Bring Back Lust
Have you noticed that the word “lust” is being purged from the Bible?
The Greek word for lust (epithemia) points to inner sin thirty-four times in the New Testament. In the vast majority of these places it has traditionally been properly translated as “lust” or the archaic and more precise word, “concupiscence.”
Not Any More
Unfortunately, modern translations, such as the New International Version (NIV) are abandoning the word lust and frequently substituting phrases such as “evil desires” or “sinful desires.” The NIV chooses to not use lust thirty of thirty-four times.
The Greek verb for lust (epithemeo) receives similar treatment. In fact, the only place that it survives as lusting in the NIV is in the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:28). No doubt His piercing teaching about lust being adultery in the heart is too well known and precise to be messed with.
This trend is carrying over into Christian literature, where entire books about sexual purity and morality are written without ever using the word “lust.”
Same thing applies to teachers. When did you last hear a sermon or teaching about lust?
Admittedly, the Greek words described above literally mean “desire.” However, that has never sidetracked translators before and it certainly does not justify them adding the words “evil” or “sinful” when these are not in the Greek at all.
That lust is sinful is written on our hearts and is recognized as such by all major religions. The difference is that Christians are taught an effective way to deal with it.
Here is why using fuzzy phrases such as “sinful desires” or “evil desires” where the Bible speaks of lust is a mistake, especially when talking about sexual sin:
- It can cause us to give up. After all, we cannot effectively rid ourselves of wrongful sexual desires—the misdirected ones. That would be a hopeless task. Why then make it appear that God is looking for us to do that?
- It takes the focus away from what we need to do. We are taught to deny lust (Titus 2:11-13). This means obeying Jesus and not gratifying wrongful desires in our hearts. This gratification is when sin kicks in—not before.
The critical difference between merely desiring something and lusting is lost when we avoid the word lust. Here is a simple test to illustrate this point. Try inserting “evil desires” or “sinful desires” into the classic list of seven deadly vices, where lust stands tall. See how it doesn’t work? Like the other vices on that list, lust is an action word.
We must not forget that lust “wars against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
A key weapon against us in this warfare is deception (Ephesians 4:22). Using the right words and being clear as to what we are dealing with takes away the confusion and forces us to face up to our excuses and rationalizations. Doing this, we can no longer argue that merely giving up observable behaviors is all that is expected of us or that God is looking for more than what we can do.
In Christ, we can overcome lust.