“The earth is heating up!” “We are at record warming levels.” So the global warming warnings go.
I’m watching Nova on PBS. The episode is Making North America: Origins. As the narrator displays palm frond and coral reef fossils he makes a startling statement. He’s finding these artifacts in Alaska. And he says this, “This palm grew here when the climate in Alaska and the rest of the world was much warmer (emphasis added).”
He’s talking, of course, about a period hundreds of millions of years ago by his dating. But the point still remains: The whole earth has been much warmer than it is today,
So the statement that the earth today is warmer than it has ever been is repudiated by this statement in this Nova presentation.
What this illustrates is that the range of temperatures that the earth has naturally swung from very warm to frigid cold over the eons and millennia.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be good stewards of out planet. Freon is a good example where it was proven both that something we were doing (using freon) was harmful and stopping it was worth the trouble.
Carbon emissions are certainly something that we should keep an eye on. But alarmist cries that we are heating up the earth to unprecedented levels is clearly untrue. We’re nowhere close to where the earth itself has engineered its own global warming levels.
Nevertheless, we are called to be good stewards of the earth. As Christians we are taught:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Man was charged with the care of the place in which he was placed.
At the same time, we individually are incapable of impacting more than our individual range of responsibility and we are often fully engrossed in just accomplishing the task at hand:
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
So if you follow this instruction while not ignoring the charge given to us in Genesis chapter 1, each of us does the best we can today with what we are in charge of so that collectively the earth is properly tended by all of us together.
But the emphasis is that we have to take care of today.
So as stewards of the earth we need to be responsible in this area today and everyday.
As individuals that means using more energy efficient products. We insulate our houses better, reuse bags, cover our pots while cooking, turn off appliances and lights when not in use, and recycle. There are websites devoted to how we as consumers can help.
On a larger scale, businesses and governments have the same responsibility to be more efficient and steward the earth.
Its one of the first charges God gave to man. God gave us this earth, to keep it in good shape.
Contents of this Article
With Lustful Intent
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 ESV)
In the last article, we looked at the part of the verse “everyone who looks at a woman”, and identified that women are looked at more sexually by everyone in general, and especially men, in particular. We also looked at how women contribute to this process in their choice of attire.
In this article were going to focus on the words “with lustful intent” to get at the true meaning behind this teaching.
First, though, let’s look at some examples. Most of us enjoy some candy every now and then, or perhaps some ice cream. Let’s say you are at an ice cream place. At the wonderful ice cream store you have a generous serving of ice cream and it should be time to go. But your eyes are drawn to, lets’ say, a triple scoop hot fudge sundae, and your mouth starts drooling. You keep looking at that ice cream sundae, and you can almost taste it going down. You know that you have already had all you should have. Anymore and you could get fat, or spike your blood sugar which will cause health problems, weight gain, diabetes complications, and so on. But it looks so good. You look a long time.
How many people would say you have sinned? No, you are sorely tempted, but you have not sinned.
So let’s take it a step further. You don’t stop looking. Finally you can’t say no to the anticipation of more cold, sweet, gooey delight, so you go get that triple scoop chocolate fudge sundae, and start wolfing it down.
The question is when did you sin?
Before we answer let’s look at another example. Let’s say you are 12 years old again, and your brother just won’t stop mouthing off about something nasty about you. You could walk away, but you’re really angry. He really needs to stop talking that way about you. Part of your reasoning is that because he’s done it before he will do it again. And if you tell your parents it is just going to get both of you either a lecture, or some pious platitudes like, “You boys need to just get along. Go along and be friends, be brothers.” That’s never worked either. The more you think about it the madder you get.
So, you feel like you can’t take it anymore, you rear back and you sock your brother in the jaw.
Again, the question is when did you sin?
Here’s the answer. In the above case, you sin when you fully committed to actually throw the punch. In the ice cream store above, you sinned when you fully committed to overeat.
There is a point at which the desire to do something sinful wins. It captures the person’s mind and heart. They give in. That is the point of conception, the point at which the person changes from being tempted to having sinned.
That is what it’s talking about in Matthew 5:28. The verse is simply saying that just like everything else in life the sin doesn’t start with an action. It starts with the committed decision to do the action.
