Owning Your Lust

Suppose an attractive member of your church walks in on the men’s Bible study one morning and strips off her clothes and then dances in a very sexual manner. Is she responsible if men lust after her? What if some men do not lust? If some lust but some do not, then is the lust-responsibility now only in those men who are lusting and not in her?

You know the great thing about that hypothetical: it’ll never happen! But it’s an interesting thought exercise. Where does the sin responsibility sit: in the tempter or the tempted? I think they are both completely responsible, but only for their own sin.

Here’s how I work through the logic: The tempter is sinning by attempting to get someone to sin, and the tempted who gives in sins in that acquiescence. But if there is a tempter who is unsuccessful in getting the tempted to give in, the tempter’s sin is exactly the same as if the tempted person had given in.

That means that the tempter’s sin is not dependent on the response of the tempted person at all; it remains the same whether the tempted person gives in or not.

And the corollary to this is that the tempted person who gives in is just as responsible for the sin (lust in the extremely unlikely hypothetical I gave above) whether tempted into it or running headlong without temptation. How does that work? Like this.

Suppose a man looks at a woman dressed very modestly by modern standards. Perhaps she is wearing something similar to traditional Amish attire.* If a man looks on her with lust, is the woman a temptress? Few would say so. But his sin is the same as if she were the unclad woman in the original hypothetical. Even without a temptress, he has engaged in that same sin.

So the responsibility for lust resides in the luster, while the responsibility for tempting is in the tempter. Each is wholly responsible for their own sin, regardless of the other person’s part in the scenario.

Unsuccessful tempters and untempted lusters are as guilty of sin as successful tempters and tempted lusters.

(Graphic courtesy of Adriana at Classical Quest)

(Graphic courtesy of Adriana at Classical Quest)

The Good News

Depressed yet? Confused, perhaps? Take heart; as in all situations you find yourself in, Jesus is the answer.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24.)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2.)

Jesus bore our sins for us, and he never condemns those who belong to him. And this counts for all sins you’ve ever committed, are committing now, and ever will commit:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14.)

Nothing you will ever do can change that, because everything that needs doing Jesus has already done.

***

*I borrowed that idea of Amish attire from Dale Fincher, whose series on modesty led to today’s post here.

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22 Responses to Owning Your Lust

  1. Tim great post as always! This application applies to a lot of what we might call sin. Perhaps this is why scripture says when in certain situations to haul butt out of the place. Which is how the word flee is to be intrepreted whenever one sees it in scripture.
    Yet, the great news is as you shared the ability to come back to the cross. It’s intresting how paul began and finished that part of his letter with basically the same message. Romans 8:1 – No condemnation Romans 8:38 – Nothing Can Seperate Us!
    What refreshing and freeing assiurance!
    Thanks

  2. Jaimie says:

    This is an excellent explanation of this–sharing the post for sure! A lot of people try to place the blame entirely on a woman (and how she’s dressed) when a man is tempted to lust by her clothing, or lack thereof. Other people say that the men are entirely responsible for their thoughts, no matter how a woman is dressed. This explanation makes the most sense: we’re all responsible for our own sins. If our sins happen to cause another person to sin, that’s bad, but we’re responsible for our sins whether they cause someone else to sin or not.

    Thank you so much for bringing this back to the Gospel. No matter what we have done or will do, WE ARE FORGIVEN. Christ has taken away all our guilt on the cross. There is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus!

    Thank you for this.

  3. Jeannie says:

    This makes sense! And I agree with Jaimie that bringing it back to the good news of “no condemnation” is really important.

  4. Adriana says:

    Tim, I’ve seen a lot of heated conversations about this topic on the web.It seems like every one is pointing fingers and justifying what they wear (or don’t wear!). What you have said here offers both solid common sense and hope! I try to remember in all my decisions that God knows my heart. I feel esp sad when I see Christian women taking sides against each other based on a dress code. I have dear friends who read the Bible poolside in a bikini and other dear friends who would not even wear a pair of pants — let alone a bathing suit. Which friends are more godly? Thank goodness — it is not my job to decide! 🙂

    P.S. “Unsuccessful tempters and untempted lusters are as guilty of sin as successful tempters and tempted lusters.”

    It that an original Tim Fall quote?! Way cool.

  5. Dale Fincher says:

    Tim, thanks for adding to and clarifying this part of the modesty discussion! Glad we can sharpen one another.

  6. There’s just so much good in this post.

  7. Auntie Em says:

    This concept (specifically the temptress and the man who runs) has been on my mind lately in a different context: the abortion debate. (I’m from Tx where our legislature has been in intense debate over a bill.) The thing is– what we believe doesn’t change what IS. A baby in the womb is a baby whether it’s an inconvenience, an heir to the throne, or my baby. I loved my children long before they were born, but the aborted babies had just as much value as they did, even though their parents did not love them.

    • Tim says:

      Well said, Em. God looks at us as individuals and values each of us without measure. There is no one who is unloved by God.

  8. Pingback: The Classical Quest on Lust | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  9. Jennifer says:

    I love what you say and agree with most of it. If someone ALLOWS themselves to lust, that is wrong. But it can’t be wrong to be tempted. Satan tempts EVERYONE….even Christ was tempted by Satan. So wouldn’t the issue be if a person gives in to the temptation? Even if the temptation they are giving in to is lusting?

  10. Daniel says:

    Nice post, Tim. I do agree that we are held accountable for our own sins. But the truth is, some men will choose to lust no matter what. And guess what? It’s not a woman’s lack of clothing that needs to change, it’s the man’s heart that needs to change because James says that man is “…enticed by his own lusts…” (James 1:14) not by what anyone else wears, or doesn’t wear for that matter. Lust is ALWAYS the choice of the tempted, period! Besides, it’s never a sin to be sexually attracted to someone, if it were, then how would we get married? It’s when we desire something illicit when it becomes a sin.

  11. Pingback: Modesty: Real Talk from Real Men - Jaimie Ramsey

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