A Defense of Paige Patterson and Men Saying Women Are “Fine” and “Built”

Paige Patterson was ousted yesterday by a version of the MeToo which has formed within the Southern Baptist Convention.  After a group of approximately 2500 SBC women sent a letter to the board of trustees for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where Paige Patterson was President the board voted to remove him as President.

Scott Neuman, writing for NPR.Org in his article entitled “Southern Baptist Leader Removed Over Remarks On Rape, Abuse Of Women” summarizes the events that lead to Patterson’s dismissal today:

“As NPR’s Tom Gjelten reported earlier this month, in an interview Patterson gave in 2000, the religious leader recounted how he had told one woman, who had been assaulted by her husband, to simply pray for her spouse:

“Returning some days later with two black eyes, the woman said, ‘I hope you’re happy,’ [Patterson said].

” ‘I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I am happy,’ Patterson quoted himself as telling the woman. ‘What she didn’t know when we sat in church that morning,’ he said, ‘was that her husband had come in and was standing in back, first time he ever came.’ ”

Patterson had also been criticized for a sermon he gave in 2014 in which he said women were created by God “beautifully and artistically.”

Tom adds:

“He related a conversation he had with a woman while her son and a friend were standing alongside. As they talked, a teenage girl whom Patterson described as ‘very attractive’ walked by, and one of the boys said, ‘Man, is she built.’

“The woman immediately scolded him, but Patterson said he interjected in the boy’s defense.

” ‘I said, ‘Ma’am, leave him alone,’ Patterson recounted. ‘He’s just being biblical. That is exactly what the Bible says.’ ”

Hearing Patterson tell that story, Karen Swallow Prior, a professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., was outraged. She and about 30 other women immediately drafted the open letter addressed to the Board of Trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

The full letter can be found at a petition page here.

The letter from Karen Swallow Prior and her cohorts begins with this introduction:

“Over the past week Southern Baptist women have been grappling with the video of Dr. Paige Patterson preaching at the Awaken Conference in 2014, the audio of his counsel to domestic abuse victims in 2000, and his response this week to the Southern Baptist concerns over these matters and all that has subsequently come to light. These one on one conversations between women who are grieved by the comments and concerned for the poor gospel witness they reflect has resulted in the following plea for SWBTS trustees to take decisive action.”

What were Paige Patterson’s Crimes According to SBC MeToo Women?

Supposedly he allegedly told a rape victim not to report her rape to the police but to date there is no hard evidence supporting this claim. This is something both he and the Seminary are denying. Another one of his “crimes” according to the MeToo Southern Baptist women was his statements regarding women staying with abusive husbands.  The truth is that he was fighting against divorce and later clarified his statement saying he believes women who are in danger from true physical abuse can seek separation for themselves and their children.

I have already laid out my position on what kind of “abuse” a woman can leave for Biblically and what kind she cannot leave for in my recent article “Why God Wants You To Stay in An Abusive Relationship”.  When we remember that to “abuse” someone is to “mistreat” someone then you could say your spouse is abusing you if they call you a bad name or are crabby with you.  To say that God’s word allows for women to leave their husband over such things flies in the face of the Scriptures.  It is not saying men are right in doing these things, but the Bible does not allow a woman to divorce her husband for just any sin he commits against her. It strictly limits the types of sin for which a woman may be free from her husband in divorce.

Today we have people comparing a husband calling his wife a bad name with him punching her in the face saying it is the same thing.  This is the absurdity of the world we live in now.

But what I really want to focus on here is the utterly ridiculousness of the attack on Paige Patterson for comments he and a teenage boy made about a teenage girl and how he corrected the mother for scolding her son for saying it.

In the letter from the SBC MeToo Women they write the following concerning these comments:

“His recent remarks of clarification do not repudiate his unwise counsel in the past; nor has he offered explanation or repentance for inappropriate comments regarding a teenage girl, the unbiblical teaching he offered on the biblical meaning of womanhood in that objectification, and the inappropriate nature of his own observations of her body.

This pattern of discourse is unbefitting the sober, wise, and sound character required of an elder, pastor, and leader. It fails in the call to protect the helpless, the call of Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves, and the biblical standard of sexual purity. These comments are damaging, sinful, and necessitate a decisive response. It seems inevitable, for instance, that a youth pastor in any of our churches would be removed from his position if he made the comments that Dr. Patterson made at the Awaken Conference in 2014.

The world is watching us all, brothers. They wonder how we could possibly be part of a denomination that counts Dr. Patterson as a leader. They wonder if all Southern Baptist men believe that the biblical view of a sixteen-year-old girl is that she is “built” and “fine” —an object to be viewed sexually.”

The Bible says Women are “Built” and “Fine”!

In the Scriptures we are told that Jacob loved Rachel, “the beautiful and well favored” of two sisters.

“17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.

18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

Genesis 29:17-18 (KJV)

The Hebrew phrase that is translated as “beautiful and well favoured” in the KJV is not as literal to Hebrew text.  In the Hebrew it reads yâpheh[beautiful,lovely,fair] tô’ar [form, figure, shape] yâpheh[beautiful,lovely,fair] mar’eh[sight, vision, appearance].  So when we take this phrase together it said Rachel had “a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at”.  In modern terms we might say “Rachel was built and was fine to the eyes”.

In the Song of Solomon we are told:

“How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter!

The curves of your hips are like jewels, The work of the hands of an artist.”

Song of Solomon 7:1 (NASB)

The KJV calls a woman’s body “the work of the hands of a cunning workman” and the NASB translation I showed above calls a woman’s body “The work of the hands of an artist.

Therefore we can rightly conclude based on the Scriptures that there is no sin in a man calling a woman “built”, “fine” or saying that God made women “beautifully and artistically”.

So to my SBC MeToo lady friends YES I believe “the biblical view of a sixteen-year-old girl is that she is “built” and “fine” —an object to be viewed sexually”.  AMEN and AMEN!

And Paige Patterson was absolutely right in calling out that mother for shaming her son’s God given masculinity.  God created him to derive pleasure from female beauty just as he designed Paige Patterson and every other man to derive pleasure from female beauty.

This false notion that God wants men to have this “off and on” switch that women want is lubricious, stupid, absurd and unbiblical.   What I mean is a lot of women want men to only derive pleasure from the beauty of a woman if he is either dating her, or married to her.  Otherwise if a man has no relationship with a woman and especially if he far older than her there is this magic off switch that must be installed in his mind that all of a sudden makes him not derive pleasure from her beauty.

This belief of this mother and far too many Christians today is founded in a complete and utter misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says about lust.

Most Christians Today Don’t Have a Clue What Real Lust Is

This mother that Patterson scolded, like many Christians today, would probably defend her shaming of her son’s expression of his God given male sexuality with this verse:

“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 mother might think to herself – “the Bible says a man should not lust after a woman or else it is just like committing adultery with her”.  How many sermons have you heard that in?  But you know what you won’t hear in those same sermons? You won’t hear how the Bible defines lust for us:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Romans 7:7 (KJV)

The Bible tells us exactly what lust is – it is covetousness. So now let’s go to the 10th commandment to find out what covetousness is:

“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 any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

Exodus 21:17 (KJV)

Let me ask a question to all you ladies out there.  Have ever admired your neighbor’s house? In fact have you ever gone over to a neighbor lady’s house hoping to get invited in to see the inside? And if you did get invited in to see the inside did you ever find it beautiful and desirable? I am willing to bet that a lot of women could answer these questions with “Yes”.

So were you coveting your neighbor’s house because you found it desirable and wondered what it looked like on the inside? The answer is NO.  Covetousness is when you have an unlawful desire to possess someone or something.  So maybe your neighbor lady had a nice piece of jewelry laying on a table as you walk through her house.  If you have the desire to unlawfully possess that jewelry and you start to think of how you could swipe it when your neighbor was not looking that is covetousness.  That is lust.  Covetousness always proceeds theft of some kind.