Matthew 5:28 gives in analogy form the method of how people sin. It starts with people being tempted. Some people are tempted and they don’t walk away from the temptation. Instead, they allow all the temptation to dwell and grow in their mind. The overeater, instead of walking out of the ice cream store, allows himself to just look at the delicious ice cream products until he just gives in, and decides to have too much. The 12-year-old doesn’t decide to walk away; instead he just keeps dealing with his brother, letting his anger build until he just gives in and starts fighting. And, likewise, the adulterer doesn’t turn his eyes away, but keeps looking and letting the desire build until it is overwhelming to him, and he gives in, and decides to go after the illicit sex.
The point is that sin is not just a physical act. It is a process. It starts with temptation, and a decision that results in an act. Jesus’ point here is that sin begins in the mind and heart. And the only way to stop sin is to change the mind and the heart.
Jesus taught about this same kind of thing in another parable:
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. (Matthew 21:28-31 ESV)
The above parable by Jesus really nails this idea of when sin actually happens. Here we have two sons. He told both of the sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son said he wouldn’t go. The second son said he was going to go. Jesus’ question is which of the boys did the father’s will. The answer is the second, the one who said he wouldn’t go.
Why? Because he changed his mind and went. The end result of his thinking process was that he did the right thing. The first son said he would go, but he sinned because he changed his mind and his resulting action was that he didn’t go.
This is a wonderful example. It shows how the mind reasons but can be changed. It shows that the end result is either sinning or acting righteously, and coupled with these other verses we see that the sin is conceived when the final decision is made to do the sinful act. And the most important part about this versus highlights that despite what you’re thinking in any given time in the process you only sin if you do the sinful act.
So what all have we learned here? We also see here that it is not sin to be tempted. In the previous article about this we talked about how men look at women naturally, instinctively. It is not a sin when a man’s eyes are attracted to the sight of a woman. And even when he is tempted, he has not sinned if he does not do the sinful act.
In Matthew 5:28, the key words are “with lustful intent”. With lustful intent refers to the fact that the person has decided to commit adultery. He’s done deliberating and he’s committed to doing the deed. The deliberation may have been long and hard or it may have been short and shallow. It doesn’t matter; a hasty decision is as much a decision as a lengthy one. Once you have made a decision, you now have intent.
It says that when a man has looked at a woman “with lustful intent” he has committed adultery with woman. It doesn’t say in Matthew 5:28 that when a man looks at a woman he has already committed adultery in his heart. It says when he has looked at a woman with “lustful intent”, when he has made the decision, when he means to do it, then he has committed adultery.
The writer of James addresses this concept also:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin… (James 1:14-15a ESV)
Isn’t this interesting? This really describes the process well. We all have desires. Some desires are not bad at all but good, like the desires to get some fresh air or to work in the garden or to be the best you can be at your job. However, some desires are enticing, luring, and captivating. Riches can be very captivating. Food can be very enticing. Power can be a great lure. And here, in our example, the pleasures of illicit sex can seem so wonderful.
But the concept I want to focus most in this verse is “desire…gives birth to sin.” Sin has a birth, a starting point. That starting point is when you no longer are just thinking about it, it’s the point where you intend to do something about it. There is that concept again: intent. It’s exactly the same as what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28; “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent…”.
The Covetousness Clause
It may complicate things for some people (although I don’t think it should), but there is another sin that may be part of this process.
Matthew 5:28 is specifically talking about the sin of adultery. The point of the verse is to realize that the sin of adultery doesn’t begin when you actually touch the other person, but when you become willing to. But don’t think that someone can lust, and not be sinning. We can’t think that we can lust and that we don’t sin unless we actually commit a physical adulterous act.
There is another sin that people can do, and it doesn’t involve touching other people at all. That sin is covetousness. Covetousness is a mental state of powerful, wrong desires. Just having powerful desires is not covetousness. Someone may have a powerful desire to become a doctor. That desire motivates them to study hard in school all their lives, to do the eight years of schooling beyond high school, to do the internships and all the other requirements to become a doctor. That’s not covetousness, that’s passion for a good thing. God wants us to maintain godly passions. Only ungodly passions are covetousness.
