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Overcoming Lusts: Lesson #7

Embracing God's Love

Discipleship Level 2: Reaching Beyond Mediocrity

Rev. Paul J. Bucknell

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Word study - Translation of epithumeo and usage of lust

Purpose: Are you confused whether desires are good or bad? Not sure what is wrong with lusts? This brief word study on the Greek word (epithumeo)for lust used in the Bible will help clear things up. This is the third lesson on 'Embracing God's Love, Overcoming Lust' which is the seventh lesson in a series on "Reaching Beyond Mediocrity."

The Greek word used for lust, epithumeo, is used both positively and negatively. The context determines the way we are to interpret it. When epithumeo is positively used, it is translated as long for or desire. 

Notice the positive use in the following two verses.

"And He said to the disciples, "The days shall come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it." Luke 17:22).

epithumeo - lust word study"But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Philippians 1:23).

We are more familiar with its negative usage when it is translated lust, desire or even covet. Note the following scriptures.

"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).

"Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24).

"For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Romans 13:9).

The word for covet in Romans 13:9 is the same Greek word for lust or long for. There are many things a person might have a strong desire for but when it occupies one's mind so that one's pursuit to get something allows him to forget about the concerns and needs of others, then he is said to covet.

God does not allow any 'Christianizing' of lusts. We are not serving another when we give a lonely woman a little sexual attention. A person has committed abominable wickedness when he justifies his or her immorality by calling it serving or caring. Immorality always hurts and is always wrong. So is greed of any sort.

The English word 'lust'

The English word 'lust,' on the other hand, always means strong evil desires. Its usage always refers to wicked desires.

Some have rejected our hedonistic society along with its emptiness by rejecting all desires. They think of all desires as evil or wrong. This is is seen partly in the trend to adopting Buddhism, Hinduism and New Age thinking. People are burnt out with their wild exploration of their lusts and just want to leave that past behind, whether they participated in it themselves or suffered from others who were devoted to it like their parents. This is an extreme reaction to a real problem, but understandably they do not know there is a better position.

Scriptures have a balanced approach against those extreme ways of responding to the emptiness of lusts. God has made all things good including our body and sexual intimacy within the life-long pledge of marriage. We are only to reject evil desires where they go contrary to the principle of love and kindness.

The desires that need to be eliminated are only those stemming from the flesh itself, those self-seeking desires. Even if a husband 'lusted' for his wife, it would be wrong. This lust within a marriage means that he so focuses on meeting his own needs that he is not sensitive to the needs of his wife. The scripture writer rightly states,

"Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Hebrews 13:4).

The reason for calling all lust evil is obvious. Lust leaves no room for love. It is anti-God for God is love.

Continue on to see why love is the opposite of lust.