We’ve been taught that lust is a sin and anyone who lusts after someone other than their spouse is in sin. Is this true? We’ll answer these questions and more as we examine what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:28.
- What did Jesus mean in Matthew 5:28?
- What is lust?
- Is sexual desire for anyone other than your spouse sinful?
- Finally, how do we overcome lusts?
In this article, we’ll answer these questions:
- What did Jesus mean in Matthew 5:28?
- What is lust and is it a sin?
- Will you go to hell for lustful thoughts?
- Should you fantasize about someone you like?
- Should men consume sexy images?
- How do I overcome lust?
- Is sexual desire for anyone other than your spouse a sin?
What did Jesus mean in Matthew 5:28?
It’s important to read the verse in context to get the full meaning. Here’s the verse from the King James Bible:
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:27-28).
As we see here, Jesus first refers to the Law of God found in Deuteronomy 5:18 and 21 when he says:
18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery …
21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s (Deuteronomy 5:18,21).
After reading the Law we get more information in verse 21, where it says, “Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s wife.” Now that we have some context as to where Jesus was coming from, we can understand what the Word of God meant. The correct interpretation of Matthew 5:28 is as follows:
Don’t commit adultery. Adultery is having sex with another man’s wife. Don’t even desire your neighbor’s wife. If you desire your neighbor’s wife, you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart (your mind). The sin of adultery starts in your mind. Do whatever is necessary to prevent yourself from lusting after someone else’s wife.
This interpretation is further substantiated by James 1:13-15:
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:13-15).
It’s enticement that plays on our lusts which can lead to sin. We must not allow ourselves to be drawn away by our lusts; and we must cut off anything that will cause us to stumble—it’s as simple as that—this was the message of Jesus.
Did Jesus really instruct us to pluck out our eye and cut off our hand?
The answer is: No. If we did, we’d had another eye to lust with and another hand to masturbate with (the latter is my interpretation).
I believe the audience understood Jesus’ extreme saying to mean: do whatever is necessary to keep yourself from forbidden desire.
For example: a man could take a different route to his destination to avoid seeing his neighbor’s wife. If he couldn’t avoid her, he would purposely ignore her or keep his conversation short. We’ll talk about how to overcome lust later.
What is lust?
The KJV dictionary defines lust this way:
To desire eagerly; to long; with after. To have carnal desire; to desire eagerly the gratification of carnal appetite. To have irregular or inordinate desires.
The word lust is found 53 times in the KJV Bible and 90% of all references are negative. However, you’ll notice that lust is a form of desire. The word desire is found 181 times in the KJV Bible and is neutral or positive.
What I gather from this word study is one thing: a lust is any evil or forbidden desire. For example, the desire to have another man’s wife. Wives belong to their husbands for life (1 Corinthians 7:39). Therefore, it’s a sin to have sex with or marry another man’s wife while he’s still alive.
The KJV dictionary defines desire this way:
An emotion or excitement of the mind, directed to the attainment or possession of an object from which pleasure, sensual, intellectual or spiritual, is expected; a passion excited by the love of an object, or uneasiness at the want of it, and directed to its attainment or possession. Desire is a wish to possess some gratification or source of happiness which is supposed to be obtainable. A wish may exist for something that is or is not attainable.
Desire, when directed solely to sensual enjoyment, differs little from appetite. In other languages, desire is expressed by longing or reaching toward, and when it is ardent or intense, it approaches to longing, but the word in English usually expresses less than longing.
So, a desire for a good thing is acceptable, but a desire for something forbidden is called a lust. Here’s some examples:
- You desire food after a five-day fast—that’s a normal desire.
- You’ve eaten five pieces of cake. You know you shouldn’t eat more, but you desire more—this is a lust.
The thing to remember is: good desires are okay, forbidden or evil desires are not.
Is lust a sin?
On the surface, No. Lust is simply a thought that has yet to lead to an action. The Bible says we’re responsible for the deeds done in our body; it doesn’t say our thoughts. See the verses below:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live (Romans 8:13).
Will we go to hell for evil thoughts?
With those above two verses, we could conclude that we can meditate on evil desires, fantasize about banging other men’s wives, murder, rape, child sex, forbidden desires and more, just as long as we don’t do them.
While God knows our thoughts (Matthew 9:4, Psalms 94:11), he would never condemn us for these evil desires. Right? Wrong. Let us consider these verses:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
We see here that God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, we need to change the way we think. If we continue to desire things against God’s laws or his known will for our lives, while we may never do them, we’re showing God we don’t want a transformed mind.
I don’t expect men who fantasize about possessing married women, while having no intention of ever pursuing them, would gain eternal life. They purposely haven’t changed their minds about adultery. They don’t agree with God that adultery is wrong. They haven’t repented; and we know that repentance starts in the mind.
