What is Lust?

Lusts are unlawful desires. Lust is wanting something to which you have no right. Jesus explained in Matthew 5:27-28 that lusting after a woman is the same as actually committing adultery with her. Similarly, a woman is not to lust after a man. As far as God is concerned, there is no difference between wanting to violate his laws and actually doing so. You see – your heart directs your actions. Solomon said you behave in the same manner as you think in your heart (Proverbs 23:7). It is the thoughts of the heart that defile us because they lead to sinful action (Mark 7:18-23). The things we chose to look at show the direction in which our lives will take (Matthew 6:22-23). You may be looking to get as close to sin as you possibly can without committing the sin. However, it is like trying to walk on a fence between two yards. You probably can walk on it for a little way, but you will eventually slip and commit the sin.

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul gives a list of the works of the flesh that will keep us out of heaven. Among these works is the word lasciviousness or licentiousness, depending on the translation of your Bible. Lasciviousness means being wanton, lewd, or lustful. William Barclay described it as “a love of sin so reckless and so audacious that a man has ceased to care what God or man thinks of his actions.” Lusts are wrong because you stop trying to please God.

As Christians, we must remove lustful feelings from our lives. Paul warned Timothy in II Timothy 2:22 to flee youthful lusts. Youth is a time when lusts strike the strongest and you have the least experience dealing with them. The hormones flowing through your body cause your emotions to fluctuate between extremes. There are new desires that you are now aware of, but you are still learning how to handle them. These add up to potential danger for the unwary Christian.

Instead of giving in to these desires, we must learn how to keep a tight reign on them. Peter tells us to abstain from fleshly lusts (I Peter 2:11). The main source of your desire for sex is from your own body. However, Satan will use a variety of tactics to try to get you to sin. John tells us in I John 2:15-16 that Satan’s deceptions come in three categories: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Advertising agencies are aware of these methods. They use them to “tempt” you into buying their products. Satan also uses these methods to tempt you into violating God’s law.

Lusts of the flesh are those things that start out as normal desires of your body and then get out of hand. Everyone has the desire to eat, to drink, and to have sex. Satan tries to place you in situations where those desires pull you to violating God’s law. For example, when Satan tempted Christ to prove he was the son of God, he asked Jesus to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:1-4). At that time, Jesus was hungry. He had not eaten for 40 days. Proving who he was and getting food must have been very tempting, but Jesus did not give in.

Lusts of the eyes are those things that look good and cause you to want them when you should not. Everyone admires a beautiful flower, but it is wrong to want to take the flower out of a person’s yard without permission. Similarly it is wrong to be envious of the lucky owner of the flower. Some men are very handsome, but don’t let Satan tempt you into wanting to have that man for your own use or to be envious of the woman who was lucky enough to marry him.

Pride of life is the desire to be admired by others. When you want fame or fortune so badly that you would do just about anything to obtain it, Satan is given an easy target. Admiration is nice, but don’t make it a goal in your life. Some women spend long hours preparing themselves so that men will find them attractive. Many women will wear form-fitting clothes or clothes that expose large portions of their skin in hopes of gaining the admiration of men. While it is not wrong to look nice, you should not center your life around such objectives. Men who are attracted by such things are not the kind of men young Christians should be hanging around with if they want to remain pleasing to God.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.                                                                                        

 James 1:13-15

Everyone has desires of the body; everyone enjoys beautiful things; everyone likes admiration, but Satan uses those desires to lead us into sin. Satan will place each of you in situations where the desirable thing to do would be to violate some portion of God’s law. If you give in to such desires even a single time, it becomes easier for Satan to get you to do it repeatedly. Soon you are hooked and you don’t care what others think; you don’t care what God thinks. Satan has your soul ensnared and all you have to look forward to is Hell. Don’t take the first step. God promises us a way out of every temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). The way out may not be as desirable at the moment, but it is there. Consider what happened to Joseph.

Now it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.                                                          

Genesis 39:7-12

[The phrase “Lie with me” is a way of saying “Have sex with me.” Sex is usually done in bed while lying down.]

Joseph found himself alone in the house with Potiphar’s wife. She made it clear that she wanted to have sex with him in bed and she was not going to take “no” for an answer. What would you do if you were in Joseph’s place? It would be easy to give her what she wanted; it would even be fun. No one would know what happened. Besides, as your employer’s wife, she could make things miserable for you if you did not give in. On top of it all, she is already starting to take your clothes off. What would you do? Joseph turned and ran from the temptation. True, he had to leave his clothes behind and flee in what today would be called his undershorts, but he managed not to give in to Satan’s trap.

