Lust: The Pigpen or The Feast?

“You should lust after your bride.” That’s how Paul Byerly of The Generous Husband began a post last Friday on LUST: I Want You. Paul pointed out that the word translated as “lust” is the Greek word epithumeo. “Epithumeo is not a sexual word, nor does it indicate sin; it actually means nothing more than a strong desire.”

Really? Growing up, the theme of “Don’t lust” was pretty big in our church youth group. We all knew that the progression went something like this: Girl wears strapless dress to prom — > boy lusts — > they dance close — > boy lusts — > they make out afterward — > boy and girl lust — > BIG, BIG SIN!

I barely refrained from putting “hellfire and brimstone” at the end of that sequence. But the point was basically LUST = BAD.

Not so, mon ami! Unfortunately, like plenty of issues in the world of sexuality, we allowed sexual desire to get a bad rap because we saw how Satan and the world had tainted it. We reasoned that strong sexual desire must be bad since it leads to premarital sex, pornography, adultery, etc.

Well, here’s the great thing about the little Bible study I did after reading Paul’s terrific article. I pulled out my Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (a handy tool) and looked up the definition epithumeo and its uses in the New Testament. The Greek word epithumeo is translated as any of the following, depending on context: lust, desire, covet, long. Two of those have generally negative connotations (lust/covet) and two are positive or neutral (desire/long). There are 16 times the word is used in the NT, and here’s the one that struck me — Luke 15:16 from the story of the Lost, or Prodigal, Son:

“And he was longing (epithumeo) to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.”

Parable of the Prodigal Son: In the pigpen

Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a man who could have been doing things God’s way, longing for delectable meals, and feasting at his father’s table, and instead he goes off sinning a blue streak and ends up longing for something that will never fill him up! That is the way “lust” works outside of God’s design. You are longing for something you shouldn’t have, and God actually has something way better!

Lust and longing are not bad. Epithumeo as a strong desire is perfectly fine in the proper context — marriage. That’s where the Father has prepared us a feast! It’s when we try to twist it all up and start longing for pig’s food — sexuality outside of God’s plan — that it becomes a negative thing.

Thus, LUST IN MARRIAGE IS GOOD. I know that’s causing some of your heads to hurt. But replace the word “lust” with “strong desire” and read it again. When speaking of adultery, Jesus said that a man sins when he strongly desires a woman who is not his wife (Matthew 5:27-28). But that was about adultery. Strongly desiring your own spouse is not only a-okay, but all over the scriptures!

In practical terms, this means that when my husband removes his clothes, I ogle. Yep, I do. When I strip down to even my undergarments, my husband drops his book and starts to look. Married people are supposed to desire and enjoy one another’s bodies.

I dare say plenty of us could use some practice learning to lust in marriage. Oftentimes, we have no problem checking out the “hot babes” or “mancandy” from magazines, film, and TV, but we don’t train our eyes and hearts to look longingly at our spouses. The more we keep that strong desire where it belongs — in marriage — and practice that longing for one another, the less likely we are to be tempted elsewhere and the more we are likely to appreciate our own mate’s beautiful qualities.

Being looked at longingly also makes us feel loved. We all want to be desired — relationally and physically. When hubby gazes in wonder at the curves and softness of your body, isn’t that a compliment of the highest kind? Likewise, try checking him out when he steps out of the shower. Does he have particularly broad shoulders? Strong hands? Penetrating eyes? A cute outey navel? A bald spot on his head that you can barely keep your fingers off? Find something to check out. Lust a little! He’ll love it.

Lust is bad when you do it in the pigpen. At the feast table that your Heavenly Father has set — the union of your marriage — that longing is approved, endorsed, encouraged, and smiled upon.

Feast table

By anjči from London, UK, via Wikimedia Commons

What do you think? Do you enjoy looking at your hunky honey? Do you appreciate when he looks at you? Have you ever heard these distinctions about the word translated as lust?

