Lust In The Bible And Its Meaning: How To Overcome This For Spiritual Growth

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Published by Kimberly Wall


Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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Lust, defined as an intense desire or craving, often leads to self-centered actions without regard for consequences. It’s driven by greed and possession.

In contrast, Christianity promotes selflessness and sanctity. Followers of Jesus Christ strive to grow spiritually each day. This involves abandoning former sinful lifestyles and aligning one’s thoughts and actions with biblical teachings. Lust, being self-serving, contradicts this principle.

Key Takeaways

  • Lust is an intense, immoral craving focused on physicality, unlike healthy sexual desire that involves overall attraction. In Christianity, genuine sexual desire is tied to emotional and spiritual connection.
  • According to Christian teachings, lust is a major sin that hinders spiritual growth and contradicts the Bible. It often results in selfish, harmful actions. This highlights the need to align actions and thoughts with Christian values.
  • Overcoming lust requires self-control and spiritual growth. It’s about managing sexual desires respectfully and in line with biblical teachings. This involves avoiding triggers and seeking divine guidance to foster holiness and selflessness.
a clandestine meeting between two secret lovers in a dimly lit futuristic cyberpunk alley

What Is Lust?

Lust is an intense or overpowering desire seen negatively as it longs for immoral behavior, akin to gluttony and greed.

God intended for sexual intimacy to be enjoyed within the confines of a marriage between a man and a woman. Despite this, cultural influences have distorted this plan, turning much of this desire into lust.

Lust leads us to objectify others, using them for self-satisfaction and pleasure, causing us to lose sight of God. In our sex-obsessed culture, demonstrating restraint, respectful speech about your spouse, and mindful media consumption can set a powerful example for your family.

a couple sharing a stolen moment in a bustling city square

What Is The Meaning Of Lust In The Bible?

The meaning of lust in the Bible is an intentional choice to follow one’s desires rather than exercising self-restraint. A prime example of this is David’s actions towards Bathsheba, as described in 2 Samuel 11:3–4.

Despite seeing her bathing, he chose not to control his desires and sent messengers to bring her to his palace. This incident illustrates how lust can lead to actions that disregard the consequences and the well-being of others.

The Bible emphasizes that self-control can be learned to resist lustful thoughts. This is akin to the proverb about preventing birds from nesting in your hair.

The Book of Ezekiel, which contains numerous references to lust, uses the story of the adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, to illustrate Israel’s idolatrous worship.

Job’s discourse on sexual immorality is potent. In other Old Testament instances, lust signifies an idolatrous relationship, primarily Israel’s desire to emulate her neighbors. Job refrains from lusting after a girl, aware of God’s punishment for the wicked.

While perfection is unattainable on earth, it remains our goal. Rejecting these standards equates to rejecting God, who bestows His Holy Spirit (Thessalonians 4:7–8).

Jesus stated that lustful intent is tantamount to adultery (Matthew 5:27–28). Paul expressed that reliance on Christ can replace lust (Philippians 4:11–13).

If you haven’t succumbed to lust, strive to lead a blameless life. If you struggle with desire, seek God’s assistance to make holiness a characteristic of your life.

a pair of mythical beings entwined in a dance of desire on the ethereal surface of a celestial comet

Why Is Lust A Sin?

Lust is a sin that leads individuals away from God, driven by excessive desires for money, luxury, reputation, power, and sexual pleasures.

While some believe that lust, a sin causing significant harm to individuals and communities, is an unchangeable aspect of human nature, this view is not acceptable.

Among the seven deadly sins, lust is particularly conspicuous. It can swiftly overwhelm an unsuspecting Christian, subtly infiltrating their thoughts, sowing seeds of temptation, and leading them astray before striking a fatal blow.

Lust, a deviation from God’s design for sexuality, disregards the value of individuals and God. Despite the temptation of lust, we can choose to reject self-centered behavior and repent. The Christian faith calls for selflessness, treating others with love and living a life marked by virtue.

two individuals entangled in a passionate dance

How To Distinguish Sexual Desire From Lust?

