Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"The Seven Deadlies: Luxuria"

2 Samuel 11: 1-5

Proverbs 6: 23-35

Well, y’all have been waiting many weeks for this one, the seventh of Pope Gregory’s seven

deadlies; last in order of appearance; first in the poll which asked, “Of the seven deadly sins, which

one do I struggle with the most?”  35%. One in three respondents.  Statistically, that’s pretty significant,

and maybe even underreported.  It should come as no surprise that lust led the poll.  After all, which of

the deadlies garners more enticement from our society and popular culture?  Let’s be frank.  Lust sells,

and big time; bigger yet with each passing decade since that renowned 60’s era of so called “sexual liberation” and “free love.” 

I think there’s a high price being paid.  The Latin word translated lust is luxuria, and serves as the root of an English word:

luxury.  The meaning of this common word pretty well describes the sea change in our cultural worldview over the past

sixty or so years.  Webster’s definition: “indulgence in something which provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.

”  As Americans, we don’t like to admit this, but we’ve gone in a relatively short period from being one of the most

self-sacrificing societies on earth to one of the most self-indulgent.  And the overwhelming availability of temptation

to lust is symptomatic of something far deeper we’d rather not talk about over coffee at Panera’s.  I’ll return to my soapbox later.

     Let’s take a look at the effect lust and self-indulgence had upon one particular man; a great man;

in fact, the greatest and most powerful king Israel had ever known.  There’s not a lot of context to

be set.  David had done well for himself.  He was overcoming all his enemies.  He had wealth and

prestige, several sons, an intimate relationship with the Almighty. What more could he want?

          (Read 2 Samuel 11:1-5)

      How many of us would consider this a shocking story?  A national leader with great power at his

beck and call stooping low; using that power to gratify the desire of his flesh?  We might say in

an off-handed way, “It happens all the time.”  Therein lies the problem.  Lust has become the deadly

sin we wink at because it’s so ubiquitous; so common; so ever-present in virtually all expressions of

our popular culture.  Kings fall into it.  Politicians, government officials and business leaders fall into it.

  Preachers fall into it.  But God does not wink at sin, and certainly not the deadly one of lust.

      At this point, let’s define our terms.  Lust is often thought of as an intense desire or need for

satisfaction, mostly as it pertains to sexuality.  That definition is fine as far as it goes.  But beyond

sex, any discussion of lust leads us into the broader area of sensuality which is a craving for physical

pleasures of all kinds.  Understand that physical comforts -- the best of food and drink, the big

house and nice-looking car, the avoidance of pain and discomfort, even our human libido -- are not

in and of themselves bad things, nor is the desire for them.  But there is a line which is all too easily

crossed, when that normal and healthy desire grows into a self-destructive drive for pleasure out of

proportion to its worth.  Lust is the desire for gratification of the flesh which denies our spiritual

nature, and promotes the lie that this is all there is to life.  When that line is crossed, we objectify. 

Other people, for instance, become little more than means of satisfying our needs. They are viewed

as merely objects of service to us; to bring us our food; to run our business; to give us pleasure; to

gratify our desires.  This very thing was at the core of King David’s deadly sin of lust.

     What more could he want?  It seems David had it all.  But that afternoon, the writer of 2nd Samuel tells us,

David was kicking back on the roof of his home, which would have been akin to an open-air veranda.  He had sent

his armies off to fight against the Ammonites, opting himself to remain behind.  Why, we are not told.  At this point,

some compelling questions present themselves.  Was this the first time David had observed this beautiful woman bathing?

 Did the fact that, at this time when “Kings” such as himself went “out to battle,” he chose to send army commander

Joab in his stead tell us anything?  When he arose from his couch at some point and began walking about his roof, were

his eyes intentionally roving; perhaps to gaze upon some pleasure he had gazed upon before?  Was there some premeditation

to this entire affair?  Admittedly, answers to these questions remain largely in the realm of speculation.

     At any rate, David inquired about the woman and learned that her name was “Bathsheba, someone’s daughter,

and ironically “wife of Uriah the Hittite” who was out in the field fighting David’s battle.  With no reservations that

we can see, David used his power and position to send his envoys to get her and bring her to him, no questions asked

.  Isn’t it curious how those who surround power blindly support power, even when they know it’s dead wrong? 

And “he lay with her.  Then she returned to her house.”  “Wham, bam, thank you mam.”  That’s cold. 

That’s the point.

      It could have ended there and no one would have been the wiser.  But sin tends to find us out.

Not long after, we’re told that “The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.” 

Along with finding us out, sin tends to compound.  Upon getting this word, David sets in motion a plan to

squirm out of his indiscretion.  He calls Uriah from the field and tries to get him to have sex with his wife

so it would appear that this was their legitimate child, even getting Uriah

liquored up in the hope he would follow through.  But Uriah, being the devoted soldier and servant

he was, would not leave David’s side in this time of war.  Frustrated, David proposed the final solution. 

He sent a sealed letter to Joab – by Uriah’s hand – that instructed Joab to place Uriah on the front line,

then to draw back, so he would be killed.  And he was.  To make matters worse, when David received the

message that Uriah was dead, he sent back to Joab:  “Don’t let this matter trouble you, for the sword

devours now one and now another…… press your attack on the city, and overthrow it”  Not much

different than when mobster Tony Soprano, faking concern over

someone he himself ordered whacked, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Yeah, it’s a terrible thing. 

