The Image of God and Lust: Another Look

In our earlier discussion of this topic, we left off with the concept that the mere sight of another person that we find attractive, does not necessarily require that we jump into a lustful frame of mind (or being); we have choices to make. We looked at the English word “lust” and saw its definition and in our discussion, we assumed that “lust” was a bad thing, but in this get-together, I’d like to go a notch deeper, so that we might see that lust is a little more versatile than that. Here’s a classic “lust verse” from the Sermon on the Mount:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt. 5:28)

Of course you’ll recognize immediately that this verse falls within Jesus’ discussion of adultery in Matthew 5:27-30 in the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) in which Jesus is telling the people how a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven should behave. What I would like to do here is to take a look at the Greek word that the NIV translates as “lustfully”. The word is epithyméō, and here is the definition:

to set the heart upon, i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise):—covet, desire, would fain, lust (after). (Strong’s G1937).

The word is found many times in the New Testament, 17 to be exact, in 16 verses. It might be of interest to mention that in one of these, Jesus applied it to Himself:

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Lk. 22:15)

In English, the word is translated as: lust, desire, longing, crave and covet. The factor that determines which English word will be used is context, thus the word, and the feeling it describes can be either positive or negative depending what we are doing with it. Thus, it isn’t the desire that is the problem, it is what or whom we allow to become the object of the desire. Thus, when a person “lusts” we are not dealing with an issue of hard-wiring, being fallen or depravity, but rather with a state of mind or a condition of the heart, and don’t you suppose that this is why Paul told us that we must be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”? (Rom. 12:2). Funny thing, when you look at what Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, it is a command, not a goal.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

How can we do this transforming work? The good news is that we don’t; the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting for us if we will allow Him to, in relationship with our Lord, and in community with His people.

When we get together next time, I’d like to explore a related topic, Modesty. This subject was suggested by one of you and much appreciated by me. At this point in our adventure, I would like to extend an invitation to all of you to suggest topics for exploration in the light of being bearers of God’s image; what would you like to have us examine next, what leads have I missed? PLEASE let me know! You can feel free to use either comments or my email for this purpose, obviously if you send an email, I won’t use your name, unless you ask me to.

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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12 Responses to The Image of God and Lust: Another Look

  1. pipermac5 says:

    One word – many meanings…interesting. I have to wonder how many times the translators allowed their own cultural-biases to help determine which meaning to use, so that the translation got “flavored” with their cultural-biases.

    • Don Merritt says:

      There really isn’t any way to avoid that happening; it is in every translation, some more than others, possibly King James most of all, since they had political concerns to deal with ,

      • pipermac5 says:

        While “squeamish-translating” won’t be obvious to readers who are not familiar with the original languages, myself included, what really gets my goat is when a commentator completely-ignores the text in favor of their cultural-biases. Those cultural-biases are blatantly-obvious and have no place in a commentary on the Bible.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      The comment is right on, but there is a solution — well, sort of. We are blessed by the multitude of translations at our fingertips. Controversial verse? We can see how different translations put that verse in our language. It is a Bible study all on its own.

      The different word choices, even the biased ones, can be a blessing. Sometimes I think it takes more than one translation (with their different biases) to get it right. When we translate from one language to another, we run into words for which English has no exact counterpart. Hence, it may take different translations to appreciate what the author was trying to say in the original language.

  2. William Haney says:

    I think of the phrase “lust for life”. A word misconstrued for sexual and other negative tones but can used for the desire of what fails you at that moment? Lust for… freedom? Knowledge?

  3. Don, I have a question. As I read 12:1-2, Paul begins with the word “parakaleō” which, at least according to the Mounce translation, means “to invite” or “to appeal to.” It doesn’t seem to be a command. And, how could an apostle issue a command? Wouldn’t those commands come specifically from the Father or Jesus? Is Paul interpreting this as Jesus’ command to, “Take up your cross and follow me?”

    • Don Merritt says:

      The command comes from the verb tense which is present tense imperative; so essentially “Do not be” = “Thou shalt not”. Biblical commands come to us direct from the Father, direct from Jesus, from Apostles, and can be inferred from approved apostolic example (where context is vital).

      That’s a great question, by the way.

  4. Matt Brumage says:

    Temptation or testing? Forgiveness or divorce? This why I love studying biblical languages so much. I believe John would often use both sides of a possible meaning simultaneously, and even synthesize both Greek and Hebrew thought of a term, meaning both at once! He is one of my very favorites.

    But on another note, what about the image of God and death? God cannot die, so how does death distort or clarify His image in us? For that matter what is death really anyway? Back to the Garden?

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