But yet so many women would scold their husbands for thinking the neighbor’s wife is desirable.

Listen up ladies.  I am going to lay down some logic for you.

A man thinking his neighbor’s wife is desirable is EXACTLY the same as a woman thinking her neighbor’s house is desirable.

A man wondering what his neighbor’s wife looks like under her clothes is EXACTLY the same thing as a woman wondering what her neighbor’s house looks like on the inside.

A man imaging how great it would be to have sex with his neighbor’s wife is EXACTLY the same as a woman imaging how great it would be to live in her neighbor’s house.

So we can rightly say that when Christ said that a man commits adultery in his heart when he “looketh on a woman to lust after her” he was talking about a man coveting a woman. In other words, he is having the desire to seduce her into sex outside of marriage.  Christ in no way is condemning a man for being sexually attracted to a woman or him noticing her beauty or him even imaging what it would be like to be with her sexually. He is condemning a man thinking about adultery or fornication which is the act of a man unlawfully possessing a woman.

I highly encourage Christian women and Christian men to truly reconsider their views on masculine sexuality and lust.

Let us stop condemning our young men for noticing female beauty.  Let us also stop condemning our older men such as Paige Patterson for still noticing it too.  Ladies let me tell you something – just because we men get older does not mean we don’t still find young women attractive.  There is no “age” switch that says we can find a young lady even her teens attractive.  You may not like it, but that is how God made man.

Time and Place

I want to give a final word about “time and place”. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”.  For example we would all agree as Christian that sexual relations between a husband and his wife are a beautiful thing in marriage.  But even in marriage there is a time and place for sexual relations.  I am not going to have sex with my wife in the middle of the living room with my children or my parents present.  That would not be the time and place for this activity even though the activity itself is not sinful.

In the same way I am not saying it would be right for a youth pastor or a pastor or even this young man to just walk up to a young woman or older woman and say to them “You are built” or “You are fine”.  It’s not good manners. It’s not the right way to go about it.

However if a couple of young men say quietly after a teenage girl passes to each other “Man, is she built” there is no sin in this.  Or if they leave the restaurant and were driving home and they mention this there is no sin in this.  Even if a Pastor like Paige Patterson talks about a random girl in a restaurant and says she was “fine” there is no sin that.  It is exactly as he said – “Biblical” for a man to do so.  It is how God created us as men to notice female beauty.

But let’s say a youth pastor goes up to one of the teen girls in his youth group and says “Man you are built” would that be inappropriate? Of course it would be inappropriate.  Because it is not the time or place for him to express such a thought.

But our SBC MeToo women and many other women in our culture today would have us believe that it is wrong for a man to ever have such a thought about a woman unless he is married to the woman.  The problem with such thinking is that is utterly unbiblical.  Ladies you might not like how God made men and you might not like that God did not put an off switch in men’s head when it comes to sexual attraction to women.  But that is how he created men.

Ladies, I encourage you to study the Scriptures I have presented here and ask God to help you accept men as he created them and accept your place in his creation.  I encourage you to stop shaming men for how God designed them.

And Christian men – I encourage to do the same and study out these passages I have given.  Stop engaging in self-flagellation over your own God given sexuality.  The pleasure you get from seeing the beauty of women around you or on TV or online is not sinful. Sexual desire toward a woman is not sinful. It is lust, which is the desire to fornicate with a woman (have sex outside of marriage) that is sinful.

I also hope and pray that some of our Christian leaders will grow spines and start standing up to all this man-shaming and character assassination that is rampant across our nation.  We need to start standing up to the feminism that has poisoned our homes, churches and country.

I encourage to read more on how male sexuality actually works and the way God designed it these other articles:

Why it is NOT Wrong for Men to See Women as Sex Objects

Why Christian men should NOT be ashamed of “locker-room talk”

How should Christian women respond to their men looking at other women? Part 1

How should Christian women respond to their men looking at other women? Part 2

How should Christian women respond to their men looking at other women? Part 3

Are some wives tempting their husbands to lust?

Kristen Clark, a writer for the website CovenantEyes.com, asserts that a wife showing her husband a magazine with a half-naked woman’s body on it was an example of a wife causing her husband to lust. Most likely by “half naked” she probably means the woman was wearing a bikini or a bra and panties.

In her article entitled ““When Wives Unknowingly Tempt Their Husbands Toward Lust“ Kristen Clark writes:

“I was standing in line at my local grocery store when an obnoxious magazine caught my eye. I’m used to seeing half-naked women on the cover of tabloids, but this image seemed even too edgy for a tabloid.

A small wave of anger rushed over me as I thought of the innocent children and husbands who were being exposed to this, as I call it, “tabloid porn.” As I tried to refocus my thinking on something more positive, a middle aged couple got in line behind me.

I watched in curiosity as the wife reached over and selected that magazine off the rack. I watched even more curiously to see what she would do with it. To my shock, the wife held that magazine cover up to her husband’s face and said, “Wow, wish I had a body like that!”

Her husband chuckled as he happily perused the cover until she removed it.

I quickly glanced forward, realizing I had been staring. I tried to wrap my head around what I just saw. “Why would a wife want to intentionally show her husband a partially naked woman?” “Why would a wife want to help her husband peruse another woman?

As I thought about that puzzling scene over the next few days, I began to wonder…maybe that wife didn’t understand the value of sexual purity in her marriage. Or maybe that wife was clueless about lust and temptation. Or maybe she wanted to prove her “security” by appearing non-jealous. I don’t know.”

Read the full article here.

Answering Kristen’s questions

Kristen’s first question:

“Why would a wife want to intentionally show her husband a partially naked woman?”

The answer to Kristen’s first question:

Because the wife accepts and embraces the fact that God designed her husband to appreciate the female form and not just HER form and her from alone.

The wife in that grocery line most likely understood the difference between lust and sexual arousal far better than Kristen Clark and many Christians today understand it.

Many Christians point to Matthew 5 in defining lust:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 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)

Then they go on to say “Lust is sexual arousal or sexual fantasy about someone you are not married to”.

Did you see that definition of lust in that passage? No you did not.

So how about we let the Bible define what lust is instead of letting our culture and churches define what lust is:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” – Romans 7:7 (KJV)

This wife in that checkout line understood there is no sin in her husband appreciating or even being aroused sexually by the form of another’s woman’s body. She understood that lust is covetousness and that her husband was not going to covet this woman by thinking of how he could find her and sexually possess her outside of marriage.

So rather than condemning this woman as Kristen Clark as has done, we as believers should be applauding this woman for her actions. Instead of scolding her husband for his visual nature and appreciation of the female form – she shows him that God’s creation of his visual nature and attraction to the female form is GOOD.

Kristen’s Second Question:

“Why would a wife want to help her husband peruse another woman?”

The answer to Kristen’s second question:

I will answer her question with another question of my own and then answer it for her.

Why would a woman not just let her husband peruse another woman, but also give her to him as another wife?

“Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.” – Genesis 30:18 (KJV)

In Genesis chapters 29 & 30 we that Leah is very jealous of her husband’s affections as he prefers Rachel to her. But eventually Leah overcomes her jealousy of her husband to the point that she gives him her servant Zilpah so that she can bare him more sons.

So the answer to my expanded version of Kristen’s second question is – This wife was putting her husband’s needs ahead of her own.

It is interesting how in many churches we will hear about how Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham and how that ended so badly – yet we hear nothing of how God blessed Leah for giving Zilpah to Jacob.

The fact is these were two very different situations. In the one God told Sarah she would give Abraham a son and an heir.  She did not believe God and instead sought to get him an heir through another means.  Now there would have been nothing wrong with Abraham marrying another woman and he in fact married several more women later in life.

The problem was in Sarah trying to get him his heir through this method when God had said the heir would come through her.

