Lust is a major issue that can creep into any marriage and wreak havoc if left unchecked. As Christians, it’s important that we look to God’s Word for guidance on how to deal with lust and maintain purity within marriage. In this blog post, we’ll explore what the Bible has to say about lust within marriage and provide key takeaways for couples.
Marriage is an sacred institution created by God, and as such, it needs to be protected and nurtured. One of the biggest threats to marriage is lust, which can lead to adultery if left unrestrained. This is why it’s critical for married couples to understand what the Bible teaches about lust and how to safeguard their marriage from it.
The Bible provides clear principles and instructions for couples to follow in order to keep lust out of their marriage. By adhering to these biblical guidelines, husbands and wives can experience greater intimacy and faithfulness in their relationship with each other and with God.
- Lust is defined as any desire for someone or something that is outside of God’s design for marriage. It goes beyond normal sexual attraction between spouses.
- Lust usually stems from a heart that is not fully devoted to God. A right relationship with God is key to overcoming lust.
- Spouses must be intentional about maintaining purity of heart, mind, and body. This requires self-discipline and conscious effort.
- Couples should avoid things that awaken lust, such as pornography, and instead pursue things that align with God’s standards.
- Husbands and wives must see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ first and foremost.
- Express love through service, sacrifice, and gifts of the Spirit, not through selfish sexual demands.
- Rely on the Holy Spirit, prayer, accountability, and Scripture to defeat lust and build a marriage of purity.
Defining Lust Biblically
In order to grasp what the Bible teaches about lust, we first need to understand how it is defined scripturally. The Greek word translated “lust” in the New Testament is “epithumia”, which means a strong or passionate desire and is used for both positive and negative desires. In and of itself, “epithumia” is morally neutral. However, when directed at immoral or selfish ends, it becomes sinful.
The NKJV Bible Dictionary defines lust as:
“Lust is any desire that is contrary to the will of God. The word is often used in reference to sexual sin, but it can refer to any strong desire that is selfish or sinful.”
Lust is a form of covetousness – an intense craving for something that does not rightfully belong to us. It goes far beyond normal sexual attraction and desire for a spouse. It is an unrestrained, misplaced desire focused solely on selfish pleasure and self-gratification, without regard for God or others.
The 10th commandment in Exodus 20:17 warns against coveting anything that belongs to your neighbor, including their spouse. Jesus also equates lustful intent with actual immorality in Matthew 5:28:
“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NKJV)
This verse indicates that lust involves intentional gazing and dwelling on desires for someone other than a spouse. It begins in the mind and heart before manifesting in physical actions.
Origins of Lust
In order to overcome lust, we need to understand where it comes from. What causes these ungodly desires that can wreak havoc in a marriage?
A heart not fully devoted to God:
More than anything else, lust springs from a divided heart and misplaced worship. Our souls were created to find fulfillment in God alone. When we look elsewhere for satisfaction, it leads to coveting, jealousy, and lust. Unfulfilled longing gets directed at other people and things, which the Bible calls idolatry.
James 4:1-3 explains the source of lust this way:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (NKJV)
The cure for lust is intimacy with God through Christ. As we seek Him first and ask according to His will, other desires fade. A heart fully devoted to the Lord has no room for idolatrous lust.
Not fleeing temptation:
While lust originates in the heart, there are things we can expose ourselves to that inflame those desires. Things like pornography, romantic movies and books, flirtatious friendships, revealing fashions, and sexually charged environments. 1 Corinthians 6:18 instructs us to “flee sexual immorality.” This means avoiding tempting situations whenever possible. If we play with fire, we’re bound to get burned.
Not controlling your thoughts:
Lust may start with seemingly innocent thoughts that get out of control. Fantasizing about someone other than your spouse, reliving a romantic encounter, or imagining sexual activities can lead the mind down a dangerous path. Taking every thought captive and directing your mind toward purity is critical in the fight against lust (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Not making your marriage a priority:
When spouses are not intentional about meeting one another’s needs, cultivating intimacy, and making their marriage a priority, it can create a vulnerable place for lust to creep in. The less satisfied a spouse feels in the marriage, the more prone they are to sexual temptation. Marriage requires constant effort and vigilance.
Biblical Warnings Against Lust
The Bible contains many direct warnings against unrestrained lust and covetousness. Here are a few key verses that speak to this issue:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” (Exodus 20:17)
This 10th commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai clearly prohibits coveting anything that belongs to your neighbor, including their spouse. Lusting after another woman is a form of covetousness.
“Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19)
Solomon warns his sons to avoid looking outside their marriage for sexual fulfillment. Instead, he instructs them to rejoice in the wife of their youth and maintain an intimate, exclusive bond with her.
“Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.” (Proverbs 6:25)
This verse warns against letting your heart or mind dwell on the beauty of an immoral woman, which is the seed of adultery.
“Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
As mentioned earlier, Jesus equates lust with the physical act of adultery. Even mental unfaithfulness is sin in God’s eyes.
