I’ve heard some creative advice on dealing with lust.
“It’s only lust on the second look.”
“Keep your eyes bouncing.”
“Just don’t look.”
“It’s one thing to appreciate beauty; it’s another to desire it as your own.”
“You can’t help what you see.”
Some of that is helpful; some not. But the desire to help address the lust calling us to sin is appreciated. Lust is a universal problem, but it seems to affect men more than women. I would imagine it has something to do with the fact that most men are visual.
Please note: 100% of men are not visual. Also, if you are a woman struggling with lust, today’s passage is for you, too! Don’t let Satan convince you to stay in the shadows of your struggle.
We find in Proverbs 6:25-29 the following warning:
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. 26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life. 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? 28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? 29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.Proverbs 6:25-29
New International Version
These verses speak to the gateway of lust: the eyes. We crave what we do not have. And before we generalize too much about the “lust of life”, let’s make it clear: this passage is addressing sexual lust.
When someone is walking around trying to catch our eyes with sexualized attire, verse 25 needs to come to mind: “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.”
As disciples of Jesus, we do have a choice with how we think. We do have control over our thoughts. We can redirect our imaginations.
In the culture of Solomon (who wrote Proverbs), the only women who would have “put themselves out there” were prostitutes and wives who were intent on cheating on their husbands.
He reminds the reader that the cost of prostitution is far cheaper than the cost of adultery. In no way is Scripture telling us it’s better to pay a prostitute than have an affair with a married woman. Both were detestable in the sight of God.
The consequences of having an affair with a married woman, however, would carry far more dire consequences. The punishment under the Law of God would be death for both parties (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22).
In other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, the punishment would have ranged from death or a lifetime of slavery to the man whose wife you slept with.
In the United States, it used to be illegal to do the same.
The unique problem with lust is that we think it doesn’t harm anybody. We think it’s just in our minds. We’re convinced that everybody lusts so it’s okay to a certain degree. We compromise. We stray.
Before long, we end up doing what we swore we never would.
Perhaps you’re quick to say, “Joel…I’ve lusted maybe but I’ve never acted on it.” Jesus said “that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Kinda changes the idea that it’s harmless if it’s all in our minds. If we’ve lusted there, we’ve already broken the essence of sexual purity.
The writings of Proverbs 6:25-29 are a warning to us. Pride can convince us “it’ll never happen.” But it does. And it can happen. To you. To me. If we convince ourselves it can’t, we’re losing the battle.
Battling against lust is one we as Christians cannot give up on. We must recognize that our Lord knows our hearts and leads us in righteousness. He calls us to a higher standard and gives us the Holy Spirit so we can live to that higher standard.
We men can’t change that modern American culture “puts it out there” so much more than King Solomon could have ever imagined. His world isn’t our world.
The caution to be careful with the fire of lust, however, is as contemporary as the time this blog is being read. We cannot play with fire and expect anything else but pain or death.
Let me get really, really practical here, men and women. If there’s nudity in that show, novel, comic, or movie, a disciple of Jesus doesn’t need to see it. It’s not going to help us with lust; it will numb us to it. It’s fire.
We would be wise to acknowledge our own sinful desires and avoid the risk of lust altogether.