With all due respect to Kristen Clark – it is she and so many Christians like her today that are in fact “clueless about lust and temptation”.  The Bible is clear what lust is as I have previously pointed out and what Kristen describes in that checkout line was NOT a wife tempting her husband to lust.  It was a wife loving and fully embracing her husband’s God given visual nature and appreciation for a variety of beautiful women.

Here is a list of things Kristen does to keep her husband from enjoying the form of any other woman but her:

“I sort the mail and throw away the immodest/sensual ads so he doesn’t have to see them.

I don’t ask my husband to watch movies with me that have immodest women in them (i.e. most chick flicks).

I intentionally leave all magazines, books, etc. out of my home that have immodest/sensual images or ads in them.

If I know a certain restaurant has immodest waitresses, I don’t suggest eating there.

I don’t ever take my husband into a lingerie store. I’ve seen many wives do this, and from what I hear, it’s not helpful for the men.”

I know where Kristen is coming from and I understand that her actions might not be coming from a place of trying to deny her husband any pleasure that God has given him to enjoy.  She simply has been wrongly taught that the Bible forbids her husband from enjoying the view of any other woman’s body other than her own.  So she must take every step possible to make sure he is never sexually aroused by the form of any other woman real or imagined.

She has been taught that when a man has sexual imaginations about a woman he is not married to (whether that his girlfriend, fiancé or some other woman after he is married) that these are by definition “impure thoughts” and thus her constant references to purity in marriage.

But the fact is that a man enjoying the sight of a woman’s form whether he is married to her or not IS PURE. It is pure and holy because that is how God designed him to be.

It is only when he allows those pure thoughts about the female form or even sex itself to turn into covetous thoughts of ways to possess a woman outside of marriage that his thoughts become impure and sinful.

But while Kristen and many other Christian may sincerely practice these things with good intentions toward God and their husbands – they are in fact sincerely WRONG.

How some wives DO tempt their husbands to lust

Up to this point we have shown why Kristen’s story does not show a wife tempting her husband to lust, but rather shows a wife honoring and show acceptance of her husband’s appreciation and desire to view the female form.

One of the biggest problems with all this focus on men not looking at images of women or real women is that it takes our eyes off the REAL dangers of men being tempted by their wives to lust.

Here are ways a wife can actually cause her husband to lust:

  1. When she sexually denies him – the more a man is denied by his wife sexually the more tempted he will be to actually lust (have covetous thoughts about getting women to meet his sexual needs outside of marriage).
  2. Even if she does not directly sexually deny him – if she does not sexually fulfill him he may be tempted to lust. Things like not letting him see her naked, refusing to wear lingerie or refusing to perform certain acts that the Bible allows (like oral sex or having sex in different positions) may tempt him to lust.

These are the real dangers where wives can have a direct impact in tempting their husbands to lust. These are where we should be focusing the battle against lust.

“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.  Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” – I Corinthians 7:2-5 (KJV)

Christian wives – you want to help your husband to not be tempted to lust? Then stop worrying about the woman on the magazine cover in the supermarket aisle and focus on the woman who should be giving her body fully and freely to her husband (that’s you!).

 

Why does the KJV render Romans 7:7 as “lust” and “covet”?

Is lust the same as covetousness?  Why does the KJV in Romans 7:7 translate one word as “lust” and another as “covetousness” even though in other translations like the NASB and NIV they translate both words as “covet”?

A friend of mine, Emily recently wrote this to me about Romans 7:7.  For my readers who are not familiar with this discussion one of the truths that I believe the Bible teaches is that lust is covetousness.  Specifically in the context of Matthew 5:28 lust is referring to a specific form of covetousness – mainly to covet another man’s wife.

Emily is not alone, there are many good Christians who want to believe that lust is a separate sin from covetousness and that lust refers simply to sexual desire, rather than it applying more accurately to sexual covetousness. I believe based on the whole of Scripture, as well as the meaning of the original languages that this distinction between lust and covetousness is faulty. Lust IS covetousness.

Here was Emily’s statement to me:

 “But first… that is not how it is phrased in my Bible, fyi. I just looked it up. It compares coveting to coveting, not to lust. Lust is not mentioned in that passage at all!

In that case, there is not much else in the Bible that equates the two. So I mean, thanks for clarifying what you mean by covet but I still think lust in and of itself is a sin.”

The reason Emily is not seeing see it in her  English translation of the Bible is because some modern English translations have left out the distinction Paul was trying to make.

Here is Romans 7:7 in the KJV, the NASB and NIV:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (KJV)

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (NASB)

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (NIV)

Now usually between these three popular translations the KJV is the most literal(but uses older English words), the NASB is more literal than the NIV, but less literal than the KJV with more modern words and then you have the NIV rounding out with the most modern wording, but it is often the least literal out of the three. Each of these have their value and I have used all these and other versions in my studies over the last 20 years.

But occasionally the NASB is more literal than even the KJV, and sometimes even the NIV is more literal or a better translation of a particular verse than the KJV.

So the big question is why does the KJV translate the first word as lust and only the second word as covet while these other two translations translate both words as covet? The reason is because in the Greek these are two different words:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust[Epithumia], except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet[Epithumeo].” (KJV)

Here is the definition of the Greek word Epithumia (which the KJV translates as “lust” in Romans 7:7) according to Thayer and Smith’s Bible dictionary:

“desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust”

Here is the definition of the Greek word Epithumeo (which the KJV translates as “covet” in Romans 7:7) according to Thayer and Smith’s Bible dictionary:

“to turn upon a thing

to have a desire for, long for, to desire

to lust after, covet

of those who seek things forbidden”

So while these words are synonyms they are not identical and the KJV accurately represents that distinction in its translation where the NASB and NIV loose that distinction for the reader. If Paul meant to use the same word twice he would have said “for I had not known [Epithumeo], except the law had said, Thou shalt not [Epithumeo].” but he used a deliberate word play here with these synonyms to get his point across.

Both Epithumia and Epithumeo are used in positive and negative contexts

These words do not always represent wrong desires, lust or covetousness in the bad sense of these words.  The context of the surrounding passage is what tells us if these words are being used in a negative or positive sense.

Here is a positive use of Epithumia(translated as “lust” in Romans 7:7) in another passage of Scripture:

“But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire[Epithumia]  to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” – Philippians 1:22-24 (KJV)

This is one of those passages of Scripture where I think the NIV does a better job of making this more understandable in modern English while still staying true to the wording in the original language:

“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire[Epithumia] to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” – Philippians 1:22-24 (NIV)

In either case both the KJV and NIV correctly translate Epithumia as “desire” here. Desire is used in the sense of a positive desire on the Apostle Paul’s part to want to be with the Lord in heaven.

Here is a positive use of Epithumeo in the Scriptures:

“And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire[Epithumeo] to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.” – Luke 17:22 (KJV)

Here is a another negative use of Epithumia(translated as “lust” in Romans 7:7) in another passage of Scripture:

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection[Pathos], evil concupiscence[Epithumia], and covetousness[Pleonexia], which is idolatry:” – Colossians 3:5 (KJV)

Concupiscence is an English word that means “evil sexual desires”.  Incidentally the word translated “covetousness” here is not the same word “Epithumeo” that is translated as “covet” in Romans 7:7.  This is another Greek word “Pleonexia” which has more to do with the greedy side of covetousness, rather than the desire to possess something that does not belong to us side of covetousness and this is why the NASB translates this same passage using the word “greed” instead of “covetousness”:

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion[Pathos], evil desire[Epithumia], and greed[Pleonexia], which amounts to idolatry.” Colossians 3:5 (NASB)

The NASB except for the word “immorality”, which should be “sexual immorality” is probably the most accurate translation of this verse to the original language of the Bible here in Colossians 3:5. The Greek word “Pathos” which is translated as “passion” in the NASB has the idea of a person being led astray by emotions.

But here we see based on the context of it being “evil” that these are speaking to wrong desires.

Here is another negative use of Epithumeo (translated as “covet” in Romans 7:7) in another passage of Scripture:

“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after[Epithumeo] her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28 (KJV)

Conclusion

As I said before every translation of Scripture is just that, a translation of Scripture. Each translation has its strengths and weaknesses. But in this particular case the KJV rendering of Romans 7:7 by using “lust” in comparison to “covet” is accurately communicating the Apostle Paul’s attempt to play these two synonyms off each other.

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” – Romans 7:7 (KJV)

In the context of lust as it is spoke of in Matthew 5:27, this also proves by the fact that Epithumeo is used for lusting after a woman and Epithumeo is used synonymously of the 10th commandment in Romans 7:7 as “covet” that means God equates lust to covetousness.

The Church, Women and Barbeques

Imagine that you had a neighbor that had barbeque parties all summer long in his backyard. You like to barbeque too. But there is a world of difference between what he gets to cook on his barbeque and what you get to cook on yours. He cooks steaks every weekend, but you can only afford hamburgers.

By now you have probably honed your hamburger making skills to a science. You make the best barbequed hamburgers for your wife and children. But hamburgers will never be steaks.

Your neighbor makes a lot more money than you. He gets the best cuts of steak every weekend to make for his wife and their friends. Every weekend as you cook in your backyard you can see those sizzling steaks. The aroma is intoxicating. You can imagine just sinking your teeth into one of those steaks and how awesome it would be.

But you never allow your thoughts to turn to covetousness toward your neighbor’s steak. Instead you thank God each week for the ability to buy and cook those hamburgers that you have down to a science.

But what if you allowed your thoughts about those steaks to go to a different place? What if you started to imagine scenarios where you could sneak over there in your neighbor’s yard and grab one of those steaks off the grill? He and his wife go in their house all the time to get things for their party, you could wait till their gone for a second and take one. Maybe you act on this thought, maybe you don’t. It does not matter – what you have just experienced is a covetous thought.

Do you see where imagination moves to covetousness? God created us as human beings with an imagination. God also gave us a natural desire for and pleasure from the sights, smell and taste of food. But our sin nature will take something that God intended for our pleasure (our imagination and the pleasure we get from the sights, smell and taste of food) and corrupt it into wicked and covetous thoughts.

Covetousness takes our God given desires and corrupts them into the desire to possess those things which he has not given us to possess. Covetousness then moves from the desire to possess into imagining in our mind ways we could take possession of that thing which does not belong to us. Covetousness does not require that we actually act on any imaginations of possession, even just the imaginations in this case become sinful.

The Bible tells us to enjoy the blessings God has given us in the book of Ecclesiastes:

“Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 (KJV)

God tells us in his Word that it is “good and comely” to enjoy the gifts he has given us. Some of those gifts include food and drink, our jobs and houses. The old English word comely is a translation of the Hebrew word “Yapheh” which literally means “beautiful or handsome”. God literally finds it “good and beautiful” when we as his creations enjoy the many gifts he has bestowed upon us – and one of those gifts is our ability to imagine things and also our ability to enjoy the sights, smells and taste of our favorite foods.

So what do Steaks have to do with women and the Church?

Well let’s change up our story a bit. Sure you like steak. But you notice something even more attractive than the steak your neighbor is cooking and that is wife.

“That’s wrong! That is lust! That is totally different than enjoying the sight of your neighbor’s steak. She is person man! Get your mind out of the gutter! She is a person for whom Christ died, not some object for your sexual viewing pleasure!” – This would be the reaction from many Christians and even some non-Christians.

Let’s say you had one of your friends over with wife for a barbeque. Your wife and his wife are chatting away in the house while you and your friend stand around the barbeque chatting. Your friend mentions “Boy those steaks you neighbor has cooking look great!” and you reply “And so does his wife.” If your friend has been in a typical Christian Church for any length of time he might mention Matthew 5:28 to you.

“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 5:28 (KJV)

Your fellow Christian Brother might then point out to you “This verse means that if you look with lust on any woman you are not married to you are committing adultery in your heart. You see In Christianity, it’s the intentions, just as much as the actions that are important.”

Now many people think of lust in our modern English terms as having to do completely with sexual thoughts but in the Bible however lust is not always talking about sex. So if you were not a really inquisitive person you might leave it at that – take our modern definition of lust, apply it to that verse and from that point on whenever your neighbors’ wife comes in his back yard you would have to look the other way even though it is just as hard as trying to ignore the smell of those steaks sizzling on your neighbor’s grill.

But what if you were like the Bereans?

But what if you were like the Bereans and have searched the Scriptures on this subject of lust – you may have some questions and observations for your Christian brother.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:10-11 (KJV)

You see the Berean’s would look up everything the Apostle Paul was teaching them from the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah and his plans for a time when the Gentiles and Jews would form a new body – the Church. They didn’t just take his Word for it – they checked the Scriptures to be sure.

Here are some observations that you could point out to your Christian brother.

Let’s look at Matthew 5:28 in with verse 27 to give it more context:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 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)

The context of Christ’s discussion on lust was adultery. He first refers to the 7th commandment which forbids adultery.

The Biblical definition of adultery up to this point was when a man had sex with another’s man wife. The marital status of the man was irrelevant. In the Old Testament adultery was never a sin against a wife, it was always a sin against the husband of the other man’s wife(and of course it was sin against God as all sin is ultimately against God).

In the Gospels (Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18) Christ expanded on the definition of adultery to include when a man wrongfully divorces his wife. His putting her away wrongfully is a newly defined form adultery, as well as the fact that he causes her to commit physical adultery by marrying another man and that man commits adultery because he is taking a woman that is still another man’s wife in God’s eyes.

Going back to Matthew 5:28 Christ gives us another form of adultery – “mental adultery”. But really this was not a new sin, but simply a new label for a specific form of a sin that God had already spoke against in the 10th commandment:

“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 any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” – Exodus 20:17 (KJV)

So this new type of “adultery in the heart” or “mental adultery” refers to a specific form of covetousness – mainly to covet another man’s wife.

Even the Biblical definition of lust confirms this:

“for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” – Romans 7:7 (KJV)

God’s Gift of Sexuality

In addition to the gift of being able to enjoy the sights, smells and taste of food along with many other gifts God has given us – he has also given us one of two other gifts.

For a chosen few he has given them the gift of celibacy.

“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” – I Corinthians 7:7

Celibacy is a gift that is to be used in God’s service and not for one to purposefully and selfishly avoid God’s institution of marriage. The gift of celibacy is God’s ONLY exception to his command in Genesis 1:28 for man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply”, otherwise the rest of us are supposed to be getting married and having kids if it is possible for us to do so.

But the majority of us do not have the gift of celibacy, but rather God has given us the gift of our sexuality. This helps us to fulfill his command to be fruitful and multiply, but that is certainly not the only reason God gave us sex and he could have used a much different means of reproduction.

God has blessed both men and women with his gift of sexuality, but he distributes it differently to men then he does to women. For most women their sexual desire is more emotionally based and for men it is far more physically and visually based. So the way in which men and women experience the gift of God’s sexuality is very different.

“Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:” – Genesis 49:25 (KJV)

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.” – Song of Solomon 1:2 (KJV)

“This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;” – Song of Solomon 7:7-8 (KJV)

Breasts in the Scripture have a dual symbolism. In the context of a mother and her child they symbolize nourishment and comfort. In the context of sexuality they represent a woman’s body and the fact that it is a gift of God toward men.

The Scriptures are clear that sexual relations of any kind between a man and a woman are strictly reserved for marriage:

“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” – Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)

But while sexual relations between a man and woman are reserved for marriage alone, this does not mean our sexuality itself is reserved for marriage alone. In other words the focus of all one’s sexual thoughts and sexual energy does not have to be solely directed at one’s spouse.

