SOTM: Matthew 5:27-30 (Lust, Part 2)

SOTMWho’s to blame?

Notice that Jesus does not blame the woman for how the man thinks of her. Jesus is very plainly making the point that men can control their thoughts. But this does not mean that women aren’t accountable for how they dress or for flirting with men they cannot have.

After all, a woman who loves her neighbor would not want to tempt men to sin — even if it’s ultimately that man’s choice. Why tempt him at all? Why be selfish?

I pity any minister or eldership that needs to confront women in their church about how they dress. Women can be incredibly defensive about their clothing choices — and unspeakably naive about how their clothing affects the men around them.

Now, there are some churches where the leadership is so caught up in legalism that they make foolish demands on women. But in the vast majority of cases, the reason the leadership is objecting to how a woman dresses is because the men are complaining — because they don’t wish to be tempted or distracted. They find the woman’s revealing dress a problem for their own obedience to God and are asking for help. A woman who refuses is acting in an unspeakably selfish way.

In other words, if you don’t think your clothing is inappropriate and the men do, the men are right. After all, it’s the men who best know how men react to a woman’s clothing.

Some women were so restricted by the church they grew up in or by overly conservative parents that, having become adults, they act out their childhood frustrations by dressing provocatively  — or by dressing their daughters this way. And that does not make it right.

Give your elders a break and honor their instructions. If you doubt their conclusions, find some men who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth and ask them. Most men will answer honestly.

The woman’s words

The scriptures teach —

(Pro 5:3-4 ESV)  3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil,  4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 

I suspect that far more adulteries are committed due to a woman’s speech than her clothing. Every elder and every minister should read Shirley Glass’s NOT “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. Glass is a Christian counselor, and she explains that nowadays fthe vast majority of affairs arise because a man (or woman) made friends with a woman (or man) in which he developed an emotional bond through sharing his life in a way that should have happened with his spouse.

From the Introduction —

Surprisingly, the infidelity that I’m seeing these days is of a new sort. It’s not between people who are intentionally seeking thrills, as is commonly believed. The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Eighty-two percent of the unfaithful partners I’ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, “just a friend.” Well-intentioned people who had not planned to stray are not only betraying their partners but also their own beliefs and moral values, provoking inner crises as well as marital ones. …

The significant news about these new affairs–and what is different from the affairs of previous generations–is that they originate as peer relationships. People who truly are initially just friends or just friendly colleagues slowly move onto the slippery slope of infidelity. In the new infidelity, secret emotional intimacy is the first warning sign of impending betrayal. Yet, most people don’t recognize it as such or see what they’ve gotten themselves into until they’ve become physically intimate.

Most people mistakenly think it is possible to prevent affairs by being loving and dedicated to one’s partner. I call this the “Prevention Myth,” because there is no evidence to support it. My experience as a marital therapist and infidelity researcher has shown me that simply being a loving partner does not necessarily insure your marriage against affairs. You also have to exercise awareness of the appropriate boundaries at work and in your friendships. …

In the new infidelity, however, affairs do not have to be sexual. Some, such as Internet affairs, are primarily emotional. The most devastating extramarital involvements engage heart, mind, and body. And this is the kind of affair that is becoming more common. Today’s affairs are more frequent and more serious than they used to be because more men are getting emotionally involved, and more women are getting sexually involved.

These are called “emotional affairs,” not because they are affairs that touch the emotions but because these are relationships based on an emotional connection that is just as wrong as a sexual relationship. That is, the husband should not be engaged in certain kinds of conversations with a woman not his wife — and vice versa. His deepest emotional bond and hence his deepest conversations should be with his wife. And when another woman allows herself to take on the role of his wife as confidant and emotional support, physical adultery will soon follow.

For the man, this is a different kind of “lust.” It’s not desiring the woman as a sex object, but desiring her to fill an emotional need that should come only from his wife. He is using her just the same — taking from her something he’s not allowed to have. He “lusts” after her sympathy and listening ear — which soon turns to sexual attraction.

This will be astounding to many wives, who desperately want their husbands to open up to them emotionally and find their husbands unwilling to do so. And I’m no counselor or psychiatrist. Every marriage is different. But all wives need to learn how to be a safe place for her husband to share his anxieties and fears. If a husband tells his wife that he’s afraid of being laid off, and the wife become inconsolable or blames the husband for not working hard enough or vents for half an hour in bitter anger, her husband will go looking for a better listener.

If the husband chooses a male friend for this purpose, that would be a really good thing. And this is one reason I encourage the formation of accountability groups — groups of three or four men (or women, but not both) who meet weekly to share their lives in light of the scripture and to help each other be the man God wants him to be. The formation of more such groups would doubtlessly dramatically reduce the number of affairs and divorces in our churches.

The problem arises when the man feels uncomfortable sharing with his wife and has no male friends he can talk to at this level — and this is an extremely common situation. If he then finds a woman to be his “work wife,” as some say, trouble is just over the horizon.

What’s the solution? Again, I’m well outside of my expertise, but I would think along these lines —

* Marriage classes in which wives are coached to be better listeners — likely with no men present. It’s hard for men to find other men to talk to in today’s society.

* And the same arrangement for husbands. Women more easily share their feelings with other women. Nonetheless, every spouse needs a spouse who can listen supportively and without judgment.

*  Encourage the formation of accountability groups — not to be confused with “small groups” for Bible study or fellowship. Accountability groups will study the Bible, but they cannot be bigger than four — the size of a breakfast or lunch table. Men struggle to share their feelings at all. It’s just not going to happen in a larger group. And they can’t do canned lessons based on the sermon. It has to be material about how to live for Jesus.

* Warn the congregation about the temptation to create work-spouses. Be plain-spoken. Have the young children removed from the audience for children’s worship and then discuss adultery and sexual infidelity unambiguously. Avoid euphemisms. Set an example for how to talk about these things appropriately without a hint of Victorianism. Call sex “sex.” The church will be very grateful for both the lesson, the clear language, and the honesty.

* Encourage men to become friends of other men who listen — even if not in an accountability group. In fact, many men would prefer to do their talking over a fishing pole. That would be excellent, provided his friends encourages him to make Jesus-centered choices.

* Coach the elders and ministerial staff on how to see the warning signs of a dangerous male-female friendship. In fact, this temptation will be especially strong for ministers, because women will find in them a man who will listen and sympathize, often unlike their husbands. This is one reason so many ministers have succumbed to adultery. They make great friends for female members.

And this is why male ministers may not have these kinds of relationships and why strict rules are needed limiting counseling of women by male ministers. Men can be just as foolishly naive as women when it comes to thinking, “We’re ‘just friends’ even though I enjoy spending time with her much more than my wife.”

* In short, educate your members and provide solutions, not just warnings and condemnations.

PS — I’ve never heard a sermon along these lines. Ever. But then I’ve only been going to church for 60 years.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to SOTM: Matthew 5:27-30 (Lust, Part 2)

  1. Ray Downen says:

    Some things are not appropriately spoken of in sermons to mixed audiences, which may be why we don’t hear sermons on the topic of appropriate friendships. Jay is free to write about this topic, and anyone is free to write or discuss the topic. That doesn’t mean sermons should be addressing the situation.

  2. Adam says:

    I don’t agree. I think it’s because they have the tendency to live in the church bubble ane have no clue how it might be and thus don’t know how to address it.

  3. Gary says:

    Jay, you’ve reverted here to a 1950’s mindset. Despite your disclaimers in the beginning you place the burden of men’s impure thoughts on women. But, that aside, you write as if all men are straight. Every church has men in it who are sexually attracted to other men. Most of them are likely married to women. Many are so deeply in the closet no one would even suspect that they are homosexual. So, continuing your theme, how should men dress so as not to sexually tempt other men? For gay men it’s not so much a matter of showing skin that’s a temptation but more clothes that fit snugly and reveal the male form. Will you as an elder talk to men who wear pants that reveal a bulge and the outline of their buttocks and ask them to wear looser fitting clothes? Will you ask well-muscled men who wear tailored shirts to wear bigger shirts? This is 2015 and to attempt to discuss this subject as if all men are heterosexual is not realistic. This subject also has implications for most overnight men’s group activities involving showers, sleeping arrangements and men dressing in front of each other. There are probably more closeted gay men in conservative churches today than in any other groups. Conservative churches also still usually proceed as if the only gay men are those who have come out. That’s a real fantasy.

  4. laymond says:

    I say check the log in our own eye before we start digging in another’s sins. I believe Jesus said if you can’t control your own eye, pull it out. Don’t blame a woman’s clothes for your own roaming eye. go see a doctor. And I don’t believe any of this is said to be inexcusable sins. It wouldn’t make any difference what a woman wares, some pervert would see it as sinful.
    What kind of bathing suit would be suitable for a Christian woman ? is it alright to ware a revealing suit on the beach ? I am pretty sure God can see you on the beach. If a woman were to swim in an overcoat she would probably drown. If you say a man has a problem with the way Christian women dress, you are right, he has the problem.

  5. laymond says:

    “Encourage men to become friends of other men who listen” yeah, as Gary said that is a great idea.
    The married men who go to the church leaders to complain, are sent by their wife.
    If a man is so week he can’t control his own lust, worship at home with his wife.

  6. Monty says:

    I have seen attractive women wear blouses cut so low, that I couldn’t even look in their direction. That’s not on the man. LOL! I would suppose some of these arguments drawn out to their logical conclusion would mean we could all worship naked and it would be on the men not to look. Again LOL!

  7. Alabama John says:

    On the other hand, if you are not attracted to the other sex in some way, check your pulse as you have something bad wrong with you.
    Humans are like animals and will come in heat every so often.

  8. Dwight says:

    Laymond, Both men and women should be aware of what they place out there for others to see and fall victim to. We are not to cause another to stumble and men are easy stumblers to sex, but this can be true of women too, but to a lesser degree. A scantly dressed woman will attract the advances of a man quicker than than a scantly clad man will attract the advances of a woman, especially in the mind. Men are typically the aggressors in sex. But a man must guard himself as best he can, which is getting harder in this society, where magazines and TV are rife with sexual immorality and stimulus and women are encouraged to be seen in this way. Would naked be OK on the beach, after all why should any clothing be an issue for a man to see a woman, he should be able to control himself? Lust is two part issue where 1.)the man lust after a woman, but also where a 2.)woman can make it easier or harder to be objectified sexually and create the situation for lust. Typically a man should be able to keep themselves from lusting, but for some of us that is a problem and it is a hard battle when things get more tempting.

  9. laymond says:

    Monty, keep your eyes on the Lord. or at least the song book, every church I have ever been to has a bible in the pew in front of you, you might read where it says God does not tempt man, it is the devil in him that tempts. The devil in the man, not the woman.

    Dwight , women did not create lust. I suppose if whiskey was kept from the sight of a drunk, he would not get drunk. but even that would not keep him from lusting for drink.
    I just don’t see where God instructed women to keep hidden, so weak willed men wouldn’t be tempted.
    Like Jesus told those holier than thou men condemning the woman caught in the act, one of you sinless men grab the first rock. I really doubt that any here is holy enough to throw the rocks you have already thrown. maybe you should get on your knees and ask for forgiveness for at least two sins, lust, and judging others. Maybe false witness.

  10. Monty says:

    There is a difference in being attracted to the female form(God given)and lusting after the female form that is overly exposed. But one thing could easily lead to another. And it’s also true that you can lust observing a woman’s form in a tote sack. But today’s fashions place a heavy burden on most men. David was a man after God’s on heart but he ran into a little difficulty when he inadvertently was exposed to Bathsheba’s raw beauty. I don’t suppose he was looking for trouble, but it sure found him. Not that Bathsheba was to blame. It just goes to show the power of the female form on a man’s psyche. David allowed sin to enter his heart(or was it already there), having been exposed inadvertently to Bathsheba’s nakedness. Probably never happens if he doesn’t see her, that way. Just thinking out loud.

    Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a young woman.” It certainly can be done. But it takes being intentional about where you place your eyes.

    That said, if a man lusts after a woman in a tote sack, that’s on him. If a woman entices a man to look(by provocative dress) and a man does and he lusts, then it’s on both of them. Hopefully the good sisters in the church aren’t creating the opportunity for such, especially not on purpose.

  11. Alabama John says:

    Don’t forget the “All seeing eye watching you”. Psalms 139.
    Remember the song we sang about it too.

    Maybe we should not look on God as having a check off book by his side with your name on it watching your every movement and thought checking off the bad and good of everything. God by watching us with the all seeing eye was always presented as such, but at home, it was sung and PS139 taught God was watching to guide, lead and teach instead of keeping score to condemn and punish.

    God made women beautiful for men to admire and good looking men for the women to admire. Its nature at its best and nothing wrong with admiring and even telling those you admire how good they look in that dress, hat, or whatever. Its when you erroneously act its wrong.

    Now lets please get off wrongful sex talk and get down to the one sin most actually are guilty of that carries the same condemnation as sex: Gluttony!

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