Yesterday I preached on Matthew 5:27-30. It was not a knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy of Ted Haggard, but part of a series on the life of Jesus. We have been going through the Gospels looking at the big themes of Jesus's life: birth, baptism, temptation, call of disciples, Jesus on money, the Beatitudes, Jesus on anger, and last week Jesus on sex.
What hit me so hard as I translated the passage was the word for "lust" the Greek word "epithumia". It is also translated "desire", "hunger for" "really want". It can be a good or bad term, depending on context. Then, to my surprise, I discovered that "epithumia" is also the Greek word in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) for the word "COVET." To covet is to lust and to lust is to covet.
The process is critical for us as believers to be aware of. God tells me what is mine to steward and what is NOT mine. All is OK if I respect those boundaries and borders. The problems comes in when I get overly curious about what is not mine, and begin to examine, explore and fantacize about it. That's both lust and coveting. And the more I focus on what is not mine, wanting it and obsessing about it, the more disatisfied I become with what is mine. And the nouns and object do not really matter.
For guys primarily, the problem is pornography. I did some awfule exploration about the scope and extent of the industry. Just go visit www.protectkids.com and you will be overwhelmed by this monster. But it all goes back to looking at, dwelling on that which is not mine to have: sex with another woman (or man) who is not married to me.
But this is not just a man's problem. In talking with a number of women prior to the sermon, I heard from them about the deep issue of beauty. Women want to be called and felt beautiful. I don't dare try to explain this, but the logic kind of works. Our whole culture really nails women with messages about how NOT beautiful they are as they are now. They are too fat, too wrinkled, to frumpy, too unsuccessful. But (the advertiser) has just the product they need to restore a sense of beauty, worth, value and meaning to their lives. I threw out the notion that if a person (female or male) was living with a chronic sense of dissatisfaction with what God has given them, and they are restlessly hungry for more: that's coveting and that's lust.
But it all comes back to borders and boundaries; of what's real and what's not real; what's mine and what's not mine. I live in a community with some exotic cars on the loose. I see Bentleys and Ferraris all the time. But guess what? They are not mine to want. Cool, pretty, sleek and fast...but not mine. I have a really nice Jetta. That's mine.