The Bible does NOT forbid sexual fantasy and sexual imagination. Rather the Bible forbids sexual covetousness which is also referred to as adultery of the heart (mental adultery) or lust.

The Bible condemns sexual imagination that is evil, but not all sexual imagination. We are forbidden from imagining ourselves in sexual acts that are a violation of God’s design of sex. God designed heterosexual sex(sex between a man and a woman), but things like homosexual sex, orgies and bestiality are corruptions of God’s design for sex. Even thoughts of heterosexual sex can be become sinful if they become covetous imaginations(adulterous thoughts).

But aren’t all heterosexual thoughts outside of marriage sinful?

As we just stated God designed sexual relations between a man and woman to be ONLY within marriage.  Some people reason from this that even imaginations of heterosexual sex are reserved only for marriage and only about the person you are married to.  They would say that just as it is wrong to have homosexual imaginations or imaginations about bestiality it is equally wrong to have heterosexual thoughts about someone you are not married to.

But thoughts of heterosexual sex are not wrong in and of themselves.  God created us to desire and think about heterosexual sex – it is his gift to us. It is always the context of heterosexual thoughts that makes them right or wrong.

If you simply have an imaginative thought about what it would be like to have sex with a woman, regardless of if your are married to her or not – there is no sin that. 

It is only when you add more context to that thought where you are thinking of covetous ways that you would actually seduce such a woman(or pay her) to actually have sex with you that now your heterosexual imagination becomes a covetous and sinful thought.

So how does all this relate to our neighbor, his steaks and his wife?

What this means is that in the same way that God designed your brain to get enjoyment from the sights, smells and taste of food he also designed your brain to get pleasure from the sight of women(and not just your wife), the imaginations of heterosexual sex and the act of sexual relations itself. Again while the act of sexual relations is strictly to be within the bounds of marriage as we discussed earlier, the rest of your sexuality is not restricted to only your wife.

What this means for your neighbor, his steaks and his wife is that in the same way you could enjoy the sight of that steak on his grill you can freely enjoy the sight of his wife. Obviously you don’t want to gawk and be rude, but you receiving pleasure from tasteful glances of her beauty is as pure as the driven snow. You are enjoying the gift of sexuality that God has given you within the bounds of his law.

Even if you were to at some point later to have a sexual imagination while you are awake or a sleep it matters not as long as you are not thinking covetous sexual thoughts about her. That would be like fantasizing about befriending your neighbor’s wife (which usually starts with just neighborly talking, then leads to talking about more intimate things, then the flirting and eventually getting her into bed). That is a covetous sexual imagination, that is adultery of heart (mental adultery) and that is lust.

Applications of Biblical truths surrounding Lust

I have shown conclusive evidence from Scripture that lust as it is mentioned in Matthew 5:28 is referring to a specific form of covetousness, mainly to covet another man’s wife. Now certainly within the context of Scripture as a whole we understand all covetousness to be sinful which means it would also be wrong for a woman to covet another woman’s husband. Christ labeled this specific form covetousness as “adultery in the heart” or in other words “mental adultery”.

So what does this mean for Christian men when it comes to them enjoying the view of a woman whether she is right there before their eyes or the woman is simply an imagination whether that imagination is just in one’s head, or that imagination comes in the form of a moving picture set (a movie), a still picture or a painting?

It means that not all imagination is sin. In fact our ability to imagine, even outside the context of sexual imagination is a gift from God.   As long as we don’t sit with our heads in the clouds all the time to the neglect of our other responsibilities to our wife and children, our churches and jobs there is no sin in this.

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” – I Corinthians 6:12 (KJV)

That means if you are watching the Avengers movie and you are imagining how cool it would be to be in that Ironman suit saving the day there is no sin in that.

This means if you are watching a movie like Fury (a World War II movie) and you imagine yourself on that tank mowing down Nazis with that machine gun there is no sin in that.

It also means if you are watching a movie that has a beautiful woman in it having sex with a man and you imagine yourself having sex with her the way he is – again there is no sin this.

The reason this is not sin has to do with a statement we referenced earlier.

“In Christianity, it’s the intentions, just as much as the actions that are important.” So what are your intentions when you are imagining yourself in the position of that man on that moving image set (movie) having sex with that woman? Is your intention to go find out who the inspiration was for that image (the actress) and find her address and pay her to have sex with you?(fornication) Or is your intention only to enjoy the imagination of her and you have no covetous intentions towards her?

If you have no covetous imagination or intentions towards the actress that inspired that movie there is no sin in your imagination. It is a gift from God. These are pure thoughts as God has designed your mind to receive pleasure from thoughts of normal heterosexual between a man and woman.

Now if you spend all your time thinking about sex with that woman or other women or even your wife to the neglect of your other responsibilities than then you have violated the principle of I Corinthians 6:12 and have come “under the power” of your sexual imagination(this would be by definition sexual addiction).

Addressing the jealousy of wives toward their husbands

While jealousy certainly affects both men and women it does not mean men and women are equally jealous of the same things. For instance most men would not mind if their wife thought the actor Chris Hemsworth was attractive. In fact most men, unless they are taught to be jealous(like through church teaching or others), would not mind a bit if their wife got sexually excited by watching a Chris Hemsworth movie and she wanted to have sex with them.

However if you put a typical woman (not all women) in this same position she would have a very different reaction. If her husband were to watch a Megan Fox movie which made him want to have sex with her many women would be offended by the idea their husbands were thinking sexually of another woman.

In fact I have a Pastor friend of mine whose wife forbid him from watching anymore Transformer movies when she figured out that Megan Fox was putting him in the mood. Unlike some of my other Pastor friends, he has not able to break free of the Church’s incorrect teaching on what lust is and he felt his wife was right and that he was lusting after Megan Fox and he was in the wrong.

So the million dollar question here is which person is wrong? Is the husband wrong for having sexual imaginations about any other woman than his wife? Or is the wife wrong for being upset about her husband having sexual imaginations about women other than herself.

Biblically speaking jealousy is not always wrong. If something belongs to us then it would not necessarily be wrong for us to be jealous of that thing. God shows himself jealous toward his people because his people belong to him and they owe him their worship.

But does a man’s sexual imagination belong to his wife? Are all his thoughts regarding sex to be of her and her alone? The answer scripturally speaking is no. Therefore his thoughts and sexual imaginations are between him and God and as long as he does not allow his sinful nature to corrupt his natural sexual imagination there is no sin and his thoughts remain pure.

Because of this a woman has no right to be jealous of her husband’s sexual imaginations. This is in fact a sinful and selfish jealousy of her wanting to be the only woman he would ever think of sexually.

Some may try and point to this verse as saying a wife does have a right to compel all of her husband’s sexual imagination toward her:

“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” – I Corinthians 7:4 (KJV)

The “power” spoken of here is the power to have sexual access to your spouse’s body. A wife is to have sexual access to her husband’s body and as he is to be able to have sexual access to hers. This does not remove his headship (Ephesians 5) over her nor does it give her control of his thoughts or desires.

Another argument I hear often about jealous wives comes from people who oppose the Scriptures I have shown demonstrating that God allowed and condoned polygamy (more specifically polygyny) in the Bible. Their argument usually goes like this “polygamy never works because it always causes jealousy by women when their husbands take other wives”. What these same people never consider is –were those wives justified before God in being jealous of their husbands having other wives?

The answer Biblically speaking is no they were not right in being jealous of their husband’s other wives. We even see that God blessed a wife in Scripture for overcoming her jealousy of her husband and giving him another wife!

