Gods of This World: Desire
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul speaks of the “god of this world” as referring to Satan. Satan, the Devil, was part of the reason behind the corruption of God’s good creation (cf. Romans 8:20-22), and he continues to allure people into serving God’s creation and not God the Creator (cf. Romans 1:18-25). These are the “gods of this world” to which many devote their lives: things God created to be used that are instead turned into God.
John, in 1 John 2:15-17, identifies “the desire of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions” as the three things in the world that are passing away forever and things which Christians are not to love. Two of those three explicitly refer to desire.
Satan, the “god of this world,” tempted Eve to commit the first sin by directing her focus toward the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and she saw that it was pleasing to the eyes and desired to make one wise: an appeal to the desires of the flesh (Genesis 3:4-6). Sin thus entered the world; it remains to this day. Our modern society, it seems, is obsessed with whatever we want. We want and want and are quite willing to do what it takes to satisfy those desires (cf. James 4:2-4)!
Encouragement to satisfy desire starts very early in life. At least four observances–birthdays, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas–involve giving things to children. While some children may pick up on the value of family and relationships in these circumstances, almost all children learn how to want and to get what they wanted.
As those children grow up and become teenagers and young adults, marketers and salespersons bombard them with messages encouraging desire and the satisfaction thereof. We are encouraged to believe that various consumer products are not “wants” but “needs,” and our lives would be incomplete without them. They “honor” us by telling us that we “deserve” various amenities and pleasures in life, and that we ought to satisfy them. They present beautiful people in skimpy or non-existent clothing as users of the products, hoping that we might partake just to be like them.
Meanwhile, science, whether intentionally or not, provides justification for this whole system. “Evolutionary” answers are provided to justify human covetousness, envy, jealousy, and lust. Darwinist justifications are set forth for risky behavior, addictions, adultery, and homosexuality. Young people especially pick up on the implications of the messages they receive. They are told that they are animals that have all of these desires that are natural by the scientists, and then they are told by marketers and salespeople that they should satisfy those desires for their good and the good of the economy. It is little wonder, therefore, why so many people are obsessed with satisfying whatever desires they may have– they are given every reason for doing so!
It is not as if desire, in and of itself, is wrong. God made human beings to desire things, and we are part of His good creation (Genesis 1:1-2:4). God intends for human beings to enjoy their work, take satisfaction in food and drink, and enjoy the wife (or, for women, the husband) of their youth (Ecclesiastes 3:13, 22; 9:9). God also wants people to desire good, holy, and proper things, and He stands willing to satisfy those desires (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
The problem begins when desires are corrupted and take over the person and their lives. It is very easy, especially considering the messages society provides, to believe that we are the servants of our desires.
For many, it is the sexual desire that overtakes them, and we are being made to believe that we are subject to our sexual desires and that we are defined by our sexuality. For others, the desire to consume, be it food, drink, or objects, overtakes them. Many others are overtaken by covetousness. Overindulgence of the desires of the eyes and flesh are behind many of the works of the flesh, including sexual immorality, lasciviousness, jealousy, envy, and covetousness (cf. Galatians 5:19-21).
While it may not be enjoyable or easy, we must not allow the satisfaction of our desires to become god. We must show self-discipline, self-control, sober-mindedness, and maintain a sacrificial attitude so that we may be in control of our desires as opposed to being slaves of our desires (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Galatians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 2:11, 4:7).
We as human beings are certainly part of this creation but are also created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, we must not believe that we are enslaved to our desire; we were not created in the image of animal desires, as if they were god, but the One True God, the Creator! We can maintain self-discipline and self-control and force our desires to serve us as opposed to being slaves to our desires, but only if we consciously decide to make it so. Let us reflect the image of the One True God (Romans 8:29), and keep desire under control!
Ethan R. Longhenry