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Lust in the Dust

Wisdom in sacrificial love

Proverbs 5:23-25 

23 For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,

24 To keep you from the evil woman,
From the flattering tongue of a seductress.

25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.


Late in the 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter nearly torpedoed his chances at the White House with revealing comment about himself. During an interview with “Playboy” magazine, Carter volunteered this bit of information:

“I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.” 

Carter continued: 

“This is something God recognizes I will do -- and I have done it -- and God forgives me for it.”

Up to this point Carter seemed to appeal to voters as a clean-cut candidate with no skeletons in his political closet. This interview, which appeared in October, just before the general election, may not have shocked voters into switching their votes, but it went down as one of the most awkward moments in presidential history.

(Until more recent years, that is.)

For the Southern Baptist peanut farmer from Georgia, an interview with a well-known pornographic magazine may not have been the best decision, but what he said had more than a ring of truth to it–it was the truth. For the “free love” culture of the swinging ’70's this may not have been a truth that most people wanted to hear, and it seemed to make all of America very uncomfortable.

Although most people do not use the word “lust” in an average conversation, nevertheless, it is specter of sin that hovers over our inmost thoughts. A comment that may have served to “humanize” a presidential candidate, also echoed the words of the God who became man–our Lord and savior Jesus Christ: 

28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.–Matthew 5:28

Here in Proverbs 6, Solomon shares his wisdom with the sons and daughters of Israel as he counsels them on avoiding the pitfalls of lust. Lust is one of the “seven deadly sins” first recounted in early Christian writings, but it has been a part of fallen humanity since Adam and Eve left the garden. The only way to combat it is with brutal honesty, as Christ teaches, and to recognize God’s marvelous provision of the marriage covenant.  

Solomon begins:

23 For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,–Proverbs 6:23

Here the “lamp” and light are an ancient metaphors for guidance and protection in this world. In the darkness of this man-centered culture everyone is a law unto himself, but God’s Word is a bright beacon of light that guides and directs His children safely through rocks and shoals. There is, perhaps, no better song than that of the classic Christian song Thy Word by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith:

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet 
and a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet 
and a light unto my path
When I feel afraid
Think I've lost my way
Still you're there right beside me
And nothing will I fear
As long as you are near
Please be near me to the end

God is active in the lives of His people and makes His presence known in the lives of those who follow Him. No matter how dark your life can become, God will always be there for you through the gift of the Holy Spirit and by making His will known in scripture. 

Solomon is saying that you can expect warning, instruction, and even correction in your life as evidence of your Heavenly Father’s love. You are not abandoned to the traps and snares, even the snares of lust. Commentator Bruce Waltke reminds you of how God watches and protects you: 

In sum, the parental teaching illuminates the way the Lord watches over, the the way of the full and abundant life, and the way on which the son will be protected by hidden pitfalls.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

The pitfall that Solomon is warning his son about is that of the seductress: 

24 To keep you from the evil woman,
From the flattering tongue of a seductress.–Proverbs 6:24

At first glance this is a verse warning about “wild women” but there is more at play here. True, the “seductress” is hard at work seeking to manipulate men’s hearts. Waltke continues: From the viewpoint of the tempted, her speech is fluid and lubricious; from the father’s, it is slippery and treacherous. 

The key here is “flattery.” The smooth talking woman or man who seeks to entice a member of the opposite sex will often say and promise nearly anything in order to gain influence. The thing about flattery is that it takes two: one to speak it, and one to hear it. The words echo the warnings of James:

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.–James 3:8 

Are you susceptible to flattery? Has it been ages since you received a true compliment from someone? It is one thing to get an “atta boy” from your boss, but another to have a member of the opposite sex provide you with unsolicited praise or a flirtatious comment. These words may be intended innocently, but they can be the beginnings of a pathway into darkness:

25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.–Proverbs 6:25

Here, Solomon shows that lust is something in which both men and women play an active part. The parallel of “lusting after (or coveting) her beauty” is compared with “her allure (or capturing) you with her eyes.” The role of the man and the woman shift back and forth as they entice each other. 

