Desire can be a tricky thing; problematic even.
Not all desire is bad. The Bible counsels us to “earnestly desire the better gifts,” and, “the desire of the righteous is good.” (1 Corinthians 12:31a; Proverbs 11:23a).
But desire can still get people into trouble when it is misdirected.
We see this from the very beginning of the Bible. Eve looked at the fruit God had forbidden and she desired it. Trouble soon followed. (cf. Genesis 3:6ff) David looked out from his roof, into his neighbor’s house and desired Bathsheba. Again, trouble and sin were not far behind. (cf. 2 Samuel 11:2ff) Ahab, king of Israel, desired his neighbor’s vineyard. Trouble, sin and murder were close at hand. (cf. 2 Kings 21:1ff)
Over and over again, throughout the Bible, and throughout human history, evil desires cause sin, misery and heartache.
The scriptures warn us about this, saying, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.” (James 4:1-2; NKJV)
How many wars have been started because one country, leader, or group of people have desired something that other people already own, such as land? How many murders have been committed because one person was coveting the possessions of another, or the husband or wife of another? Is not most sin the result of people desiring to do the things they have been told not to do?
The question then, we should ask ourselves, is this: what is it that we are desiring out of life?
Do we desire money? Pleasure? Fun?
Our desires will motivate us, shape our priorities, and influence our choices. When we desire good things, we will do good things. When we desire selfish, or wicked things, then we will act selfishly or wickedly.
Conversely, whenever we act in a way that we should not, we can know that somewhere, at the heart of our sin, there is a desire problem.
Again, the Bible tells us: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15; NKJV)
Jesus said of Himself, in one place, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own desire but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 5:30) The true desire of Jesus life was to be pleasing to His Father God. Because of this, Jesus was motivated to do the right things, He prioritized according to what God wanted Him to do, and was able to resist the temptation to please Himself, or gratify Himself.
This is because Jesus truly loved God more than He loved Himself.
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, strength, soul and mind. (cf. Matthew 22:37-38) Unfortunately, our actions show that we too often love ourselves more than we love God, and our desires are to please ourselves first and foremost.
In a like manner, Jesus could honestly say of Himself, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28; ESV) The life of Jesus was spent in doing good for other people, even to the point of being willing to die on their behalf. Jesus was able to put the needs of others before His own desires.
This is because Jesus truly loved other people more than He loved Himself.
The second great commandment is to love our neighbor as our self. (cf. Matthew 22:39) Unfortunately, our actions show that we too often love ourselves more than we love other people, and our desire is to please ourselves first and foremost.
The desire of the righteous is good because the righteous desire good things. They desire to be pleasing to God, and they desire to serve the needs of others. When these things are our desires, our priorities, motivations and actions will all line up accordingly, producing good results in our lives. It is in such desire that we will begin to be more like the Christ who gave Himself for us.
If you would like to learn more about Christ, and the example He gave to us, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.