Leah was always jealous of Jacob’s affection toward his other wife Rachel. In truth God saw sin on both sides in Jacob not giving Leah the love she was due and God gave Leah children while leaving Rachel barren to prove his point to Jacob. But Leah at the same time was also wrong in her jealousy over Jacob. God stopped Leah from having any more children. Then she overcame her jealousy and gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as another wife. God rewarded her for overcoming her jealousy and opened her womb again to give her another child.

“Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.” Genesis 30:18(NIV)

How many women today could have done such a thing and give their husbands another wife? Yet today in our post Roman culture (which eliminated polygamy from most of the western world) women will not even tolerate their husband’s thinking of another woman, yet alone would they give him another wife.

It is certainly something to ponder.

See these other related articles

How should Christian women respond their men looking at other women

What is Lust of the Eyes in I John 2:16

Was polygamy a sin God overlooked in the Old Testament?

Is it wrong for Christians to pose nude, or paint and photograph nudes?

nice portrait of a young woman with naked shoulder posing inside a frame

Is it wrong for Christians to pose nude for painters or photographers? Is wrong Christians to take nude pictures of models, or paint nude models? Is wrong for Christians to be involved with nudity at all?

The lust argument

Many Christians would say –“Duh – ya! Of course it is wrong for a Christian to pose nude, or take nude photos, or paint nudes or to have any involvement in nudity at all”.

The reasons for this common belief among Christians are:

  1. If a person poses nude, there image will be used to cause others to lust.
  2. If a person takes nude photography, or paints nude – they may lust themselves after the model they are painting or photographing and/or cause others who see the photograph or nude to lust.

I would not argue with the fact that if a person poses nude, they might cause others to be sexually aroused by their beauty. While this could apply to women as well, it would primarily apply to men because men are usually much more visual than women.

But the fact is, the Bible never condemns sexual arousal, it only condemns sexual lust. While sexual arousal and sexual fantasy can lead to sexual lust, they do not have to, any more than our hunger for food has to lead to gluttony.

Our sexuality, our sexual nature, is a part of who we are as human beings, this true for men and women. As men, we are much more sexual in our natures, due to having 10 more times the testosterone in our bodies. Our brains are bathed in testosterone while we are in the womb, and this makes us have highly competitive, aggressive and yes sexual brains.

As believers, God wants us to channel our sexuality in positive ways that do not break God’s law. While all acts of physical sex are reserved for marriage between a man and woman, this does not mean we have to suppress our sexuality until we are married. It also does not mean that after marriage all of our sexual energy, and every sexual thought must be about our spouse.

What it means is we are not to fantasize about trying to get someone to sleep with us outside of marriage, whether we are single or married, that is the very definition of lust. Lust is fantasy to possess something that does not belong to us.

Lust is NOT being sexually aroused by the sight of a beautiful woman.

Lust is NOT being wondering what a woman looks like with her clothes off.

Lust is NOT having a sexual dream or fantasy about a woman you are not married to.

The “no arousal” argument

There may be some Christians (and non-Christians) that think it is OK to paint or photograph nude models as long as there is no arousal. Every time I hear this theory, it makes me want to chuckle. I don’t dispute that in 95% of cases, especially for men, the site of a nude model that is even semi attractive would cause sexual arousal.

Now can men learn to hide their arousal? Certainly. But we as men are hardwired for visual beauty, it’s a fact. To say otherwise is a biological lie. But again as I said above, there is no sin or immorality with being aroused at the site of a beautiful woman. It is what we do with that sexual arousal that will become sinful, or not sinful behavior.

Let me review some principles from my article “Is Nudity always shameful”:

  1. As a general rule, God wants people to be clothed. In most circumstances, to be naked is to be shamed.
  2. We are not to uncover the nakedness of anyone involuntarily, or for the purposes of having sex with someone we ought not to be having sex with (anyone outside of lawful marriage).
  3. Most instances of nakedness being a shame in the Bible are of involuntary nakedness such as being captured in war and being stripped, a woman being raped, or someone being in poverty and losing one’s clothes. A person having their clothing taken from them against their will is shameful and disgraceful.
  4. In some instances, when clothing is removed voluntarily, and with specific purpose for limited time, it is not a shame or sinful to do so.

So once we understand that lust is not sexual arousal, or even sexual fantasy, but is instead thoughts and fantasies about actually possessing someone that we cannot have, or having someone outside of marriage, then we need to look at principles for nudity.

God wants us as believers to be clothed, generally speaking – see my post Why God meant people to be clothed.

However, when someone disrobes voluntarily, for a specific time, and for a specific duration for the purposes of being painted or photographed – no sin has occurred.

Song Solomon shows the beauty of the human body, along with a wife painting her husband’s body with words (Song of Solomon 5:10-16), and a husband painting his wife’s body with words (Song of Solomon 7).

The husband of Song of Solomon calls his wife’s body, “The work of the hands of an artist” in Song of Solomon chapter 7:

“How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter!

The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist.

2 “Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine; your belly is like a heap of wheat Fenced about with lilies.

3 “Your two breasts are like two fawns, Twins of a gazelle.

4 “Your neck is like a tower of ivory, your eyes like the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath-rabbim; your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, Which faces toward Damascus.

5 “Your head crowns you like Carmel, and the flowing locks of your head are like purple threads; The king is captivated by your tresses.

6 “How beautiful and how delightful you are, my love, with all your charms!

7 “Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.

8 “I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’ Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, And the fragrance of your breath like apples,

9 And your mouth like the best wine!” “It goes down smoothly for my beloved, flowing gently through the lips of those who fall asleep.

Song of Solomon 7:1-9(NASB)

Conclusion

I completely disagree with those who are Christian, or even non-Christian (such as Muslims) who believe that nudity must be covered at ALL times (except for between a man and woman in the privacy of their own home).

Both from a Biblical perspective, as well as practical perspective, how does it make sense that God has made the human body so beautiful, especially that of women (“the work of an artist”), only for it to be hidden away?

I have used this example before, and I think it very applicable to this issue beauty as well as nudity.

Single Orange Tree

Imagine that a man plants a beautiful orange tree in his yard. It grows and blossoms with beautiful fruit. But people walk by and look at its beauty, and this bothers him, because he reasons “that tree belongs to me, and its beauty is only for me”. So he hires a construction company to build a 20 foot wall around it with a door so only he can enter and see its beauty.

Now most of us would find this utterly ridiculous, but this is how some men see their wives, and some wives think they should be treated as wife. They see a woman’s beauty as something to be hidden, and only enjoyed by the husband in private.

Using this same tree, continuing our analogy, what if the man did not build the wall but allowed the beauty of his tree to be enjoyed by all his neighbors, and all who would drive by his home?

If the tree represents his wife, there would be no sin people walking by and enjoying the beauty of his “tree”, then the only sin would be if someone were to come and touch that “tree”, and take from its fruit – for that tree belongs him and him alone.

Although God wants us to be clothed as we go about our daily lives, there is a place and a time for nudity and the display of the art, the beauty and sexual allure of the human body. There is a place in Christianity for artistic as well as erotic nudity. But as Christians we must always exercise our expressions of art and sexuality within the bounds of God’s law.

See these other related posts in this series on Biblical Nudity:

Why did nudity become shameful after the fall?

Why God meant for people to be clothed

Why nudity is not always shameful for a Christian

What is the Lust of the Eyes in I John 2:16?

couple female in pink and male in red

What does the Bible mean by “the lust of the eyes”? Is it wrong for us to look at anything and desire it? Or does this mean something else? Recently I was sent this article – http://www.faithfulwordbaptist.org/lust.html – to review from one of my blog readers, it is an essay by Pastor Steven Anderson, the Pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Temple AZ.

The phrase “the lust of the eyes” occurs one time in the Bible, and it comes to us in the first epistle of John.

“15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

I John 2:15-17(KJV)

I don’t mean to say that just because the phrase occurs only one time that it is not important. There are many great truths in Scriptures that occur in only one or two passages. But the key is to understand what this phrase means.