To distinguish sexual desire[1] from lust, one must understand that while sexual desire involves attraction to the whole person, lust focuses solely on the physical. The actions following attraction differentiate lust from genuine desire.

Sexual desire can deepen love, while lust is self-centered. Sexual desire, particularly for a loved one, is tender and longing, whereas lust is intense and overwhelming. This longing can be directed towards God, elevating the spirit, unlike lust, which degrades it.

In relationships, especially committed ones, sexual desire should increase as understanding deepens and the longing for unity increases.

Desiring physical intimacy with a loved one is natural, regardless of marital status. It becomes sinful when lust dominates, leading to the exploitation of others for personal pleasure.

Many fear sexual attraction and desire due to past struggles with sexual sin. Distinguishing between natural feelings and sinful ones is crucial for healing and maintaining healthy relationships. Order, not excess or suppression, is the best defense against passion.

Pope John Paul II stated that love is the opposite of use, requiring responsibility and dedication to others. As Ephesians 5:25 instructs, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Jesus exemplified this, reminding us that those who follow God’s will, unlike the world consumed by lust, will live eternally (1 John 2:16–17).

Two lovers caught in a passionate embrace under the soft glow of a streetlamp on a rainy Parisian night

2 Ways To Avoid And Overcome Lust

Lust, considered a mortal sin, is a disordered desire for another, disregarding their worth and the sanctity of marriage. It distorts natural desires and the need for love and friendship.

Overcoming lust is a personal decision and cannot be imposed or switched off instantly. Instead, it’s more effective to strive for outcomes that mask, replace, or soften carnal thoughts.

1. Put An End To Your Temptation

Avoid things that trigger lust. This includes resisting explicit content and avoiding certain places. Breaking free from lustful tendencies, like any harmful habit, can be challenging but achievable with persistence.

If lust dominates your interactions, you’re not being true to yourself. Rather than letting your character guide your actions, you’re allowing your physical desires to control you. This lustful approach disrespects others. If you value them, strive to overcome these feelings and act in their best interest.

2. Recognize Your Needs

Having sexual desires is natural and acknowledged by most religious texts. Recognizing these feelings is crucial, as ignoring them can lead to an unhealthy mindset and intensify these desires. Experience these urges, but refrain from acting on them.

If lust harms or threatens to harm someone, it’s a problem that needs addressing. However, expressing sexual desires between two consenting adults can be acceptable. If discomfort with sexual urges stems solely from religious beliefs, consider exploring various religious teachings.

Sexual feelings are normal, though different religious sects may have varying views. Strive to overcome youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, calling on the Lord with a sincere heart.

two lovers sharing a stolen moment of tenderness on the deck of their ship during a moonlit night at sea


Reflect on your attractions without fear. If they stem from lust, counteract it by praying for the person you’re attracted to. Express gratitude to God for their virtues, including their attractiveness, which helps shift focus from selfish desires.

If your sexual desires are wholesome, express gratitude for them as well. God enables us to desire companionship, particularly in marriage. Thank Him for this gift, and seek His protection and purification. He desires our passions to be rightly ordered, as this leads us back to Him.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Did Jesus Say About Lust?

Jesus equates lust with adultery, stating that lustful intent is akin to committing adultery in one’s heart. He emphasizes the severity of lust and the importance of avoiding sin, even at great personal sacrifice.

His teachings suggest that lust originates in the heart and is as significant as the act of adultery. Jesus encourages self-control, righteousness, and respect for others.

How Does God View Lust?

God views lust as a sin and a form of immorality that leads individuals away from Him. It is a selfish desire that uses others for personal gratification, distorting natural desires and the need for love and friendship.

God’s Word challenges us to resist these sensual desires and uphold His standard of holiness. The Bible guides resisting lust, encouraging individuals to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh.

In summary, God sees lust as a harmful distraction that pulls us away from Him. We must control it and pursue the type of love that God desires for us.

What Are The Signs Of Lust?

The signs of lust include a primary focus on physical attraction, an intense desire for sexual intimacy, a lack of emotional connection, and relationships that tend to be short-lived. Lust also manifests as a preference for fantasy over real feelings, a tendency to leave soon after sex, and a lack of friendship in the relationship.

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