In an online forum, a Christian one, someone wanted to know what constitutes ‘lust’. In light of the world today, it’s an important question..
The basic definition of lust is having a self-absorbed desire for an object, person, or experience. The Bible has a lot to say about lust. The Bible further defines lust as the root of all evil. Lust puts material things above God. It is not material things or money that is evil; it is the lust of material things that supercedes our love of God that is evil. Lust is worshiping or idolizing anything above God.
I think that lust is the opposite of love. Love is sacrificial-you want what’s best for the other, regardless of what it costs you. Mother Teresa loved. She gave herself totally to take care of the poorest of the poor, including using monetary gifts, such as the Nobel Prize she received, to build facilities to help the poor. She died, having never seen her mother after she consecrated herself to Christ. She died with nothing. That’s love. It’s when you put others’ needs before your own. If you love dolphins, you’ll do anything for them, even if it makes you suffer, even unto death. Lust, on the other hand, is the love for others because of what they do for you. So if your married, and you demand sexual favors from your spouse, not caring what it costs the other person, that’s lust. You can lust after food, possessions, alcohol, people, places, and so on. It’s lust if you love dolphins because you want them to do flips in the air on demand.
So, is it lust to enjoy looking at physical beauty? Before we examine the aspect of physical HUMAN beauty, let’s look at natural beauty. Do you appreciate a landscape, mountainscape or seascape? Who doesn’t? But can you lust after natural beauty. To carry it forward, suppose you love dolphins so much you want to have one living in your pool. It’s not good for the dolphin, but it makes you feel good.
I think this shows pretty well what lust is. So how can you evaluate if you’re glances at human beauty to determine whether you’re engaging in lust? I think it’s personal, just like how alcohol affects certain people. The question is, what is your thought of possession of the object of your eyes? Do you want to own it, even for a moment? You might be engaging in lust. If you admire beauty for the sake of beauty (thinking of God’s great love), there is no worry. For example, I used to love a certain actress. I would watch any movie with her in it, regardless of the content or subject of the movie. This was certainly a degree of lust. It’s sorta like folks who love certain types of technology (phones and the like) who will keep tabs on when the next greatest phone is coming out, and be willing to spend the night in line waiting for the release.
It is not lust to admire God’s beauty, or even the way a man or woman is dressed, or any aspect of their appeal. What is lustful is when you want to draw this beauty to yourself, for your own use, for your own benefit.