There’s a great post over at the Red Pill Christians Reddit on distinguishing between healthy sexual desire and lust.
Biblically, the idea of coveting is not merely any old desire. It’s an I would if I could mentality. If you see your neighbor’s cow and think, “If I knew I wouldn’t get caught, I’d totally steal his cow!” that’s coveting. If you see it and think, “Dang, that’s a great cow. I wish I had a cow like that. But I don’t … oh well.” That’s not coveting. That’s desire.
Desire is healthy. Coveting is not. It’s really that simple. If we were to stifle all of our desires and pretend we never wanted anything that anyone else has, we would totally lack all ambition in life and fail as a species. Paul saying things like, “Run in such a way to win the prize!” (1 Cor. 9:24) makes no sense if we’re not allowed to desire something we don’t yet have.
The author goes on to define a helpful rule-of-thumb for judging whether you’re lusting:
- Is the object of your desire not your spouse?
- If there were no earthly hindrances to gratifying yourself with the object of your desire, would you do it?
If the answer to both questions is yes, then it’s sinful lust. If the answer to either question is no, then it’s not sinful.
The only thing that holds someone with a covetous heart back from defrauding his neighbor is external pressures such as the force of law or social consequences. This is why Jesus bluntly called out the Pharisees in Matthew 5. Just because they weren’t breaking the law, they harbored a “would-if-I-could” attitude in their hearts.
While I can’t peer into the heart of other Christian men, I’d guess that the typical man is not guilty of biblical lust. Rather, he has allowed his conscience to be bound to false teachings which blaspheme God’s good creation (the male sexual instincts.)
Or, to paraphrase my old college professor, if you are worried whether you are lusting, the warning is not intended for you. If you immediately think you’re righteous and have nothing to worry about, take heed.