The Deadly Sin of Lust

The Deadly Sin of Lust

The deadly sin of lust seems to meet us at every turn.

Today, we swim in a cultural ocean of blatant eroticism, sexual advertising, accessible pornography, seductive clothing, and body mania. Men are applauded for sexual conquest. Women draw attention by looking and acting seductive. Pre-marital sex is quietly becoming commonplace. Affairs are quickly excused.

I could write post after post about “how bad it is out there,” but the truth is, it has always been bad out there. Except for the “Good Old Days.”

I think there were about three of them.

We find them in Genesis 1-2, where the world as God made it is a sinless nudist colony in a sensual garden where a man and a woman live together in perfect fellowship with their Creator. There has never been better sex than in the Garden.

So before we talk about the deadly sin of lust, we have to be perfectly clear – God is no prude. Bodies are beautiful. Pleasure is intended. Sexual intercourse is one of God’s cherished gifts. Adam and Eve were blessed. They were naked and not ashamed. Sensuality is the making of the God who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.

The Deadly Sin of Lust Began in Eden

And then, as in every sin, it all began to go wrong in the Garden. They saw and seized the forbidden fruit, taking upon themselves the prerogatives of God. They raided God’s tree. And the aftermath has cold words about human sexuality. They sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves – from whom? God? Or from each other?

Why did their violation of God’s boundaried tree cause them to cover their bodies? If they could violate God, I suppose they could violate each other. It was no longer safe to be naked in a fallen world.

Something fateful happened to love in the garden. The man and woman learned to objectify, use, conquer, manipulate, and lust after each other—with painful consequences. As the writer of Genesis puts it,

He told the Woman:
‘I’ll multiply your pains in childbirth;
you’ll give birth to your babies in pain.
You’ll want to please your husband,
but he’ll lord it over you.’

He told the Man:
‘Because you listened to your wife
and ate from the tree
That I commanded you not to eat from,
“Don’t eat from this tree,”
The very ground is cursed because of you;
getting food from the ground
Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife;
you’ll be working in pain all your life long.
The ground will sprout thorns and weeds,
you’ll get your food the hard way,
Planting and tilling and harvesting,
sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk,
Until you return to that ground yourself, dead and buried;
you started out as dirt, you’ll end up dirt.’
Genesis 3:16-19, The Message

Before – naked and not ashamed.
After – hiding, causing each other pain, cursed.

And so ends the “Good Old Days.”

Adam, after the Fall but before the ejection from the garden, did an interesting thing. He named the woman. This is the same thing he did with all the creatures. To name something is to have power over it in some way, to objectify it. Adam named the woman. This is a profound change in the relationship. God had given him the woman as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Now he views her as object rather than gift. He uses her rather than shares the stewardship of the earth with her.

The Deadly Sin of Lust Cripples Our Capacity to Love and Be Loved

When a man mentally manipulates a woman in the pornographic studio of his mind, he is doing what Adam learned to do – treating her as an object for his pleasure. This is the sin Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when he spoke of looking at a woman with lust in the heart. This is the sin of the young fool in Proverbs who went looking for the woman of the night. And why is this wrong? Because a man is destroying his capacity to love as God intended for us to love. When Jesus calls for not “looking at a woman with lust in the heart,” he is not trying to squelch sexual desire or make men into non-sexual beings. He is trying to save us from the fatal attraction that will cripple our capacity to love and be loved.

Jesus went behind the act of sexual escapades to the act of lust, the lustful look. When we can manipulate another person in our mind without their permission or consent, we are on the trail of objectifying people for our selfish purposes.  We might as well name them, because we have begun the practice of using them for our purposes. This is de-humanizing. This is a deadly sin. It cripples relationships and destroys our capacity to grow as loving beings.

Relationships built on patterns of lust will erode like a sandcastle at high tide. They can’t stand the ebb and flow of daily thoughtfulness. Thus the invention of casual sex and hooking up. No strings attached. Come and go as you please. No one gets hurt.

Wanna bet?

As a pastor for most of my life, I have sat with young couples working toward marriage. I’ve heard all kinds of pre-marriage sexual stories. Hopes and regrets. The number one thing I wish I had in my pastoral arsenal is “take-backs.” I’ve yet to hear, “I’m so glad I did. It will make me a more experienced sexual partner.” What I hear is, “If only I had that choice to make over again.”

A woman will never be loved the way her soul longs to be loved, by following the path of lust. Sex should be fun, playful, responsive, aggressive, exciting—but most of all bonding. God intends that we celebrate the union of one life to another in an act of self-giving love.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Seven Deadly Sins: The Uncomfortable Truth.


Click here to read all the posts in my blog series, “Seven Deadly Sins.”

Photo Credit: K.Hurley via Compfight cc


  1. Gracie May says

    This is all geared towards man and his sexual desires of woman. What of woman and her sexual desires for man? Honestly i’m not a feminist but i know quite a few females who battle their lust for other men outside of their husbands every single day .. . . surely there has got to be clear guidance for how women can fight their lustful desires.

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