You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.Matthew 5:27-30
Our basest human desire is the desire for love. It is the desire for relationship and attention from someone who genuinely cares about our best interests. This is followed very closely by our desire to love another. But all too often, when we don’t feel love, we default to lust. And this leads to more problems than you can possibly imagine in the world.
At its root, lust can be defined as the selfish objectification of someone or something that is not rightfully yours. And this extends beyond mere sexual lust, but into the realm of covetousness as well. A lust for power. A lust for sex. The lust for life. These are mere examples, but they demonstrate the animalistic, objectifying nature of our default human existence as a result of sin. And in our society, we excuse this sin more than any other because it appeals to our basic human appetite for affection and attention.
Lust is not simply restricted to the male gender; women are susceptible to lust as well. For men, however, it is more visual because God designed men to be hunters. Women, on the other hand, tend more towards emotion and the need for security. Now before you get all offended and accuse me of chauvinism and not being “woke” enough, I’m not saying the women are weaker than men and require the security of a man in order to have value. Men and women are both uniquely created and designed by God to complement one another, not to compete with one another. As such, because we are created by God in His image, we ought also to treat one another and look upon one another as such, rather than see each other for what we can gain from them.
The primary difference between love and lust is this: lust seeks to take another unto oneself, whereas love seeks to give of oneself to another. In the English language we have just one word for love, and it takes on a variety of meanings depending on the context. In Greek, there are four different words for love, each with its own contextual meaning: 1. storge – familial love, 2. phileo – brotherly love or friendship, 3. eros – erotic love, 4. agape – sacrificial love.
For a long time, our society and even the church has treated eros as an evil kind of live, or at the very least, a lesser form of love. God designed sexual attraction for the purpose of recreation between a husband and wife and procreation as a natural product of that love. The sexual act is designed to be a picture of the intimacy of the spiritual unity that God desires with His creation. However, our sinful nature has perverted this gift and we have allowed it to destroy humankind on so many levels.
In the United States alone, the sexual exploitation that defines the pornography industry generates over $12 billion annually – more than the combined annual revenues of the big three broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC. That’s an average of over $3000 every minute. It is estimated that between 20 and 40 million people around the world are trapped in modern slavery, with more than 80% of those in sex trafficking, which profits roughly $150 billion a year, with nearly $100 billion of it from commercial sexual exploitation. The average age of a person entering the sex trade in the United States is between 12 and 14 years old. Globally and estimated 71% of all enslaved people are women and girls, with 98% of them in the sex trade. And if you think that men are the only perpetrators of sexual exploitation and partaking of this trade, you’d be sorely mistaken; it is estimated that closer to 25% of such perpetrators are women, and that number is climbing annually. (See footnotes for citations.)
So if you think lust is a “victimless” sin or at worst “self-harm,” you’d be very wrong. Lust belittles the personhood of one of God’s image bearers to the level of an object to be desired, rather than sees them as a person to be loved. It reduces men and women to the level of nothing more than a product of animalistic passions rather than people of inherent, created value.
And God’s passion is for the benefit of His creation. His passion is to see you as a person of worth. His desire is for us all to see one another as He sees us. And He wants us to be passionately aware of our value to Him. When we start to see one another as a person of worth that God created with value, that changes the way we treat them. If we want to see an end to human trafficking, we must find a way to change the heart of traffickers and the hearts of buyers. There must be a transformation of the heart so that we do not see human sexuality as a commodity to be traded on the market, but rather as a gift to be given within the confines of Biblical marriage between a man and a woman, as God designed us to complement one another.
As believers, we must be careful of what we expose ourselves to in our entertainment. I need to be careful of some of the more “innocuous” programs that I expose myself to as well. The books that I read. The music that I listen to. The art that I purvey. Are these forms of entertainment glorifying God? Am I allowing the window of my soul to be open so far to allow the pollution of the world to corrupt my heart? Are you? I urge you, please be discerning of what you willingly allow yourself to partake in. If the lyrics of the song objectifies another person, turn it off. If the books you read, celebrate the immorality of our world, put it away. If the art you peruse treats displays another human being in a manner that is unfitting of their God given value, walk away. If the program you are watching objectifies men or women, turn it off.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying we are all going to be immediately aware that what we are viewing is not what we should be. But if we start to see our fellow humans, man and woman alike, the way that God sees us – as people of value worthy of love, respect, and dignity, then it will start to come more naturally. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. And I still have a long way to go. And by the grace of God, I will get there.