Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lust & Marriage

Knowing that the Bible often condemns lust, a Christian friend asked: If a husband lusts for his wife, is he sinning?

Below is my response.


I am inclined to say, “No.” In fact, the Bible encourages marital sex.
Each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other . . . (1Corinthians 7:2-5)

(It seems there were some in the Corinthian church who mistakenly believed that “holy” living required husbands and wives to abstain from marital sex—sex is “bad.” Paul is correcting their error.)

Logically, if scripture encourages marital sex (sex which is exclusive and consensual between husband and wife—I’m not talking about “child brides,” third parties, or sex acts that one spouse feels is degrading or painful) then it must not discourage sexual desire between husband and wife.

So in my estimation, sexual desire within the context of Christian marriage is not sinful per se. We may think of verses such as Proverbs 5:18-20 to illustrate this.

Also, Hebrews 13:4 comes to mind which reads, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

Thus it seems that sexual desires and sex acts (as qualified above) within the parameters of marriage are not sinful. In other words, the Bible provides a context for the morally good expression of human sexuality: Christian marriage.

Now, Jesus does say, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mathew 5:28).

But Jesus isn’t speaking of husband and wife. Here He is speaking of illicit (not marital) sexual desire. When a person encourages/expresses/feeds sexual desires for someone who is not his/her spouse, that person is committing adultery in his/her heart.

(Obviously having sex with one’s own spouse is not adultery! So thinking about having sex with one’s own spouse is not “adultery in the heart.”)

Whenever the Bible condemns lust (which is basically a synonym for desire) it is condemning one’s yearnings for things and/or persons which are not rightfully one’s to have. 

Naturally, lusts for forbidden things and/or people should be discouraged, fought, and prayed against. 


  1. I think you missed one thing. There is a difference between lust and healthy desire. Lust is an evil propensity; depraved affections and desires.as defined by James 1:14-16.

    Lust is about self satisfaction. The desire we should have for our spouse is one of giving of ourselves, not takiing of pleasure.

    1. I know this is believed by many Christians, but biblically, this is inaccurate. “Desire” and “lust” are often the same term in Greek: “epithumeo.” (“Epithumeo” is the term found in James 1:14,15. You may notice that newer translations render “epithumeo” here in James as “desire.”)

      Strong’s defines “epithumeo” thus, “to set the heart upon, i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise): covet, desire, would fain, lust (after).”

      Hence (as I point out in the article) “lust” or “desire” may be good or bad depending upon what is being yearned for.

      Let me provide you with a few examples of how “epithumeo” (lust/desire) is used in a good way.

      Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts [epithumeo] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . .” (The Spirit “lusts” but clearly the Spirit has no “depraved affections” or “evil propensity.”)

      1Tim 3:1, “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires [epithumeo] a good work.”

      1Peter 1:12, “ . . . things [the gospel] which angels desire [epithumeo] to look into.”

      Luke 22:15, “Then He [Jesus] said to them, ‘With fervent desire [epithumeo] I have desired to eat this Passover with you . . .’”

      Thanks for reading and thinking.

  2. Good article. Very revealing, as the comments are also.

    1. Thanks for reading, friend. Have a great weekend.

  3. Great article. I would add 1 Cor 7:9, which says "But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." This implies that a persons sexual desires aimed at a spouse are not sinful. Moreover, it also suggests that one of the purposes for marriage is to properly direct sexual desires.

    On the other hand, I would also warn that thinking about or treating a spouse merely as a sexual object would be a sin. Related to that would also be that sex, even marital sex, could become an idol if people are too wrapped up in it.

    1. Excellent.

      Yes, husbands should not view or treat their wives in a dehumanizing way. (Dehumanizing folks for sexual gratification is a real problem in a pornographic culture such as ours.)

      Thanks for reading and thinking.