Lust is generally defined as a strong desire for something or someone and is often used specifically regarding sexual desires. Lust is focused on pleasing oneself, often without regard for detrimental consequences. Lust is closely linked with greed. Many lusts or selfish desires are addressed specifically in the Ten Commandments, for example, where God's people were commanded not to desire a neighbor's house, wife, livestock, or possessions (Exodus 20:14-17).
In terms of lust related to sexual desire, Jesus directly addressed this controversial topic in His Sermon on the Mount. Jewish tradition often taught that only the action of adultery was sinful. Yet Jesus spoke more directly to the heart, teaching, "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" (Matthew 5:27-28). Lust is a sin in both thought and action. The cultural idea of, "It's okay to look if you don't touch" is not the teaching of Jesus.
Lust is both sinful and a serious offense to God: "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). Lust, whether sexual or otherwise, can lead to sin that leads to death.
How can a believer deal with the problem of lust? At least two biblical responses apply. First, Jesus said to remove whatever is causing or leading to the particular lust. He used an extreme, exaggerated example to communicate this point: "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 5:29-30).
This does not mean we are to literally remove body parts! Instead, Jesus taught to remove the barriers leading to lust. For some, this may mean a particular internet filter to block pornography. For another person, it may mean not watching particular films or going to a specific location in town.
A second biblical response is to discover the secret of biblical contentment. The apostle Paul wrote, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). A complete dependence upon Christ and growth in Him can help replace lust.
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