Lust • Devotion 4

Would You Rather?
Pastor Patrick Rowland

One of my family’s favorite games to play while traveling on a trip is “Would You Rather?” The basis of the game is one person makes up two similar but different options and you have to pick one or the other. It could be something simple like, “Would you rather be stuck in traffic with no air conditioning or stuck on an airplane circling the runway and not able to land?” It could be something rather strange like, “Would you rather have your legs bend backward or your eyes on the side of your head?” Usually, neither option is ideal much like the “would you rather from Jesus” in Matthew 5:27-30.

He said, “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.”

Would you rather give up your eye or spend eternity in Hell? They are both terrible options, but Jesus makes the point that sin (not just lust) will lead to death or separation from God. If you have to lose a body part to keep from sinning then it is a worthy sacrifice. I want to be clear here, Matthew and any person teaching this passage, would not advocate for self-inflicted blindness. However, removing yourself from the temptation of sin can change your eternity.

Jesus is speaking specifically to “lustful intent” with a person you are not married to. That could be a person you know or a person you even create in your mind, in either case, we should have blinders when it comes to “lustful intent.” It is important to be aware of these two people.

First, the person you know as it might be a co-worker, friend, neighbor, or someone you are vaguely associated with. No matter your connection, it would be a person you have a physical and or emotional attraction or admiration. That person is not your spouse if you are married, yet it is a person you find yourself wishing or planning ways to have more time with them. This is a desire that causes you to wish the relationship was more than a friendship and that it could be sexual. As a single person, one can have “lustful intent” for another person and begin to only desire a sexual relationship in reality or in fantasy with the person. As a single person, it is not the attraction that is wrong, it is the “lustful intent”.

Second, is a person you have created in your mind or someone you wish your spouse to be. If my spouse was just more attractive, affectionate, appealing, or paid more attention. After a period of time in a relationship, we might develop an expectation for our spouse to meet a personal need. This is the appeal of pornography for men and women as it is seeking a deeper connection with a fictional person. That person is not someone you know or can ever possibly know, yet you have a desire for them. The issue is not with your spouse, it is with you!

In one of my all-time favorite books, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge says, “What makes pornography so addictive is that more than anything else in a lost man’s life, it makes him feel like a man without ever requiring a thing of him. The less a guy feels like a real man in the presence of a real woman, the more vulnerable he is to porn.”

The appeal of pornography is to feel more like a man, but it is not real so the fulfillment is fake, shallow, and temporary. It never truly fulfills the person because the design by God is a relationship. That is a relationship between man and woman in marriage, but also a relationship between man (or woman) and Jesus. Pornography is a problem in our culture as it is destroying family relationships and spiritual relationships. If “lustful intent” is a problem for any person attempting to fulfill a desire to feel like a man then by all means find some blinders. Start with an accountability partner and accountability software for your computer.

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22

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