Posted by: rmbrowning | May 28, 2009

Thinking about lust

I’ve often thought that a lot of what I’ve been told surrounding lust has been ill-defined and much too black’n’white.  Perhaps this is because it might be because it is a difficult topic or perhaps a bit taboo.  I’m primarily interested to know if and where there is a demarcation between attraction and lust.  This is looked at largely from my perspective as a Christian and will probably make little sense from an outside perspective.

I’m inclined to think that sexual attraction is natural and good thing.  An example from my perspective: a female waist to hip ratio of around 0.7 is a characteristic that is considered attractive across time and ethnic groups.  I would say that male brains are hard-wired to find this attribute attractive because this ratio is associated with health, fertility and high-performance children.  I won’t go into why this makes good reproductive sense (I think most of the implications are self-evident) but I will say that such attraction is important for survival of the species.

However, I’m not sure this attraction is the same thing as lust, but where is the line?  Is there a line?  Matthew 5:28 says: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  The last part in particular leaps out at me as showing that this is a desire for something selfish and inappropriate.  Gluttony and greed are similar manifestations, and without them we can still eat and earn a living.  I think our topic falls in a similar category.

Perhaps what I’m looking for is a more balanced perspective on this.  I’d say that both the puritan and whatever the equivalent opposite is (I can’t think of a nice word) are both equally misguided on the issues of human sexuality.



  1. First, let me start off by saying that EVERYONE deals with lust.It may not be for another man or woman.It may be for a car,jewlery.clothes,shoes ext.But the key is if we never pray over our issues,then we will never overcome them.Sexual attraction is a good thing but only if you do it Gods way.Example,no sex with who you are dating until marrage.(And many of us have failed that one).Yes there is a line.If you lust over your husband or wife,that’s ok with God because He created the union.But if you lust over sally or bob walking down the street,now that’s were God has a problem.

  2. Hey Ryan,
    Yeah, I reckon attraction is natural. Even temptation is not sin, but what you do with it. I think that’s where lust comes in, when we make that decision to ‘follow’ the temptation where we ought not to.

  3. @ ghostwriter:


    I’d disagree on some of what you’ve said, I think lust is always defined as sexual in nature. The other examples you’ve given would probably fix better under greed and coveting. I’m not sure that lust between husband and wife is still lust. Wouldn’t a marriage be an appropriate context for such feelings?

    @ Dale:

    Thanks for stopping by again,

    I did write the post rather late so I hope it’s reasonably coherent. Some of the instruction I got back in my youth would have probably required me to become a commune monk to live it out. I’m quite curious about what you’ve said because it’s quite a contrast. Are you saying that it is only when a person seeks or is motivated to meet the needs of sexual gratification in a inappropriate way that it becomes sin?

    I’d also heard that temptation was sin as those “lusting” only lack the opportunity to act upon that lust. As they had committed themselves to the act in his mind, God charges him as though the act were committed.

    As an aside, this isn’t something I’m hanging my faith on but I’m interested in how best to view this topic.

  4. The distinction is not between thinking (‘OK’) and acting (‘sin’). Rather it is between being tempted (encountering –or being encountered by!– a tempting thought or opportunity, but not acting on it) and being lustful (letting your mind ‘go’ in a lustful direction, or of course, acting on it).

    In sum: ‘temptation’ we cannot avoid; ‘lust’ we can.

  5. might be clearer to say it this way:

    Temptation is not sinful, as it is to merely find oneself in a tempting situation, and not to act on it mentally or bodily.

    Lust is sinful, as it is when one is not only tempted, but acts on it, either mentally or bodily.

  6. addition: “but not acting on it, either mentally or bodily

  7. Right, thanks for the clarification on that. It makes much more sense.

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