Yes, it is available to have a passion for the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. Instead of having a passion to be a doctor in order to be able to use all your talents for God and to help people heal, you could have a passion to be a doctor in order to be powerful, and to get rich so that you just get the things that you want for you. It’s all about you, you, you. That’s really covetousness for riches and power, and the person is willing to do the work of becoming a doctor in order to fulfill their covetousness for riches and power.
There are many examples of covetousness. A person walking around with his head driven with desire for big, expensive houses, fast cars, expensive vacations, partying is full of covetousness. A person walking around with his or her head full of desire to have sex with every person they desire is full of lust. The words of lust and covetousness are synonymous. Most people just use the word lust in reference to sex, but lust can refer to any object of desire from cars to food to houses to experiences like traveling and entertainment.
And again, some objects of desire are neutral. Having sex with someone you’re not married to is wrong, but it’s not wrong to own a car, a house, some food, or to go on a vacation. It’s a matter of balance. It’s a matter of the motives behind the actions.
It boils down to whether or not God is more important, or that car, house, vacation, or money is more important than God.
The reason covetousness is wrong is because it’s idolatry. Instead of God being the object of a person’s passion it’s for all those things above; the houses, the cars, the money, the sex, etc.
In the case of sexuality, the Father wants us to have a passion for our spouses. The book of Song of Solomon has a big section that talks about the love between a man and a woman. Our Father, God, made man and woman, and endorses the marriage bed. Part of being a newlywed is the huge excitement over sexual passion, and being able to enjoy an abundant sex life with your partner.
But again, to have a passion for something requires a choice, a decision. You could be tempted to want riches and honor, but faithful believers decide not to. They resist that temptation.
So, once again, it’s not a sin to be tempted; it becomes a sin when the decision is made to do a sinful act. One of the sinful acts is to covet the wrong things.
Freedom from Guilt over Being Tempted
We are talking about an incredibly important distinction, and how it relates to this area of sexuality. It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, yet he was found to be without sin. There is no reason for umpteen million men to feel guilty every time a beautiful woman enters their field of vision. It is especially important not to feel guilty if a man is out and about and sees an scantily clad girl on a billboard or on the beach or in the gym, or even just on the street. She doesn’t have to be scantily dressed, she can be just dressed in a that emphasizes her physical beauty. She’s dressed to look sexy, and she’s out in public for all to see.
(Again, one of the points that I hopefully made in the previous article is that women need to be more conscious of the affect they have on men in this area. And you men that want your wives to dress sexy in public need to think about this too.)
So men, be at peace. If a gorgeous, sexy woman pops into your field of vision and things start stirring, and your mind starts to think sexy thoughts, you haven’t sinned yet.
How to Deal With Sexual Temptation
Just stop looking. In the book of Job we see that Job made the decision to do this very thing:
I promised myself never to stare with desire at a young woman. (Job 31:1 CEV)
If you don’t want to eat candy, don’t go into to the candy store. If you don’t want to keep eating, get up from the table. And if you don’t want to commit adultery or the sin of lust, turn your eyes away, stop staring, look at something else, you get the idea.
We know that as simple as this sounds, this is not always easy to do from a strength and stamina viewpoint. There are many books, counseling programs, sexual addiction clinics and other therapy options all designed to deal with this issue. If it were so easy we would not need all those things. A lot of people need help overcoming this particular sin, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you need help, get it.
Still the concept is not complicated. When you find your eyes fixing on an object, and your desire building for something that you should not desire, move your eyes somewhere else.
Just remember the temptation is not sin. So, if you are tempted, don’t feel guilty about that. It is part of life. And it is not a sin unless you decide to act on it.
©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 ESV)
Sexual sin is a powerful topic in the Christian world. Lust, fornication, adultery, homosexuality are some of the these sins. And the above verse makes a powerful, if a little confusing statement about when sexual sin actually begins. I have heard some Christians teach that every time a man takes a long look at a woman’s body he is committing adultery. For some viewing a lingerie ad in the newspaper is crossing the line. This is their take on the verse above. Not all Christians take this extreme of a position. So what is right?
