There are many men who have much less than me,
Day by day, they make their way
And they find more in life than I can see
Tell me when will I learn to resist wanting things,
Touching things that say, ‘Do not touch’
-“Wanting Things” from the musical “Promises, Promises”
It’s a cruel fact of life in this fallen world that we want more than (and other than) what we really need.
People who overeat will tell you their craving for more food, and usually more of the wrong kind, can be relentless, even if they just had a good meal. People enamored of money will tell you their 250K annual income doesn’t satisfy, because there’s always a richer someone-else. And like the character from the play quoted above, plenty of men with loving, lovely wives step away from what they have in search of what they’ll never achieve: perfect sexual satisfaction, the flawless affair, the ultimate erotic experience.
All because we want more than what we need, and all because we’re foolish enough to pursue it.
It’s that second part – “we’re foolish enough to pursue it” – which gets my attention today.
The first part is a given, I’m pretty sure, for everyone. At times we all covet, lust, envy, or simply crave what’s not rightfully ours. Those are all sins, certainly, and should be recognized and guarded against. But they’re also common symptoms of the flesh, a constant, not so gentle reminder that I am indeed my father Adam’s son, beset with temptations I’d rather not have but need to deal with anyway. And when I do – when I feel them coming on and beckoning me – as long as I’m willing to see them for what they are, confess them to God as mental sins, and refuse to give in to them, then they’re really no big deal.
But there are two common and serious mistakes I can make when I’m wanting what’s not rightfully mine.
What a Little Lust Between Friends?
First, I can minimize the sin, telling myself that giving in to lust over an image, or a fantasy, is “no big deal,” or that a minor flirtation is hardly a felony. By minimizing it, I’m also minimizing the severity of where it all can go, and if anyone really needs a lesson in that, they should look no further than II Samuel 11, where David made a quick decision to indulge his lust rather than turn from it. Nothing less than the murder of an innocent man and the death of a beloved infant came as a result.
Now what was that again about “no big deal?”
Oh, the Agony!
Second, I can stupidly conclude that I simply can’t stand saying “no” to my flesh when it begs for a treat. It’ll just be too uncomfortable, the temptation will linger too long, I’ll get too frustrated, it’ll all be too much to handle. So, you see, I have to give in.
I got a nice example of this over the weekend, when celebrating an early Thanksgiving dinner with some family members who’ll be out of town on Thanksgiving Day. While we dined, their sweet dog spotted an easy target, parked his head on my leg, sighed and flashed that hungry puppy look at me. You know, the one that says, “They never feed me, I’m starving, please take pity!” I’m a sucker for that, and dogs know it.
So does my flesh, which whimpers, pouts, and puts its puppy dog eyes on, telling me it’s unbearable resisting sin, I’m being mean, just one round of lust, please?
Two of the greatest lies we believe about sexual sin are that it won’t really be a big deal, and that resisting it is beyond our capacity. Which is exactly why, as you read this, there’s a Christian guy somewhere giving himself permission to view porn, bed a woman he’s not married to, or ogle performers at a strip bar.
A “Thank You” Which Counts
Thanksgiving is coming up, and like you, I want to both express and prove my gratitude. My Dad used to say, “It’s nice of you to thank me, but words are cheap. Kindly show your appreciation in a concrete way.”
Funny. My Heavenly Dad is still saying that today, reminding me that thanking Him for His grace and kindness is all well and good, but offering my body up as a living sacrifice is far better. (Romans 12: 1)
So let’s do some practical thanksgiving today. At some point, we will want more than what we need. We’ll also want what’s not rightfully ours, and when we do, we’ll make a decision to either resist or indulge our cravings. When that happens, let’s worship Him with our bodies, conforming these vessels to His purposes, and honoring Him with the way we manage them.
That’s one of the best ways I know to show my appreciation, as Dad used to say, “in a concrete way.”