some guilt in enjoying sexual pleasure with their wives? You bet they did. But Luther used this passage to teach them that God was greater than their hearts, and that tradition and culture will sometimes cause our feelings to condemn us for doing what God calls good and allows or even for doing what God commands.
Even outside this specific topic of lust, I know many men when they learn the truth of Biblical gender roles have a hard time exercising authority over their wives because their feelings tell them it is unfair to do so. But it is not unfair – it is the very command of God. Other men struggle with having sex with their wives when they are not in the mood feeling they are being selfish or wrong in some way – but God commands men to make use of their wives bodies (Proverbs 5:18-19, 1 Corinthians 7:2-5).
So my brother – you must rest in the truth of God’s Word and realize like Martin Luther did that your guilt does not come from God, but rather from the cultural conditioning you have been raised with since the day you were born.
I hope that helps.