Rick Warren, one of the United States’ most famous pastors, said a while back that sometimes he feels attracted to women who are not his wife. He doesn’t act on it though.[i]
But still it gets to the point that men simply are attracted by women. And the younger, and more attractive the women are, the more this phenomenon happens. It also addresses the fact that even godly men’s eyes tend to look at women.
Now that I am older I have a much clearer idea on the male reaction to the sight of women. While my hormones are not yet back to pre-pubescent days, they are clearly dialed way down from the raging levels that they were in my teens and 20s.
I can remember being about eight years old where when I looked at a female of any I didn’t get any different reaction than from looking at a door knob.
But, at puberty, all of that changed dramatically. At the site of an attractive female, things began to happen in a dramatic fashion. Without getting too graphic, some of the lesser side effects might be an increased heartbeat, a little perspiration, an internal stirring.
And when it comes to looking, some of us, who played sports, have been trained from an early age to look with peripheral vision. This is the practice of being aware of your surroundings within the entire range that the eye can see from side to side. How this relates to this topic is that when an attractive female walks anywhere within the field of any man with peripheral vision the natural reaction is to focus on that vision.
Next, there is a clear difference in the way men and women are perceived in general in our society. Look at this quote from a study:
“When viewing female images, participants were better at recognizing individual parts than they were matching whole-body photographs to the originals. The opposite was true for male images: People were better at recognizing a guy as a whole than they were his individual parts.
People were also better at discerning women’s individual body parts than they were at men’s individual body parts, further confirming the local processing, or objectification, that was happening. “[ii]
I believe that this phenomenon where the individual parts of women are focused on more than men is not, at least, completely a natural process. Yes, there is a natural inclination for men to look at women. But I am drawing attention to the fact that women aren’t helping and that part of the reason for this is the way women’s clothes are designed, and the choices that women make in wearing clothing.
The fact is, apart from nuns and some members of a few religious groups most women want to be seen as “attractive”. And depending on the age of the woman, that greatly impacts how the woman dresses. In the United States, as well as many other places in the Western world, it is not uncommon to see young women in their revealing bikini bathing suits, or other similar revealing attire.
To boot, I have watched young women clad in such attire get incensed when some man looks at them. Women need to understand, and I’m using the term for anyone that is able to bear children, that human beings in general, and men in particular are instinctively attracted to the sight of body parts used in bearing children. That is what the study above shows. So when you expose all a lot of skin you are drawing attention to yourself in ways that you may not want.
Next, I’m going to go even further than that, and address some of what is considered more “modest” female attire in today’s society.
Compare female attire to men’s attire. Men’s clothes do not draw attention to their body parts on anywhere near the same scale as women’s clothes do. Often men’s shirts and slacks are loose enough that you really don’t have much of an idea of the man’s physique by looking at him dressed. Of course if he has on a relatively tight T-shirt and shorts that’s less true. But even in those cases, men’s clothes rarely show every curve on their bodies.
On the other hand, even a lot of matronly dresses are fitted so that the bosom, the waist, and the rear end are accentuated in a way to be seen as “attractive”. Whereas a man’s business suit, for example, includes a shirt and tie that covers him to his Adam’s apple, and with a squared jacket and straight leg pants you often have no idea what his body looks like under that garb. On the other side, a women’s business suit will still accentuate her “curves”. Women’s tops are made with “darts” which draw attention to their bosoms. A woman’s suit will often allow a top with exposure of a small amount of cleavage, while she may have a skirt that exposes her legs. And she may wear heels, which further serve to accentuate body parts, in this case, her legs. To top it off, women wear makeup and more jewelry than men as a rule, even in a business suit.
This example addresses the fact that even the most modest of women’s clothing, business dress, is designed to draw attention to women’s body parts. How much more then are our eyes drawn to a woman’s body parts when women make the decision to dress in more sexy clothing.
All of this contributes to a society where EVEN Christian women are usually dressed in clothing that draws attention to their body parts.
All of this is part of the equation when we talk about looking at women. So thus far we have just looked at the part of the verse “everyone who looks at a woman”, and identified that women are looked at more sexually by everyone in general, and also that women contribute to this process in their choice of attire.
In the next article I will talk about the words “with lustful intent”, and when looking becomes sin.