But what are you gonna do?”  When Bathsheba learned of her husband’s demise, she lamented. 

And “When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his

wife, and bore him a son.”  That’s cold.  That’s the point.

      But God does not wink at sin, and certainly not at David’s deadly sin of lust.  From that point on,

David and his house suffer the consequences of his actions, even though he later repented when a

court prophet by the name of Nathan brought a word of conviction. The child born to David and

Bathsheba dies at one week of age. Years later, David’s daughter Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon,

who proceeds to throw her out of the house.  Two years later, Amnon is murdered by his half-brother Absalom – Tamar’s full brother –

in an act of vengeance.  After a long time in exile, Absalom returns home, is received and forgiven by David,

then plots to steal his father’s throne.  In battle with the armies of his father, Absalom is killed by David’s general Joab. 

This entire string of tragic events seems to have been set in motion by David’s self-indulgent and self-destructive

drive for pleasure; by his desire for gratification of the flesh which denied his close relationship with his God,

and by his use of people as objects of his own pleasure and protection; by his deadly sin of lust. 

      When we hear of a great man of God like David falling into the sin of lust and all its pursuant

consequences, then consider that his only enticement was one beautiful woman bathing in his

view, while we in 21st century America are virtually bombarded by a culture where Bathsheba is

 within view everywhere we look – television programs and commercials; glossy magazines from

Cosmopolitan, to People, to Teen Beat, to Victoria’s Secret flyers; billboards and side panels of

busses; a few clicks in cyberspace – we have to wonder: what hope is there for us, where more

than three in ten admit that lust is their greatest struggle among the deadlies?  The easiest response –

the slothiest response – would be shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s a terrible thing.  But

what are you gonna do?”  But God does not wink an eye at lust, nor should we.

       When we get down to the fundamentals of the deadly sin of luxuria, at its heart lie three features,

all embedded in the story of David and Bathsheba, and close enough to us that we’d rather not talk about it over coffee.

  The first is that lust can be a compelling desire for anything that we have no right to desire.  Our primitive,

or some call animalistic, side may lead us, as it did David, to desire another’s spouse or partner.  This is a wrong desire, plain and simple. 

Not only is it a violation of God’s word, but an offense to societal decency.  Yet people act upon this lust every day. 

By-and-large, society winks or shrugs its shoulders.  Only a degree of self-control and self-mastery can save any one

of us from lust.  Self-control, as opposed to self-indulgence, is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed by the apostle

Paul in his letter to the Galatians.  And such fruit ripens in our lives only when we choose to live in a steady, committed

relationship with the Lord.  Even with that, it’s not easy, as David sadly learned.  But in the Lord, we have available

resources to stand against the enticements which so closely surround us:  Scripture, prayer, church, mutual accountability.

      Second is that lust can be the desire for a legitimate thing in an illegitimate way.  Stepping away

from the sexual aspect for just a moment, things like power, image, influence, prosperity can be

used rightly and well.  But the line is always there which becomes too easy to step over.  David

certainly knew the line he was crossing when he used his legitimate God-ordained power and

position to simply say to a servant:  What a beautiful woman!  Bring her to me.  No questions

asked.  With that same legitimate God-ordained power and position, David commanded Joab to

have Uriah  done away with.  Here again, as we’d talked about several weeks ago with regard to

greed, legitimate things like power, image, influence, prosperity must be restrained rather than

indulged – like the muscles of an athlete which are controlled for maximum efficiency without

damage.  For in this feature of lust, when we overindulge ourselves in these otherwise good things,

they can ultimately end up controlling us.  A desire for these can develop into a self-destructive

drive, and hence, a deadly sin.

      Finally, and most malignant, is that lust can turn people into objects.  This is most obvious as

we’re exposed daily if not hourly to a barrage of sexual imagery.  What was Bathsheba for David,

really, but a sexual image?  He didn’t desire her for her mind; her wit; her tenderness; their shared

values.  All around us is this imagery.  There are persons involved of course, but we don’t know

who they are, or care.  We’re not interested in their mind, wit, tenderness, or values.  They are

simply presented as objects to be gazed upon and desired, whether advertising a product from

Madison Avenue or faking love in Hollywood.  Objectifying persons – God’s precious creations all –

is a grievous sin; people offered up as means to an end; that end, sexual pleasure.

      Such lust can even enter into, or serve as motivation for, marriage when sex is not a mutual expression of love,

but rather the use of one person by another, even if that use is mutual.  And as

many have learned, this sort of lust within the boundaries of marriage breeds dissatisfaction, resentment, eventual alienation,

temptation to step outside, and ultimate ruin. 

      As a last word on this last of the seven deadlies, I would say that when we really think about it,

 lust is below us.  It’s an enslavement to the senses; a bondage to the animal part of us.  But God

has called us to be so much more; to live on a higher plain, even as the crowning jewel of God’s

created order.  Moreover, lust tends to deaden our spiritual senses so we cannot hear God’s voice.

For that reason alone, we must resist mightily, difficult as that is, and bombarded as we are. 

Unrepented lust is a solid barrier to growth in faith, as well as a barrier to the growth of genuine

and God-ordained relationships.  So rather than joining our culture in winking an eye or shrugging a

shoulder at this – and all of the seven deadly sins – let’s pursue the road of a higher righteousness;

in what we think; in what we look at; in what we say; all to the glory of Almighty God, who both

convicts, and forgives.  Amen.