Note: I posted my review of Sheila Gregoire’s The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex on Monday. If you want a chance to win a copy of her book, head over there and comment. You have until Saturday, March 17, 12:00 midnight EST to enter. I will randomly draw a name on Sunday and announce the winner on Monday.

20 thoughts on “Lust: The Pigpen or The Feast?

  1. Nylse

    Good post, breaking down lust within the biblical context.
    Alot of churches get this wrong as it relates to young people and then they wonder why so many stray. alot of times we put our own spin on things instead of seeing what the bible really says.
    to answer your question – of course i do and he does too!

    1. J

      Thanks, Nylse. Your observation is so true that teaching our young people the biblical perspective of sexuality is so important.

      And good for you! Feast away.

  2. Greg

    “Not so, mon ami! Unfortunately, like plenty of issues in the world of sexuality, we allowed sexual desire to get a bad wrap because we saw how Satan and the world had tainted it.”

    Amen to that! Although I think you meant to say “rap”, sexual desire is getting “wrapped” (packaged/marketed) in ways completely contrary to the truth.

    1. Anonymous

      I see that point (and thought the same thing!) but I agree — the “wrong” word is stronger here and reveals a deeper truth. The contents are good; the wrapping is wrong.

    2. J

      Well, I did fix the spelling error that Greg pointed out! Sometimes that happens. I did a bit of a head-desk when I saw that, though. 😉

  3. mamaofangels

    Love this. I love to just sit and watch my hubby. And one of the best compliments I got was when he bought me clothes that were a little reaveling for me to wear with him. Just the fact that he thought I looked good in them was awesome to me! Thanks for a great post again!

    1. J

      How wonderful, mamaofangels! I think the closer our emotional relationship becomes, the more attractive my husband is to me. So the wrinkles are just laugh lines, the extra pounds are love handles, and so on. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    I LOVE when my husband lusts after me! But I have never been physically attracted to my husband.. or ANY man for that matter. I am more physically attracted to woman (and I am NOT gay.) My husband’s naked body never turns me on.. (Brad Pitt’s body never turned me on either!) Please dont get me wrong, my husband is a very attractive man and I love the way he looks.. and I have a very deep desire for him! So, I guess you could say that instead of being ‘physically’ attracted to him, I am EMOTIONALLY attracted to him. Does this make sense to anyone else out there, or am I just weird??

    1. Greg

      You’re not weird; there are a number of women who simply don’t find anything physically attractive or desirable about men. Though I dare say as men, deep down we long to be found as desirable, sensual, and appealing as women are to us. Not for ego or pride, but for worth and affirmation.

    2. J

      In the book, Sheila made the case that women often look at pretty women, not because we want to be titillated but because we dream of being like them. They inspire us. Interesting idea!

      I think a lot of women are not nearly so attracted by physical attributes as by relational ones. We like a guy who takes care of us, speaks love to us, etc. As long as there is an attraction, you’re doing fine!

  5. Tamara

    Great article! I noticed when I stopped looking at other people in movies, magazines or even in person, I naturally became more attracted to my husband. Imagine that… When we keep our eyes, heart and mind focused on where it’s supposed to be… God honors our efforts!

    1. J

      What a great point! We can let our eyes be diverted by others or focus that energy on our spouse. Good for you.

  6. Do Not Disturb Blog

    Great post. I recently had a conversation with a friend who asked me if it was wrong that her husband asked her to walk in front of him so he could watch her walk. I said absolutely not! It is right and good for our husbands to want our bodies. Thanks for your valuable insight.

    Megan

  7. Jennifer

    I know i an just catching up but along with all the other posts i love this! I was reading a post on the marriage bed forums about this wife who admits she had a hard time finding her husband attractive anymore! I couldn’t believe the things she used as an excuse mainly weight gain. I have put on some pounds since my hubby and i first started dating 12 years ago and he has also but i am still so attracted to him, while we all sometimes get caught appreciating ” mancandy” no one does what my husband does for me when i look at him, no one! Love the post!

Comments are closed.