The Dilemma of Desire

Posted: December 21, 2012 in Blog
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Everyday people make decisions, decisions bearing great consequences, eternal consequences. Right now as you read you are making decisions and choices—to read or not to read, to surf on or to remain, to work or to spend more time in the blogosphere. What undergirds these decisions? Why do we decide what foods we eat, or what clothes we wear, or even what we will believe? What lies underneath our choices? And does it really matter?

Well, yes it matters, underneath our decisions usually lay motives pressing the decision one way or another. Human desire lies beneath our decision-making. In other words you, and I, do what we most want to do. Desire lies beneath our choices; we desire, decide, and act thereupon. Even instinctual decisions stem from some sort of desire whether we are aware of it or not.

Objections can be made that people do plenty of things they do not want to do, which would make my statement wrong. However, everyone does what he or she most wants to do even in undesirable circumstances. When confronted with a decision, an individual chooses the option that seems to best suit them. One may not want to go to work, but the desire to be stay the hand of poverty far outweighs the tendency for sloth. One may want to buy a new house, but the desire to keep from greater financial burdens keeps the buyer from such a purchase. In these circumstances the decision makers do not get what they wanted, but they chose what they most wanted to do. Then again, people decide in the opposite of these examples everyday, doing what they most want to do, suffering the consequences of their desires.

In regard to external factors, things outside of an individual’s control, which characterizes most of life, people are forced to make decisions regarding how to respond. Again, these external factors are beyond control, but people still do what they most want to do in relation to the uncontrollable. Humanity cannot make a decision upon floodwaters raising or receding, or upon a thief coming or going, or upon a hurricane wreaking havoc or not. Nevertheless, decisions are to be made regarding what can and cannot be controlled or even fully understood.

A decision upon how to handle these external realities, how ever good or painful must be made. One chooses what to do when expectations are not met, when circumstances are not favorable, or when disaster seems to be around every corner. Humans decide to think, act, and feel in certain ways; doing what we most want to do, even when things are not as we want them to be. (Which is even true if the response in instinctual or passive). This does not mean one always get their way, but it means that when confronted with the options of a decision people choose the option most desired, even if its result are not the most desirous.

Dying upon the cross was what Jesus most wanted to do, even though death upon the cross was not a most desirable proposition. Jesus’ desire to obey the Father, His desire for the joy set before Him, and His desire for His bride all trumped His desire that the cup of suffering might pass from Him, Matthew 26:36-42

My contention is that desire determines response, even in light of what is not understood and can not be controlled. The choice to think, feel, and act are all based off of desire. Desire is woven into the very fabric of humanity. We were created to desire. So if people are to make decisions that honor God they will stem from faith-filled God honoring desires. But if people make decisions that honor self it is due to faithless self-honoring desires. It is no coincidence that almost every commandment of the Ten Commandments can be summed up in the final command; thou shall not covet. Commandment ten deals exclusively with desire and seems to be a lynchpin for all other commands, in demonstration that sin stems from desire.

Nonetheless, humans are not subject to blind forces of desire like animals that must satisfy them to survive. Nor does God expect people to run against desire striving to not want. Which seems to be a common view of what God expects from adherents of the Christian faith. One might have an easier time holding back the tide than to tell any human being to remove desire from their self.

So then, what is the problem with desires? Human desire, unless rightly placed gives birth to sin, which leads to death, i.e. James 1:14–15. Although it must not be assumed then that all desire is bad. Indeed the psalmist pens in Psalm 23:1, that with the Lord as shepherd he shall not want, but this does not mean that he is claiming to be without desire. Quite the contrary, the author is claiming to be so satisfied in the Lord that he wants for nothing, as his desires are fulfilled.

James 4:1–3 gives helpful insight into this dilemma of desire. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? “”You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You desire and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on you passions. ” Unholy desire leads man against the Holy God. Passions, lusts, desires, or hankerings are what lead men against God.

The problem is not desire. The problem is ill-conceived desire. Desire rightly conceived is possible only by faith in Jesus Christ. For by faith in Jesus Christ desire is properly placed upon the one whom all creation was created to worship. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. 1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 16:11; 37:4; 73:25-26; Isaiah 43:7


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