Lust is a reflection of unrestrained desire that comes from deep within your heart. Lust and sex are not the same thing, however, and they are not intended to be connected. Natural man is given over to his lusts, but the child of God is restrained. Not “prudish” but purposed in the approach to sex. 

The passage in Matthew 5 that was quoted at the top is often Exhibit A in the claim that Christians have a negative view of sex and love, that if you have sexual feelings you will be condemned to Hell. Or that somehow anything dealing with sex and the human body is based, immoral and wrong. 

This is not true, but the fact is, that this modern world has become awash in sexual stimulation and self-fulfillment, and the ancient faith that the Christian possesses will seem alien and foreign to those who live lives of unrestraint. 

Why is our culture so obsessed with sex? Carl Truman has some interesting thoughts:

Why has sex come to be seen as the central purpose of human existence? Is it just hedonism? A combination of Augustine, Pascal and Freud might provide the answer: Sex distracts us from death.–Carl Trueman 

This “distraction from death” is a reminder that lust is an ultimate selfish pursuit that seeks to dull the pain of this fallen world and provide some sort of comfort in a life of darkness. There is nothing new under the sun, for this has indeed been ever in the heart of man:  

16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.–I John 2:16   

Like the enticing seductress, lust turns love and sex into a commodity, or a consumer good. For the unmarried person, this can mean that a turn to pornography or “Fifty Shades of Gray” may provide temporary fulfillment–but it robs you of the possibility of permanent, lasting love. 

C.S. Lewis illustrates this: 

The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside of marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one union (sexual) from all other kinds of union, which are meant to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure . . . It means that you mustn’t isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, anymore than you ought to try to get the pleasure of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.–C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves 

This "tasting without swallowing" reminds me of the cursed pirate crew of the "Pirates of the Caribbean," doomed to live out the curse of their greed:

The drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, and all the pleasurable company could not slake our lust. We are cursed men, Miss Turner. Compelled by greed, we were. But now, we are consumed by it. 

When we isolate pleasure for ourselves we end up demanding it from someone else–or denying them the affection that they are due. In marriage this can be more than destructive, it can destroy the beauty of the covenant between a husband and a wife. Keller talks of this covenant:

Real love moves you to give yourself fully to a particular man or woman. Lust works in the opposite direction. It wants to get a fulfilling, self-maximizing experience from the person.–Timothy Keller, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life

For the believer, sex and love are meant to be shared and celebrated in the beautiful, binding relationship of biblical marriage. Even there, lust can take its toll. When a husband demands physical affection from his wife because of “his needs” or when a wife entertains a fantasy life to keep herself fulfilled, lust has taken control and sex has become a consumer good. 

For the unmarried man, relationships are messy, tricky and require work. Who needs that when you have porn? For unmarried women, your demand to find a prince who fulfills your emotional goals may cause an interminable search. For those dating, sooner or later the pressure to become physical will arise because it is “expected” or perhaps you do not want him to search for an “upgrade” that will provide the sex he requires. 

Sex is not meant to be something that is held over a marriage partner, sex is to be the fulfillment of covenant blessing. Keller again reminds us:

Biblical view of sex is not self expression or fulfillment but self-sacrifice.–Timothy Keller

How can you live a life of self-sacrifice in your marriage or in your single life? This is contrary to the world, but God has made marriage a mirror of Christ’s sacrificial love for His church (Ephesians 5:25).  

This, then, is your hope from being free from lust: to seek to live a life of self-sacrifice, instead of self-fulfillment. When the husband loves his wife more than Christ, he does not truly love her as God intends. When you love Christ, then the love of your wife or husband will have true meaning and depth. Sex then becomes an act of giving–and a covenant blessing.

Can you live a life of self-sacrificial love? Can you give up what you seem to crave the most, in order to love someone with an eternal love and kindle true desire? All things are possible through Christ:

13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.–John 14:13-14



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.



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