The Lust of the Eyes

John writes that we should not love the world.  1 John 2:15-17 “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. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” The second characteristic of a love for the world is the lust of the eyes. Lust denotes a strong desire.  The lust of the eyes, therefore, is a strong desire for things that we see with our eyes. 

Eve had the lust of the eyes when she was tempted with the forbidden fruit in the garden.  Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” During the destruction of Jericho, Achan disobeyed God because of his lust of the eyes. Joshua 7:20-21 “And Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.’” His lust was for the clothes and the riches.

Looking upon a woman to lust for her seems to be a combination of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.  Matthew 5:27-29 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”  David succumbed to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes with the woman named Bathsheba.  2 Samuel 11:2-5 “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, ‘I am with child.’” Adultery resulted from David’s lust.

Covetousness appears to be closely related to the lust of the eyes.  It can be defined as a strong desire for the possession of something, especially wealth – to lust for it.  Some narrow the definition to be a strong desire to have that which belongs to another; that seems to be the definition of covetousness used in the tenth of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” With either definition of covetousness, it should be clear that covetousness is contrary to how God wants us to be and that it is closely related to the lust of the eyes. There can be a long list of things where we might covet.  It could be almost anything – a cell phone, a car, a motorcycle, a recreational vehicle, a house, jewelry, riches, wealth, a computer or computer game, clothes, physical beauty, special abilities, or a sexually desirable person.

The apostle Paul exhorted us against covetousness in Colossians 3:5-7 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”  The wrath of God is coming upon those who are covetous.  Note that Paul describes covetousness as idolatry.  In Ephesians 5:5 Paul also says that a covetous man is an idolater and that he has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Rather than worshipping Jehovah God and serving Him, the covetous person in effect worships what he covets; whatever it is, it becomes more important than God and he thinks his happiness and well-being are dependent upon his possession of what he covets. But our Father in heaven does not want us to have any other gods before Him; that is why covetousness is so wrong. Ephesians 5:3 “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints.”

The opposite of covetousness is contentment.  Hebrews 13:5-6 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”  God wants us to be content and thankful for what we have and not covet what someone else has. Luke 12:15 “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” The desire to be rich is closely associated with the lust of the eyes. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).  I encourage you to be content and trust that your Heavenly Father will supply you everything that you need; He will never forsake you.

King Solomon had the resources to have anything that his heart desired. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”  Solomon concluded that trying to satisfy his lust of the eyes did not bring lasting fulfillment.  He called it “vanity and grasping for the wind.”  I encourage you to ask God to give you contentment and keep you from the lust of the eyes.

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