Solomon tells us not to consent to sin (Proverbs 1:10). That is what Joseph did and that is what each of us must do. It won’t be easy, but we do have one advantage: God is on our side. Paul said, in Philippians 4:13, that he could do all things with Jesus’ help, and so can you. Ask God for help to avoid Satan’s snares of temptation (Matthew 6:13). When we can’t avoid Satan’s traps, pray to God for strength and guidance (Hebrews 4:15-16). God is not unaware of your situation. Because of Jesus, he knows what you are going through. Ask God for help.

It is important for us to keep ourselves pure and unblemished by sin.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.                                                                                                      

I Corinthians 3:16-17

Under the Old Law, God’s presence was associated with the tabernacle and the temple. However, under Christ’s Law, God dwells in the heart of each Christian. Since God will have nothing to do with sin, we cannot expect God to remain in our hearts when we break His laws. Therefore, as Christians, our goal is to have nothing to do with immorality, impurity, lust, or evil desires (Colossians 3:1-5).


You may hear references to masturbation. Masturbation is when someone sexually stimulates their own body. God is silent on whether this practice is right or wrong. Too often, those who engage in masturbation fantasize about sexual relationships that are not proper. Such thoughts are lusts for unlawful relationships and are therefore sinful.


Before we close out this chapter, I want you to be aware of one additional thing. Just because God has promised you a way out of every temptation, do not get the idea that you don’t have to worry about avoiding tempting situations. Solomon asks the question in Proverbs 6:25-28, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” If you are not near a fire, it is unlikely that you will be burnt. If you are not being tempted, you are less likely to sin. Why make Satan’s job easy? Some women read pornographic material – obscene literature designed to arouse unlawful desires in the reader and to provoke lewd emotions. You know what I’m referring to, magazines like Playgirl or Cosmopolitan or books like romance novels. Many will argue that there is nothing wrong with looking at naked men. You may think you are not hurting anyone, but you are hurting yourself. When you repeatedly expose yourself to sexual temptations, it is that much easier to give in to them when Satan places you in similar situations to tempt you.

It is not just printed material. How many of the songs that you listen to talk about having sex outside of marriage? How many of the television shows that you watch feature a “one night stand” between a man and a woman buried in the story line? How often do you think you can listen to and watch these things before you start thinking that this is the way normal people behave?

Books, songs, and television too often portray men and women fondling each other as something everyone does. Fondling a young man, sometimes called petting, is a temptation for young women. The touching and stroking arouse desires in you that cannot be satisfied outside of marriage. Remember from the previous chapter that fondling prepares your body for the later stages of sex. Sure, you can stop the fondling before you go on to the next stage of sex, but it is tempting to continue for just a little while longer.

Too many women confuse the lust for sex for a sign of love. It isn’t an indication of love. Many men can arouse those passions within you just by stroking you the right way. Even a woman can arouse you if she desired to do so, but you wouldn’t claim it was love. Love is not something that comes from a physical act or from something you have seen or from something you have heard. Love is built on a relationship between a man and a woman that develops over time. There will come a time when you will become acquainted with a man. Soon you are the best of friends and before you know it, you can’t imagine living the rest of your life without him. This is the foundation for true love. The idea that you can fall in love at first sight is completely false. You may meet someone that immediately fills you with desire, but the desire is not love. Because of the desire, you may get acquainted and eventually build up a love for each other, but love comes later, not at your first meeting.

Study Questions

  1. What is the difference between desire and lust?
  2. What does lasciviousness mean?
  3. What are the three devices Satan uses to tempt us to sin according to I John 2:15-16?
  4. How does Satan use our desires to lead us into sin?
  5. What did Potiphar’s wife want of Joseph? Why would this have been tempting to Joseph?
  6. How did Joseph avoid giving in to the temptation that Potiphar’s wife offered him?
  7. Is looking at photographs of partially clad men sinful? Why or why not?
  8. Why should a Christian keep himself pure?
  9. List three ways from your own life that Satan used to change your normal sexual desire into lust

Class Discussion

  • Why would advertisers use sexual themes to sell products?
  • Would watching a show or movie involving a sexual situation be wrong?
  • Would listening to music that mentions having sex outside of marriage be sinful?
  • Is pornography harmful?
  • How have you successfully avoided a temptation to have sex?
  • Would joking about sex be wrong?