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Paul instructs the Corinthians to run from sexual temptation, explaining that sexual sin uniquely impacts one’s own body and soul.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)
Lusting after what the world offers reveals a heart not fully devoted to God. The two cannot coexist.
How to Maintain Purity in Marriage
Now that we understand how the Bible defines lust and recognizes it as a serious threat to marriage, how should couples maintain purity in their relationship? Here are some practical principles and steps for guarding against lust.
Cultivate your relationship with God: As discussed earlier, misplaced desires originate from a divided heart. Make your personal walk with God a priority through prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and obedience. Set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2).
View your spouse as a brother or sister in Christ: Remember that you are first and foremost family in the Lord. See each other as beloved children of God and treat them with the honor and respect that demands. Viewing your spouse as an object of lust is a distortion of God’s design for marriage.
Beware of false intimacy: Do not share your heart, pains, hopes and dreams with someone of the opposite sex, which can lead to emotional and physical bonding. Reserve this type of intimacy exclusively for your spouse.
Train your eyes and thoughts: Commit to not letting your eyes or mind linger on anything that awakens illicit desire. Recognize lustful thoughts quickly and reject them. Avoid exposing yourself to tempting images, movies, music, books, conversations, etc.
Don’t play with fire: Do not flirt with, be alone with, correspond privately with, or become emotionally bonded to someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse. Do not get yourself into tempting situations.
Communicate needs and set boundaries: If your spouse is doing something that awakens lust (certain clothes or behavior), share your struggle humbly and set mutual boundaries you both will honor.
Express love through service and sacrifice: Show affection through acts of service, quality conversation, and spiritual intimacy. Focus on fulfilling your spouse’s needs rather than your own appetites.
Pursue mutual fulfillment: Seek to satisfy each other sexually and protect the marriage bed. Be available both physically and emotionally. Prioritize time together.
Confess and pray: Bring lust issues immediately to God in prayer. Confess struggles to your spouse and accountable friends. Pray together for purity.
Rely on Holy Spirit: Yield moment by moment to the Holy Spirit. Walking in the Spirit leaves no room for lust (Galatians 5:16). He will empower you to overcome.
Immerse yourself in the Word: Meditate on Scriptures about purity, singleness of heart, and self-control. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is key to overcoming sin.
Bible Verses to Overcome Lust
One of the most powerful weapons God has given us to combat lust and adultery is His Word. Here are some key Bible verses couples can memorize and meditate on to maintain purity:
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9)
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1)
“Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:13-14)
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
“Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.” (Proverbs 6:25)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:14)
“Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.” (Romans 13:13)
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
Couples should commit these to memory and reflect on them daily as they seek to keep lust out of their marriage.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in Overcoming Lust
One of the keys to defeating lust is embracing and relying on the empowering grace of the Holy Spirit. As Christ followers, God has given us His Spirit to enable us to overcome sinful desires and walk in freedom and purity:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16, 24-25)
As we yield moment by moment to the Spirit’s control and walk in step with His promptings rather than our fleshly appetites, we have power to subdue lust.
The Spirit cultivates new desires to replace immoral cravings. When we feel tempted, we can pause and pray for strength and redirection rather than acting on impulse. The Spirit provides us a way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Relying on willpower alone sets us up for failure. We need the Spirit’s supernatural power to overcome something so humanly ingrained as lust. Through His strength, husbands and wives can experience freedom from lust’s destructive grip.
The Importance of Accountability
In addition to relying on the Holy Spirit, couples serious about maintaining purity in their marriage need to enlist the help of accountability partners.
Having friends of the same gender who will ask the hard questions and keep you honest is imperative to defeating lust. The Bible instructs us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Bringing struggles into the light before others robs sin of its power.
Accountability could include:
- Installation of filtering/monitoring software on computers/phones with the accountability partner having access to reports.
- Periodic check-ins about lust struggles and specific situation that arose.
- Asking how your marriage is going and if there are any emotional bonds forming outside it.
- Reviewing marital intimacy and expectations.
- Prayer support as you face difficult situations or feelings.
- Confiding any infidelities that may have occurred.
This level of transparency and oversight is uncomfortable but absolutely essential to protect a marriage from the devastating effects of unchecked lust. The right accountability partners provide wisdom, support, and loving discipline to help couples stay the course.
Lust poses an extreme danger to any marriage. Its destructive impact can unfold slowly and subtly over time. That’s why couples must remain vigilant and intentional about combating it.
The Bible provides clear guidance for defining, avoiding, and overcoming lust. It begins with both spouses nurturing an exclusive heart devotion to God. This fills the void that leads to coveting. Secondly, couples must be proactive about eliminating influences that inflame lust and controlling their thought lives. Finally, relying on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and enlisting caring accountability partners provides protection when temptation strikes.
If you or your spouse are struggling with lust, do not lose heart. Confess, seek help, and take every thought captive. God provides the way out. Through His grace and the many spiritual resources He provides, you can build a marriage characterized by selfless Christ-centered love, intimacy, and lasting faithfulness.