With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, the topic of love is on the forefront of many peoples’ minds.
Love is a major theme throughout the Scriptures. In fact, Jesus said that the whole of the law and prophets is to love God and love our neighbor. There are no greater commandments than these (see Matthew 22:35-40).
But love can mean many different things to people. And one of the common mistakes that we can make is to confuse lust with love. Lust is a tricky counterfeit of love. While love is a primary subject in the Bible, lust is continually warned against. Many in our culture may look for love, but fill the void with lust instead.
What is the difference between lust and love? This is an important question, because confusing the two can cause a lot of unnecessary grief. Below are three differences between the two.
1. Lust is about taking, while love is about giving
Lust will compel you to take from someone else in order to feel better about yourself. Love on the other hand, causes you to give to others for their own benefit. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16).
Love is generous and sacrificial in its giving.
2. Lust wants what it doesn’t have, while love cherishes what it does have
Jesus said this about lust in Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Lust covets what it cannot have, and one of the problems with lust is that it is never satisfied. Once you obtain the object of your desire you now want something else that you cannot have.
Love seeks to value, cherish, and honor what it has. It is not always looking for something or someone else.
3. Lust is selfish, while love is selfless
The goal of lust is self-gratification at the expense of someone else. Love on the other hand, sacrifices for others at the expense of self. Jesus showed the ultimate demonstration of what love looks like when He died on the cross.
The focus of lust is self; the focus of love is others.
As I think through these differences between lust and love, it causes me to take inventory of my own heart. Do I “love” my wife for selfish reasons, or out of genuine and selfless love? Do I have a selfish or selfless attitude toward others? Do I seek to give to others or take from others? Am I cherishing the people that God has placed in my life?
We can’t truly love in our own strength. But as we receive God’s love for us we can love Him back and love those around us. Take time to think and pray through these things and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with His pure love!