Looking Or Lusting?

Q. If I understand correctly, lust is a desire for something, whether it is a person, etc…so, with that, a so-called “crush” on someone would be lust. How do I differentiate between lust and “casually” noticing someone’s attractiveness? I’m not trying to justify any sinful behavior, but I would like to have that point cleared up. What scriptures address this issue?

A. James 1:14-15 says, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

There is no sin in noticing the attractiveness of another person. The Lord made us to be attractive to one another. But when we begin considering what it might be like to be intimate with someone we’re not married to, desire has been conceived and it gives birth to sin. This is what the Lord meant when He said that looking at someone with lust in our heart is equivalent to committing adultery (Matt. 5:28). The key phrase is “with lust in our heart”. When we get “that feeling” we know we’ve begun sinning.

Some people think if they look but don’t touch they haven’t sinned. But the Lord said if we ever have a desire to touch, whether we follow through or not, we’ve already sinned in our heart.

The whole point of the Sermon on the Mount was to convince us that behaving in a way that’s sufficient to save ourselves is beyond our capability. No matter how good we think we are, we all need a Savior.

We know this because in Matt. 5:48 He summed up the behavioral requirements for entering the Kingdom of Heaven on our own. He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Good luck with that.

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