Let’s be clear from the start, the Bible never defines what “the lust of the eyes” is.

So this brings us to Pastor Anderson and his sermon – “The Lust of the Eyes”. I also want to say that in no way am I questioning Pastor Anderson’s salvation, or his genuine desire to please God. But just as Paul withstood Peter to his face, sometimes we must confront the false teachings of other believers.

Let’s start off with where I agree with Pastor Anderson, before I have to stand against the false teachings that he has mixed with the truth of God’s Word.

Pastor Anderson states his definition of “Lust” as it occurs in the Bible:

“The word “lust” means a very strong, intense desire. It is usually talking about a desire that is out of control, a desire that you can’t control is what lust is or just a very intense, extreme desire.  Covetousness is a word that has to do with lust.  If you study Romans chapter seven Paul teaches that in the Bible.”

Pastor Anderson’s definition of lust, is actually pretty accurate, especially when he recognizes how Paul ties it to covetousness (Romans 7:7).

So if we take his definition and understand what Lust is, we can also understand what is not lust.

Desiring something, whether it is our favorite food, or perhaps a car we want to buy, or a home we want to buy is not lust.

Pastor Anderson then moves from his definition of general lust, to a more specific definition of “the lust of the eyes”:

“But I think most people understand what the lust of the flesh is. That could be an appetite for food that is out of control. That could be an appetite for fornication. That could be an appetite for committing physical sins of pleasure with your body. But I think many people fail to understand that there is a difference between the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. And just what is the lust of the eyes?

Well, look down at your Bible in Proverbs chapter six as we are reading this in verse 24. It says, “To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” And then look at the next statement. “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”

Now think about this for a moment. Here God is saying not to lust after the beauty of a strange woman, of a wicked woman, of an evil woman.

Now, beauty is a visual aspect. Ok, we are not talking about the flesh here. We are talking about the eyes. We are talking about a man lusting after the beauty of a woman. That is what it says. Look down at your Bible. “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids…

Now, what is this talking about? Lust can be defined, again, as coveting something, desiring something that doesn’t belong to you or, in the case of the lust of the eyes, it is coveting and desiring to look at something that you should not be looking at.

This is where my disagreements with Pastor Anderson begin. He basically says that Proverbs 6:24 says that God says you cannot even look at the beauty of a woman “strange women” (i.e. a whore or prostitute). The verse says we should not “lust after her beauty” in our hearts.

Let me point out a very important truth here:

LustingLooking

Pastor Anderson has just made the jump from “Lust” being in his own words “a very intense, extreme desire. Covetousness“ to desiring to look at something that you should not be looking at.”

Lust in the Scriptures is always a strong and insatiable desire to possess something, or someone that you could not possess, or should not possess.

Proverbs 6:24 is NOT saying men have to walk with their eyes pointed at the ground every time they see a beautiful woman. It is not saying every time that a man sees a beautiful woman on television that he must avert his eyes.

Proverbs 6:24 IS saying we are not to desire to possess the beauty of a wicked and loose woman (whether she be a wayward wife or a prostitute). Can someone possess beauty? Absolutely! Do you realize some men marry women only for their outward beauty, knowing they may never have a close relationship, knowing the woman is a viper on the inside?

But I also think it is highly likely that “beauty” here in Proverbs 6:24, is simply a symbol of the woman herself, to possess her physically, and bodily.

Again the word “look” is nowhere in this passage – remember that fact, the word is “lust” (an insatiable desire to take possession of something or someone we cannot).

Another thing to point out is, “the lust of the eyes” is not simply talking about sexual lust. Other examples of “the lust of the eyes” is when we lust after things that other people have. Whether it is the home they have, or perhaps their car, their furniture or artwork they have in their home. For ladies “the lust of the eyes” might be looking at other women’s clothing with an intense desire to possess the clothing they have.

Are there some things we should not even look at?

Even though I disagree with Pastor Anderson’s interpretation of Proverbs 6:24, I don’t disagree with the Biblical concept that there are some evil things we should not set before our eyes. I just don’t see Proverbs 6:24 as teaching that we can’t even look at a beautiful woman, and even appreciate the beauty of a woman, unless she is our wife.

The right verse (which he also mentions in his post) speaking to looking at evil things is from Psalms:

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.”

Psalm 101:3

So I have just argued that it is not a sin, and it is not lust simply to look at the beauty of a woman, even the beauty of a wicked woman. I would even argue that it is not a sin to look at the beauty of a good woman who is single or another man’s wife.

Sin happens comes when we go from looking to lusting, when we have an insatiable to desire to physically possess the beauty of a woman that we have no right to.

But there are some things we should not even look at. An example would be pornography. We should not be looking at images that depict sexually immoral acts. Another example might be Satanic books and books about sorcery and witchcraft (we see in Acts 19:19 that believers brought these kinds of books and burned them).

What about Job 31:1?

Pastor Anderson talks about nakedness but I am going to leave that for a separate upcoming post. I want to close this post by looking at his reference to Job 31:1:

“Job said it this way. He said, “I made a covenant with mine eyes.” He said, “I made a deal with my eyes.” “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes and said, ‘You are going to look at what I tell you to look at. And you are not going to look at women that are dressed indecent. You are not going to look at another man’s wife. You are not going to look at these images that Hollywood and TV will portray for you.”

Job says nothing about the way a woman is dressed, he says nothing here about looking at another man’s wife. He says nothing about looking at images of women (in his day it would have been paintings or sculptures). He does not state any of these things Pastor Anderson mentions.

In Job 31:1 the word “think”, could also be “to perceive and look at”. So then some might say “ha – he is saying we can’t even look at a young women!” Can anyone say with a straight face they think Job was saying he never looked at any young women, that every time a young woman came by that he averted his eyes? Such an idea would be ridiculous and we find no such example in the Scriptures.

The fact is that nowhere in all of Scripture do we see the Bible condemning a man for simply looking at a woman. We also never see sexual arousal being condemned in Scripture. What is condemned is lust, which is covetousness. It is what we do after we look, even after we may be aroused by the sight of a beautiful woman. Do we begin to contemplate in our heads how we can get that woman to have sex with us outside of marriage?

What Job was NOT saying

Based on the totality of the Scriptures Here is what we know job was not saying.

1. We know Job was NOT saying it was a sin for him to look at a young virgin.

2. We know that Job was NOT saying it was sin for him to be aroused by the beauty of a young woman. In fact it would not even be wrong if he wanted to marry a young woman.

What Job WAS saying in Job 31:1

That leaves us with only one possibility of what Job was actually saying about his thoughts regarding young virgins:

He would not think about how to seduce a young virgin into having sex with him outside of marriage (as so many men around him probably did).

Speaking of virginity, people often wonder why God was so serious about a woman’s virginity in the Bible, and they often look at it as God being harsh toward women. No! God was protecting women from men who would take advantage of them. One of the many reasons God wants men and women to wait for sex in marriage, is so that a woman is protected, and any children that might come from her having sex would be protected and provided for. Our society is paying a heavy financial toll for ignoring God’s commands regarding virginity and premarital sex.

Conclusion

Lusting is not the same as looking – please remember that truth. Men are visual creatures, much more so than women typically are. As men, God has given us our sexuality, and even our visual sexuality, as a gift. No Christian man should be ashamed of the fact that he receives pleasure every time he sees a beautiful woman.

Please here me out Christian man. Examine the Scriptures for yourself. God did not give you your eyes and a male brain that is capable of appreciating and receiving pleasure from the sight of female beauty, only to tell you that you must look away in shame every time you feel pleasure at the site of a beautiful woman.

He did not give your eyes to appreciate only one woman, that being your future wife. Not one passage of Scripture ever states this concept, no matter how many times Pastors repeat it over and over, and many Christian authors repeat this mantra in their marriage books.