Is sexual desire for anyone other than your spouse sinful?
The answer to that question is: it depends on our intentions and what the Law says. First of all, we need to accept that God gave us a mandate that drives our bodies. That mandate is to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:1); and this includes intimacy (eros love). How are we to do this? Sexual intercourse with the opposite sex is the answer.
We desire to have sex because God placed the desire in us. Sexual intimate love (eros) is a gift from God designed to be experienced in a loving marriage. Many people have premarital sex attempting to experience something only a godly marriage will provide. After fornication, they find themselves unsatisfied.
The desire for sex with the opposite gender is stronger in men, but in both sexes, it is natural. Without it, men and women wouldn’t procreate and join as one flesh. Therefore, sexual desire is not a sin.
Men and women of God should no longer surpress or feel guilty for having sexual urges especially if they’re single and past puberty. It’s how we go about fulfilling our sexual desire that we have to be careful with. Consider this passage:
10 When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, 11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; 12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; 13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-13).
We see that God has no problem with a man desiring a beautiful single woman, just as long as his intentions with her were for marriage. It’s clear that if he wants to marry her, he finds her sexually attractive. No man should marry anyone they’re not sexually attracted to.
So this begins to answer the question of whether sexual desire for someone other than your spouse is a sin:
- If a single man has sexual desire for a single woman with the intention to marry before the act, he has not sinned—it’s an acceptable desire.
- If a married man has the same intention as number 1, he has not sinned for God allows men to have multiple wives.
- If a man was told by God that a certain woman was off limits (even if she’s single), if he continues to desire her, it’s a forbidden desire—it’s a lust.
- If a person sexually desires another with no intention of marrying them, it’s a forbidden desire. Sex outside of marriage is fornication.
- Obviously, sexual desire for the same gender, a child, a close relative, and an animal is forbidden (Leviticus 18:5-23).
- If a married woman desires anyone apart from her husband, this is a lust.
- If a single woman desires a married man, she has not sinned for God allows a man to have multiple wives. Of course, the man must be open to polygyny.
- If a single woman desires a married man, but desires to see his wife or wives discarded (and even his children) just so he can be with her exclusively—this is an evil desire. She wants to tear up a family to fulfill her desire.
Admiration and attraction is not desire
It’s important to note that admiration and attraction for the opposite sex is not desire nor is it a sin. God designed humans in his image, for his glory, and to be admired. We are beautiful by nature and should be admired.
So next time you notice a nice body or a beautiful face which brings pleasure and enjoyment to your eyes, don’t trip, you were just admiring God’s creation. However, be polite and don’t stare.
Becoming attracted is also a normal thing, but it’s up to us to return our desire; and not allow desire to lead us to sin.
Should men consume sexy images and porn?
I’ll talk about porn later, but the answer is No. Instagram models, swimsuit magazines, calendars and pinup art only stimulate sexual desire apart from marriage.
Those images are designed to lead you to desire, long for, masturbate, and fornicate. They don’t promote marriage which is the only place you can experience sex properly.
You may say you wanna marry these women, but without a means to pursue and court them for marriage, you’re simply wasting your time and energy which will lead to unfullfilled sexual desire as you drain your life force through masturbation or fornication with women you wish were IG models.
Should you fantasize about someone you like?
We know that desire often leads to fantasy, but fantasy is often unreal and exaggerated. The belief in such ideas will lead to possible disappointment.
So, if you fantasize, be sober enough to understand these ideas may not be based in reality. It’s better to imagine and build ideas on the reality of what you know to be true about the person you desire.
End the guilt, free yourself
Men and women need to stop feeling guilty and ashamed about their natural sexual drive, admiration and attraction to the opposite sex, and desires to sexually join with potential marriage partners—it’s all apart of God’s plan.
Wives need to stop getting upset and scolding their husbands when he glances at another beautiful woman in her presence—it’s natural. Also, that man’s intentions are between him and the Lord, and out of the wife’s control.
Finally, how do we overcome lusts?
Whatever the lust may be, if it’s sexually immoral, gluttonous, murderous or something else, we have a remedy. Firstly, we must understand the thought itself isn’t sin. However, if we refuse to change our minds about the sin the thought will lead to, we will commit sin or be guilty of not wanting to be transformed in our thinking—both positions lead to destruction.
However, the solution is to walk in the Spirit:
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law (Galatians 5:16-18).
If you continue reading after the 18th verse, you’ll find the evidence of walking in the Spirit (the fruit) is temperance, which is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
We have control even over our natural sexual desire for procreation and intimacy. May the Lord keep us from sinning and preserve singles for the proper time.