If there’s one struggle that every Christian man can relate to, it’s dealing with “lust.”
Unfortunately, this is an area of confusion (i.e. Satanic deception) that causes men to lose focus more than any other issue. So I thought it’d be worthwhile to address the issue here.
The entire doctrine of lust is based on a single passage in Scripture. I’m sure you’re familiar with it:
but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:28)
This line is interpreted to mean that if a man looks at a woman with “lust” (e.g. you imagine what she looks like naked or picture yourself having sex with her) then you have committed adultery with her in your heart.
Adultery, as we know from 1 Corinthians 6:9 and other places, is a sin that will cause you to lose your inheritance in God’s kingdom and (presumably) be cast into hell for all eternity.
So it’s no wonder that men who wish to please the Lord should be concerned about their “lust problem.”
The trouble is that most pastors and Christians who speak out against lust are not reading the passage carefully. In fact, they usually do not read the passage at all. They simply parrot what others are saying.
Our feminist culture loves to attack men for “objectifying” women. So any pastor who interprets this passage as a stern warning to men not to think about women in a sexual way will find no resistance from worldly thinkers.
But as disciples of Christ, we’re not supposed let our culture determine what God’s word says. We must let the text speak for itself.
So with that in mind, let’s rid ourselves of cultural presuppositions and simply read the text for what it plainly says…
A Common Sense Look at Lust
Before we can properly interpret a passage of Scripture, we must ask ourselves two simple questions:
- Is the passage primarily factual, logical, or rhetorical?
- What is the point the author is making?
Jesus’ line about lusting after a woman is only part of a larger argument he is making. To better understand what’s going on we need to back up to at least verse 20:
For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
This is clearly a rhetorical passage. Jesus is using shock value to jolt his listeners out of complacency.
People tend to assume that whoever is in a earthly position of spiritual authority (e.g. a rabbi, a pastor, a priest) represents the highest standard and example of righteousness. But Jesus shocks his listeners by saying that they must be more righteous than their spiritual teachers.
So what’s the point Christ is making?
We can see from the examples that follow, Jesus is showing his listeners how the teachers of the day were hypocrites. They teach the technicalities of the law, but in their hearts and private conduct they are evil… pushing the limit of how far they can go without technically sinning.
The oft-quoted passage about lust is just one example Christ gives of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. These despicable characters would preach to the commoners “do not commit adultery.” Meanwhile, they would stalk other men’s wives. Presumably the Pharisee would “visit” the woman while the husband was away at work or peek through the window and watch her bathe while jerking himself off.
Jesus tells his audience (still making a rhetorical argument) that if this is the “righteousness” they’re going to imitate, it’d be better for them to cut off their hand than lose their whole body in hell.
Don’t Call Good “Evil”
If you’re obsessed with another man’s wife and stalking her and being a creep or scheming how you can seduce her, then yes, you have a lust problem. If you continue down that path you will be unfit for the kingdom of God.
So unless you want to call God’s design evil or add your own words to the Genesis 3 account by saying this was a result of Adam’s first sin… then you really shouldn’t feel guilty for having a sexual response to every good-looking woman you see.
Jesus was not introducing a new teaching about lust. “Lust” is synonymous with “coveting.” Coveting is the heart issue that precedes taking away what rightfully belongs to another… whether it’s his life, his wife, or his property.
The important thing to remember here is that Christ is not criticizing male sexuality in general. He is criticizing the Pharisees for their hypocrisies.
If Christ were deliver the same message today, to the modern America church, I believe it would go something like this:
“Your righteousness must surpass that of your pastors. You’ve heard them preach that a man must love his wife as I love the church. But I tell you that any man who knowingly submits to the feminist narrative and refuses to be a man is unfit for the kingdom of God.”
Examine the Scriptures for yourself. Don’t trust your pastor’s interpretation. Pastors are surprisingly illiterate nowadays.
If you’d like to examine this topic further, I recommend these articles from Biblical Gender Roles: