The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 22. Guilt by Desires
1 Pet 1:14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
Mk 4:19 the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Rom 8:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Recap: We are looking at specific ways we can get it wrong in life, not to bring guilt and condemnation but to set us free from the guilt that follows wrong. Sometimes, I believe, many of us have like a cloud of guilt hanging over us because we either struggle with a wrong ungodly desire or we think we are guilty about some desire.
Right and Wrong Desires: Desires are a combination of thought, emotion, and physical want. Let’s consider, first of all, good desires. I have desires for my wife and as long as I don’t impose them on her when she isn’t ready for them, they are good and right desires. I have desires for food and drink, and as long as those don’t become excessive and bring about either obesity or drunkenness (I rarely drink alcohol these days!), they are good and right desires. I have desires to serve the Lord and do His will, and as long as I submit to His will and don’t do ‘my own thing’, they are good and right desires. I have desires to write as He has inspired me, and as long as I look to Him as my resource, they are good and right desires.
But then, as have subtly been suggested above, there are desires that are not good. If I have sexual desires that I am unable to control, that would push me into watching online pornography (and I have never done that and never will – stay away from it lest it destroy you) or visiting a prostitute (ditto!), then I need to take steps to break the power of those desires. How? Stop feeding them. Pray. Maybe share your struggles with a mature Christian friend, a leader if possible, and get them to pray for you. Fill your mind with good things. Determine not to accept the philosophy of the modern world that sex outside marriage is OK, frequent sex is necessary. Paul knew otherwise (read 1 Cor 7 for Paul’s wide spectrum of advice in this area). A word to the older men among us. I have observed in three different men in my past life what I can only call a moment of infatuation, a sudden focus on a beautiful woman. In two of them it nearly drove them to make foolish decisions that could have wrecked their marriages. I don’t know what causes it, it is more than a midlife crisis, but if it is you, turn your back on it, walk away, fill your thoughts with your own partner, with other things in life.
Desires under control and in the right context are how God has made us. The right context for sex is within marriage despite what the harmful folly of the media in the West has been saying, undermining and destroying many. Yesterday we noted, by way of introducing things that go on in the mind, Jesus’ warning that lustful thoughts are as bad as the act – not an excuse to proceed to the act! Whether it be food, drink or sex, there is within these ‘desires’ a physical element which has to be mastered. It starts by asking why we have such a strong desire, and then goes on to how we master it, because if we don’t, it will harm us and possibly others. We’ve seen how David’s desire for Bathsheba opened up a whole train of wrong events.
But there are other desires, for example, the desire to achieve. This is what drives entrepreneurs to start up companies, provide work for others and provide good for the community. Good desires. But then the way we go about fulfilling that desire is all important. Doing it by unrighteous and ungodly means, involving bribery and corruption and self-centred effort, distorts the desire and opens the way for further wrongs to occur. The desire for money that becomes excessive (it was all right to start off the business) is what we call greed (defined as intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.) and so often leads to injustice in business practices.
Possibly one of the most significant books coming out in 2020, I believe, is Morality by Jonathan Sacks. In it he documents in detail so many ways modern society is going wrong, things that so often start with wrong thinking. In an amazing chapter entitled ‘Markets without Morals’, he cites the greed and folly that brought down companies such as Enron in 2001, the greed and folly that brought about the 2008 financial collapse which was only saved by government interventions to save the banks which they saw as central to modern survival. But he notes that even afterwards in the period of austerity, the banks continued to award bonus payments to their senior staff, while never exhibiting any sense of remorse guilt or shame for what they had allowed to happen causing untold anguish for millions. Greed – sin – guilt! Accountable to God! Elsewhere he documents, especially in America, the staggering gaps between the pay and bonuses of CEOs and their workforce. In the UK we have a scandal brewing of a sweatshop clothes manufacturing industry, appearing to work under virtual slavery conditions, paying less than basic wages to workers while the top people cream off millions. Greed, avarice, injustice – rampant desires out of control. Every one of us who is in business needs to check our hearts for we may have a heavy accounting to come.
And So? Good and bad desires. Good desires in context and under control, blessed of God. Bad desires out of proper context, unrestrained, sinful, harmful, guilty, accountable to God. Contentment in God is a good antidote to keep us on track. May we not be casual about these things, may we not excuse wrong desires and practices by saying, “Well, everybody does it.” That doesn’t make it right and there will come an accounting before God if not in the sight of the world. Be careful.