Thou Shalt Not Covet

Lust, especially for men, can be an uncomfortable topic. Finding a woman attractive and giving her more than a passing glance is commonly understood to be sin, equivalent to adultery. As men are primarily visually oriented, it’s no surprise that men struggle here; it’s the focus of many an accountability session.

Women, on the other hand, don’t seem to find the topic troublesome at all and seldom discuss it, other than perhaps in confronting men. Evidently, most of us have bought into the lie that it’s primarily a masculine concern.

But what if, as in so many other ways, we’ve made up our own definition of lust, cherry-picking verses out of context to suit ourselves, and overlooking the heart of scripture?

God clearly defines lust in the 10th commandment – Thou shalt not covet (Ro 7:7): we’re forbidden to desire what belongs to another, such that we’d wrongly dispossess them if given opportunity.

This is different than thinking it might be nice to have what our neighbor does. Clearly, if we like our neighbor’s boat and offer him a reasonable sum — this isn’t lust, it’s basic economics: there’s nothing unholy or unloving here.

The definition of lust implies it violates the law of love in some way. (Ro 13:9) So, if a man finds a woman attractive, enjoys her beauty as he would a sunset, and seeks her welfare, where’s the harm? But in entertaining a plan to entice her, knowing she’s married, he’s crossed a forbidden line. (Pr 5:20)

We must define lust in the context of God’s Law (Ro 7:7), not in the context of common sentiment. Changing the definition of sin is harmful on so many levels. Finding a woman attractive is perfectly natural and wholesome, but seeking to use or defile her definitely is: it violates Torah. (Pr 6:29)

And we must not focus simply on sexual desire; lust relates to any unwholesome appetite: inappropriate diet (De 14:3), worldly attention and praise (Jn 12:43), materialism, the abuse or perversion of most any good thing. (Ep 2:3)

God has created us to enjoy beauty and pleasure, designing us specifically for this, and providing Himself as our ultimate satisfaction. (Ps 16:11) Unto the pure, all things are pure, but unto the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Tit 1:15) Yet some are weak by design, some through a soul wound, some taken by false teaching. Torah enables us to sort out what’s lawful from what’s merely taboo, and Christ offers us the wisdom to know how to build up and encourage others in joyful living for God without becoming overly focused on mechanics. (Ro 14:17)

God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17), yet it’s better to forego than to encourage others to violate their conscience (1Co 8:12), or to bring a reproach on the name of Christ.

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Thou Art Fairer

Beauty is a mysterious, instinctive, metaphysical thing; impossible to explain or quantify, and quite outside our will. The very fact we perceive beauty is evidence of purpose in our design: we’re made to enjoy something outside ourselves.

Satan may have been, at least for a season, the most beautiful being in the universe, so beautiful that his magnificence became his downfall — as others observed and responded to him he exalted himself as a god. (Ez 28:17) Evidently, the heavenly hosts esteemed Satan even more beautiful than God, which may have been partly the cause of their fall; they’re certainly attracted to beauty. (Ge 6:4) What a powerful thing! to draw even the angels from their place. (Jud 1:6)

Yet how can the creature possibly be more beautiful, more glorious, more majestic than the Creator? How can the Creator of beauty itself be outdone by His own creation?

Of course, this would be so if God wills; He certainly might create a creature exceeding Himself in beauty, or choose to appear in a diminished form for a season, and let the creature exceed His personal appearance for a purpose. (Is 53:2) But why?

Consider how we’re influenced by spectacularly beautiful people, drawn to them, favoring them, catering to them (Ps 45:12), even coveting them. Beautiful women certainly do have an advantage; it’s often an honor and pleasure just to be around them. (Job 42:15)

But like a rich man hiding his wealth to reveal his true and faithful friends, identifying those who love him for himself and aren’t after his money, God arranges to hide His glory and majesty to reveal and expose His enemies. We should choose God because it’s right, not because He’s handsome. This, the wicked will not do.

Yet a day will come when the most beautiful Being in the universe will be Jesus Christ, more gorgeous than any woman ever born (Ps 45:2), shining forth in perfect beauty. (Ps 50:2) Once we see Him as He is, we’ll desire nothing else (Ps 73:25); to simply behold His beauty will be more than enough. (Ps 27:4)

What will it be like to be in intimate fellowship with the most beautiful Person in existence? (So 1:4) To have Him say, “Come on in and enjoy Me! (Mt 25:23) To enjoy His favor and feel His pleasure in us (Ps 45:11), it will be joy unspeakable. (1Pe 1:8)

In that day, no one who’s forsaken any pleasure for Christ will regret it, for they will enjoy deeper intimacy with Him. (Php 3:8) As it will be then, even so it is now; there’s no reason to wait, every joy in Christ is ours. (Ps 37:4) Every lust (Pr 6:25), every wrongful passion, every wonton discontent … it is answered here, in the perfection of beauty: Jesus Christ.

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