Lust and Adultery

What does it mean to lust? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife’s priest talked once about going to a youth camp and having the young boys come up and say “I’m struggling with lust.” This was often spoken of in secret as if it would be big news that young Christian boys deal with lust. I suspect there would be far more concern if they were NOT dealing with lust.

So let’s look at the passage in question in Matthew 5.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Let’s start off first with what lust is not. Lust is not noticing that a woman is beautiful, even if she’s not your wife. (Keep in mind, I am saying this for men, but women just reverse the claims and it fits for you too.) That’s just acknowledging reality. God made the human body to be beautiful and I think even women would agree that the female body in particular is uniquely beautiful.

Throughout Scripture, when a woman is praised, one of the main qualities praised about her is her beauty. No more beautiful women were found in the land than the daughters of Job. Esther was prized for her unique beauty and won the king’s favor. Abigail was said to be discerning and beautiful. The Song of Songs is quite explicit with the glorious features of the woman.

Lust is more in the how and why you are looking at the woman. A constantly stare can very easily become lust. If all you think about is just using the woman for your own pleasure, then you have a problem. I do not think you have a problem if you are, for example, engaged to a woman and you look at her and you dream of your upcoming wedding night when you can give all your love to her. A man will naturally wonder what he has to look forward to when he gets to take all the clothes off the woman he loves. Spoiler alert single men: You won’t be disappointed.

If you are engaging with pornography, you are definitely involved in lust. Pornography teaches you to use women and gives you false ideas of what women like and don’t like. Pornography is simply a lie. Also, it won’t spice up your marriage as some think. It might have some short-term benefits, but in the long-term, it will only hurt.

Every woman out there is someone’s daughter and needs to be treated with respect. She is not just a body. She is a person. Treat her like just a body and you miss out.

By the way women, if you want to change the way you’re often treated, then make sure you let every man know you’re worth waiting for. Women really control the sex market. Guys are the huge majority of the times the ones buying as it were.

You determine how much you’re worth before you give yourself entirely to a man. One date? A week? Three weeks? A month? Six months? A year? Engagement? Or are you worth a lifetime commitment paid upfront? There are many women who have given themselves to the man in their lives thinking that then he will love her only to find that a few days later he dumps her and moves on to his next conquest.

And guys, even after you marry it is good to always be pursuing your wife. Don’t just do it when you want something, which face it, is usually 24/7. Do it just for her. Stop and get random gifts just because.

Ultimately though, what makes lust similar to hate is the cost/benefit analysis. The danger with lust is that it means that all things being equal, if you got the chance and you thought the benefits outweighed the cost, you would have sex with someone you’re not married to. Many an affair starts with just a man and a woman on their lunch break and just talking together and then not too much later they’re meeting in a hotel room because “This person just truly understands me!” Very few spouses wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll screw up my marriage and have an affair!”

There is hardly any drive more powerful in people than the sex drive and it can totally overcome reason when left unchecked. Like all others though, it starts off small, with lust. Deal with the problem at the root before it becomes a deadly plant.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sexuality in the New Testament

What do I think of William Loader’s book published by Westminster John Knox Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

William Loader is the scholar in the world who has probably written more on sexuality and the Bible than anyone else. Naturally, the Bible talks a lot about sex. Is it because the Bible is a perverse and dirty book as some would say? No. It’s because people talk about sex a lot and it’s a dominant feature in our society just like it was in the ancient world. Loader aptly gives us a warning on page 5.

“Sometimes wanting to know becomes impatient to the point of jumping too quickly to conclusions or filling in gaps with fantasy instead of coming to terms with the limits of our knowledge. Particularly in dealing with matters of sexuality it is not uncommon for people to become deeply involved emotionally in wanting, indeed, needing texts to say certain things which would reinforce or confirm their own beliefs and attitudes. This can happen from many different angles, both from those wanting to affirm what some might see as conservative positions and those wanting the opposite.”

This is a major point worth stressing. Many of us today want the Bible to side with us. Now we could take a totally foreign approach and say the text has no real meaning, but this is problematic as we should not approach any text this way. Could it be difficult to know what the author meant to say sometimes? Sure. There are matters open to dispute. Sometimes it isn’t and with many of these texts, I think the meaning is clear.

The first place Loader starts with is the texts on homosexuality. Loader looks at the various interpretations of all the texts in the debate and frankly, comes down on a conservative side, and this after looking at what most scholars are saying. This does not mean necessarily he agrees with that. I find it hard to tell frankly, but that’s a strength of Loader’s work. It’s hard to know what bias he himself might bring to the debate and frankly, I can understand much better if I encounter someone who says “Yes. This is what the text means. I just disagree.”

Loader also deals with some of the revisionist ideas such as the idea that the Centurion’s servant is a homosexual lover or that the Beloved Disciple was involved in a homosexual relationship with Jesus. These are times where I really think the homosexual reading is grasping at straws. As Loader indicated above, you can read anything into a text if you want to. We must all be looking to ask “But what does the text mean?”

Loader goes on from there to talk about marriage itself and what the Bible has to say about it. He interacts with ideas of polygyny as well and notes that it was limited, although the Damascus Document was pretty hard on it. Loader thinks this could be a minority position. Of course, polygyny would also be costly so few people would do it. Loader goes on from here to talk about issues of divorce and remarriage and pregnancy and child birth. Naturally, Loader will also touch on the household codes found in Ephesians and Colossians. He rightly states that the way the husband is to act to his wife still is the way Christ does for the church, which is loving and not violent or exploitative.

From there, we move on to adultery in the Bible. Many of the texts are quite clear on this and the idea is that sex is to be between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage. I was pleased also to see a talk about what lust is in the discussion. I do think the command to lust is speaking about another person’s wife, which makes it a form of covenant, but I think it can also mean an excessive desire, a desire that dehumanizes the person and makes them only an object of sex. After all, today if a man and a woman are dating, it is not a problem I think if the man has sexual desire for the woman. He ought to. If he does not desire her, he has problems.

Now some will wonder about spiritual adultery. What does that mean? Looking at another woman with lust. Frankly, I like what Robert Gagnon said at a talk he once gave on a podcast about this where he said “If spiritual adultery is grounds for divorce, every woman could divorce a man on her wedding day.” Lust is something to be avoided to be sure, but let’s not be extreme in saying everything is adultery. Actual physical adultery is worse.

There’s a lot in the book that is covered and yet it is a short read. If you want a good lowdown on what the New Testament says about sexuality and scholars on both sides, you owe yourself to check out Loader’s work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters