This is the fourth essay of a five part series. The last three essays in this series are about the inward impulses of envy, greed and pride. This essay is about the impulse of lust. The impulse of lust is manifested in many ways. The lust for sex, money, and power, seem to be the most pervasive lustful impulses that linger in the shadows and keep us from our best self.
It is not uncommon to think about lust in sexual terms. Or a least, it is easily understood in a sexual context. So we will start with the obvious – sexual lust. The Scripture is clear about the parameters of sexual behavior. Marriage is the only Biblical context where sexual congress and other variations of love-making is permitted and encouraged. Sexual relations and sexual adventure is God’s gift to married couples.
This part of the essay concerning our sexuality assumes there are two certainties. The first one is, there’s not one person who has ever lived, outside of Jesus, or is living today who has not been sexually errant in some way; actual sexual indiscretion or at least sexual lust in the heart that no one can see. It’s one of the two or both.
Think about King David in the Bible. David was a really good person in so many ways. He was a good soul the Scripture describes as a man after God’s own heart and was also in the lineage of Christ – Jesus was called the Son of David. David lusted in his heart and fell into a grave sexual sin. David saw Bathsheba bathing from the rooftop of his palace. I’m sure she was lovely; the view was alluring and tantalizing. The impulse of lust in David’s heart moved him to call for her. Bathsheba was married to Uriah, one of David’s generals. David and Bathsheba just couldn’t resist each other; beauty and power are common aphrodisiacs. What we see here is the impulse of lust followed by the sin of adultery. That’s the bad news. This is the good news. David did not try to condone what he did or make excuses. After Nathan, the Palace Preacher confronted the King, he immediately went to God for forgiveness and cleansing.
This is a slightly curated version of David’s actual prayer after his sin with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me oh God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgression. Wash away all of my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation (Psalms 51).
David never sinned liked this again; ever forgiven and in right standing with God! There is no sexual sin, either an extra-marital affair, unmarried sex, or lustful thinking that can’t be forgiven. God not only forgives us but cleanses our conscience. Yes, the sting of our past failures are occasionally felt and we certainly regret our failings. Others may continue to identify us in the context of our failures; subtly or overtly accusing at the same time excusing themselves for similar sexual sins and failures. Regardless of the repercussions for us, the purging and the cleansing of our conscience is a promise, a surety from God when we ask for forgiveness and change our behavior and thinking. God can also make very bad decisions turn out better. Many will say you reap what you sow. This is true, this verse is in the Scripture to prompt hard hearted people to repent. But here is another verse to consider, if we sow repentance we will reap mercy. This verse is for the soft hearted and humble soul that has made more than a few mistakes.
This essay is very difficult for me to write. It’s not easy to face up to life and what God really wants from us and equally as difficult to share it with others, as with many of my essays, after I discover it for myself. This essay will not be well received by all – this is the second certainty. This is even true of some Christians who’ve overridden their conscience regarding Biblical sexual parameters, smothered their youthful convictions, bought into a modern version of the Christian lifestyle, or are simply weak when it comes to sexual self-control and loneliness.
And even more likely not well received by a secularized culture that actively devalues wholesome thinking and sexual restraint. Our modern culture rarely frowns and often heartily supports pornography, over-the-top sexual exhibitionism, wholesale premarital sex, and extramarital affairs; the worldly pulpit of print and film preaching as long as we’re happy everything is okay. It is a common theme that what we do in the privacy of our bedroom is our own business. And their right it’s not our business – but it is God’s business. God sets the standard not us. Marriage is the only context for love-making and bedroom like sex. The Scripture is clear, marriage is honorable and the marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4).
It’s understood, not everyone wants to be married or just hasn’t found someone to marry. And that’s perfectly okay. If our passions run-high however, we should seriously seek out a wife or a husband to sacrificially love and exclusively celebrate our love and quench our passions in the context of marriage; never too busy for often, unselfish, sensitive, and adventurous sexual expression. Marital love-making is a gift. It’s comfortable. And it’s fun. It is surprising what we can think and do and stay spiritual! Marital sexual passion converts lust into love.
Then there is the lust for money. It is okay to want to be secure in life. To have adequate resources to educate our children, have decent healthcare coverage, live in a nice home, and have nice things that make our surroundings convenient and conducive for comfortable living. To work hard and smart for this kind of a life is honorable; to eat the fruits of our labour is not an unrealistic reward. A desire to feel secure and comfortable is not greed.
We would all do well to consider however, how much is enough? My late Aunt Pat once said, I don’t need two things, I need two uses for one thing. Not sure we can go that far but the point is worth considering. Some of us have too much stuff and our children have too much stuff. Moreover, the stuff we have means less to us because it is not needed and many times not even wanted after we have it for a while.
If we work so much that we neglect our husband or wife we just don’t need the extra or better stuff we are working to get. And worse, if our kids are pushed aside; parents too busy making money to pause for meaningful conversation, daily hugs and validation – even loving correction is better than parental absence. And for what – more things? When we give in to the subtle impulse of the lust for money we are vulnerable; divorce coupled with losing what was worked for in the first place, children struggling in college and early adulthood because they were physically and emotionally left alone. There is a difference in the good life and the life that is good. The life that is good is okay with enough, the good life is seldom satisfied with more than enough.
The lack of generosity can also be birthed in the subtle impulse of our lust for money. We want to hang on to every penny we feel we’ve earned for us and our family. We have a right to it and have a right to keep it! It is important to understand we may have earned the money but it ultimately comes from the hand of God. No matter how smart or industrious we are it is possible to do everything right and it turn out wrong. When it comes out right we thank God for our prosperity and His help. When it comes out wrong we thank God for His comfort and guidance to get us out of whatever little or big mess we’re in. When we recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17), we are more willing to share our money and resources.
When we liberally tip the waitress, car washer, and the guy that mows the lawn or shovels our snow even when the service is average goes along way to let go of subtle impulses of lust and greed; replacing them with generosity and financial kindness. Looking for the best deal for everything without considering that a great deal for us could likely mean someone – somewhere might be grossly underpaid and often work in less than desirable and even dangerous working conditions. Some of the richest people in the world are taking advantage of some of the poorest. Then there are the homeless; beggars, street mothers, disabled veterans, unemployed and mentally impaired. Their only hope is our token generosity – a few buck here and a few bucks there. They might use it for an unintended purpose, we might say. We might also say, so what! It’s not about that – it’s about us as much as it is about them.
The lust for power. History is replete with military and political leaders, the legalistic misguided religious, and all kinds of radicals who abused their power and influence because of religious and politically driven ideologies. Power hungry groups and leaders bent on country and kingdom expansions. And much more. I once order a book about the history of violence. I couldn’t finish even half the book. The lust for power and the violence it took to get it is well documented in the book – for me it was just too repulsive to absorb. The abuse of power is so horrific in some places even today; where the only reason someone is suffering is because of what color they are, what gender they are, what sect or religion they are, or where they were born and where they live; hostile localities around the world where human life means little or nothing. I would not want to be these power hungry souls; they will give an account for themselves before God.
When it comes to everyday circumstances in more peaceful environments, it is expected that we will have some authority over someone, or something, at sometime in life. Social hierarchy presents itself in our families, in government, the workplace and a host of other settings. Parents have authority over their young children, a government has executive and judicial authority over it’s citizenry. The workplace has executives, managers, team leaders, and more.
Abuse of power shows up everywhere in everyday in life. Let’s say, there’s a divorce; one of the parents is awarded sole custody of the children; they have the power to grant liberal or restrictive access to the non-custodial parent. Unfortunately, they abuse that power given to them by the court, undermining the children’s relationship with the other parent and hurting the person who they just can’t stand anymore. They offer no more than court ordered visitation or even less by manipulating schedules or turning the children sour. We have also heard the customer is always right – most of us feel empowered by this. We’re writing the check or slapping our credit card down aren’t we? Yes, we have the power. But does the power of the checkbook or credit card give us the green-light to be rude and demanding to in-store or online retail clerks?
Then the power some males have had historically in the workplace; edging out and marginalizing the accomplishments of capable female colleagues and employees. Even though we are more aware of it and some improvements have been made it is still happening far to often. This needs to end. We should not fail to mention racial and socio-economic inequality; the powerful and economically advantaged, keeping people of color and poor white people powerless and disadvantaged. They can’t get a loan to buy a home, they can’t get a decent job because they just aren’t the kind of people we can employ, and a plethora of other prejudices.
Then there is law enforcement. There are many dedicated professional police officers who protect the citizenry. And we are grateful. Anarchy would ensue without them. Unfortunately, there are also rouge and intoxicated law enforcement officers, staggering their way through the day drunk with power; discriminating against poor whites and people of color of every shade. The worse by violence and intimidation, ignoring protocol, and racial and socio-economic profiling. This misuse of power is not subtle – it is openly narcissistic, rooted in prejudice.
One of my seminary professors said, you can tell the greatness of a person by the way they treat little people. I appreciated and understood the intention of my impartial professor, making the very timely and important point to never be prejudicial. Yet we could and should add – there are no little people!
Next Essay: Impulse Fear
Joseph C. Hutchison, Rochester Hills Michigan, October 2020, Published by Permission Only