As I have said multiple times on this site, God designed men as polygynous beings and that is why we are naturally attracted to a variety of women. I know that conflicts with our modern monogamous-only marriage society, but regardless, it is the truth. Look at the articles on this site, detailing the polygyny of the Biblical patriarchs.

In upcoming articles, I will address some of the other issues he raises such as the topic of nudity, mixed gender swimming, what we watch on TV and male gynecologists.

7 Biblical Principles for how to dress as a Christian woman

Beautiful summery girl

Does God care about how you as a Christian women dress? Does the Bible provide guidelines for how a Christian woman should dress?

If you are looking for an exact dress code, down to lengths of clothing and what parts of your body must be covered when and where you will find no such thing in the Bible. However, if you are looking for Biblical principles that can guide you as Christian a woman in how to dress the Bible does give these principles.

Here are some Biblical principles for women’s dress that should guide you as you select your clothing, whether it is when you purchase it, or when you are choosing when to wear it.

Principle #1 – Your physical beauty is symbolic of the spiritual beauty of the Church

Your beauty is symbolic of the beauty of the church.

Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…” -Psalm 45:13-14(KJV)

In Ephesians 5, where Paul talks about marriage being symbolic of the relationship of Christ to his Church he writes:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:25-27(KJV)

Just as God wants his Church to be glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and without blemish, so too a woman should keep up her appearance, not only for her husband if she is married, but also out of respect for the symbolism for which God designed her.

So when you as a woman dress, you should accentuate your beauty knowing that your physical beauty, is symbolic of the spiritual beauty of Christ’s Bride, the Church. You dress first and foremost to please God and to show the beauty of his creation – which is you!

Principle #2 – You should dress appropriately for the occasion

Contrary to the modern meaning of modesty, the Biblical meaning of a woman dressing modestly means that women are to dress “appropriately”. Modesty is such a huge subject, and especially the interpretation of passages such as I Timothy 2:9 that I needed to write an entire separate post on the topic. You can find it here at What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9.

In summary though, dressing modestly Biblically speaking does not specifically mean “not dressing in a sexual way”. It means to dress appropriately for the occasion. So while it may be perfectly acceptable for you to wear a bikini to the beach, it would not be appropriate for you to wear a bikini to a job (unless you are a life guard or a model) or to a church service.

Principle #3 – You should dress in feminine clothing

Someone should be able to look at your clothes wherever you go, and just by your clothing they should be able to tell you are a woman. Yes clothing styles change, but a woman should always look like a woman in her culture (whatever women wear) and a man should look like a man (whatever men wear).

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” -Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV)

This passage from Deuteronomy does not forbid a woman from wearing pants (yes there are some Christians who still teach this). There was a time in our culture and history where pants were strictly the purview of men, and at those times it may have been wrong for a woman to wear pants, especially when there were no pants designed especially for women. But fashions and styles do change, and women have pants now that are made and cut especially for them, and these pants are pants a man would not be caught dead in.

In Roman society, before 200 BC, men and women both wore togas. After 200 BC women began to wear stolas and only prostitutes still wore togas like men. Before 200 BC, when men and women both wore togas, the only difference may have been a colorful belt or the color of the material that would have separated a man from a woman. Even after 200 BC, peasant men and women still both wore tunics for their daily work. Only color variations or belts may have separated them.

This would be exactly the same as men and women both wearing pants today – there is no issue with this as long as the woman’s pants communicate a feminine style as we understand it in our culture.

Nice woman in a pink dress

Principle #4 – You should dress to please your husband

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:24 (KJV)

God wants women to submit to their husbands in everything.  Everything includes how you dress and how you manage your appearance as well as many other things.

When you are married, you should dress to please your husband. Find out what colors he likes on you, find out what styles he likes and try to wear those types of clothes.

This also means you should dress sexy for your husband in the appropriate circumstances. If you know your husband will be taking you out for a night on the town, why not go pick up some sexy dress to wear for him? If you doubt whether this is right or wrong, I invite you read my post I referred to earlier What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9.

There is nothing wrong with you looking sexy for your husband in the appropriate circumstances, whether that is wearing lingerie for him at home, or wearing a sexy dress for a night on the town, or wearing a sexy bathing suit for a trip to beach. Your body is work of art that God has graciously gifted to your husband, and you should not be hiding your beauty.

Principle #5 – Don’t be lazy with your appearance

Yes big tee shirts and sweats are more comfortable than wearing attractive clothing. But as a Christian woman your appearance is important to God (see principle #1). If you are married, God has given you to your husband and your appearance should be (and most likely will be) important to him (see principle #4).

As believers, and specifically as a Christian woman, God wants you to do everything you can to the best of your ability. It is one thing if you are sick, or if you are doing some work around the house then your clothing might not be as attractive. But besides those limited times, a woman has duty to keep up her appearance, not only for God but also for her husband.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord”

Colossians 3:23(NIV)

Modern Christian women today mock the women of the 1950’s who prided themselves in making themselves pretty before their husbands came home from work – what was wrong with that? This is what God wants from Godly Christian women.

Does this mean you have to have a dress and nylons on each day and go to the beauty salon before your husband gets home? Of course not. But what it means is making sure you have showered, that you have done your hair and maybe you have an attractive pair of jeans on with a nice shirt when you husband gets home.

You should not view this as some dreary task, but it should be looked at as a privilege and honor that is given you by God, your ability to make yourself beautiful!

Principle #6 – What others think does and does not matter

This is a very important principle for you as a Christian woman to understand.

In some cases it does matter what others think of how you are dressed. If you as a Christian woman wear the wrong clothing for the wrong occasion, it might offend others and also bring shame on Christ if they know you are a Christian.

You can wear a bikini to the beach, but if you wore it to Church others would be offended, and they would be right in being offended, because that is inappropriate attire for Church (see I Timothy 2:9).

But let’s turn the bikini situation around when you go to the beach. If you and your husband are going to the beach and you happen to be wearing a bikini, and there happens to be a family there from church they need to leave that between you and the Lord. The only exception I would say to this is if you were specifically going to the beach with a family whom you knew were opposed to bikinis, then temporarily out of respect you might not wear one in that instance.

You should not be picking dresses out for a night on the town with your husband, with the thought in your mind of “what would this person think or that person from church think if they saw me wearing this with him” – your thoughts should only be of two people, God and your husband.

God is not ashamed of your beauty, your husband is not ashamed of your beauty, and neither should you be ashamed of your beauty.

Principle #7 – Do not hide your beauty from other men for fear of causing lust

Many Christian women have since the early days of the church dressed with this idea in mind – that they cannot wear nice things for their husband or show their figure as they may cause other men to lust in doing so.  If you believe that Church tradition trumps Biblical theology, then I can’t help you. But if you understand that well-meaning men and women (even some Church fathers who came after the Apostles) added a lot of tradition to God’s Word then I can help you.

I invite you to read my post on What does the Bible say about Lust to fully understand the issue of lust from a Biblical perspective. A summary of what I said in that post is that Lust is not the same as sexual arousal.

There is no shame in a woman displaying her beauty, and there is no shame in men appreciating that beauty or even being sexually aroused by that beauty. Before you reject that premise, please read the post I just mentioned. Sin comes with how men handle their sexual arousal, or appreciation of the female form.

If he begins to think of how he can actually get you to go to bed with him (and you are not married) then those have become lustful thoughts, sexually covetous thoughts. But as a Christian woman you don’t have to go around at all time with a sheet over your entire body from head to toe as to not cause men to lust after you.

No scripture ever teaches this concept, it is completely added by the traditions of men.

Conclusion

I hope as a Christian woman you will search the Scriptures. Then discuss this respectfully with your husband. If you need to make changes, then make them. Know that God wants your best in all areas of your life, and dressing in beautiful ways appropriate to the occasion is what God has called you to. Do not hide the beautiful work of art that God has made, but display it in ways that please both God and your husband.