When Lust Leads to Murder
A story of a beautiful woman, Daniel and two greedy, dishonest, lustful old men
It’s what lust does. “It changes the way you think about people,” he said. “People become objects. People become body parts; they become things to be used rather than people to be loved.” Actor and former football player Terry Crews explains the effects of pornography on his life: “Every time I watched it, I was walled off. It was like another brick that came between me and my wife.” It also wrecked his sleep, as he stayed up all night looking for new sexual thrills.
Last year, comedian Chris Rock admits that cheating on his wife while on tour contributed to ending his marriage. Yet it wasn’t just adultery that killed his marriage — pornography addiction made him late for everything, unable to look people in the eye, and even decipher normal social cues.
Lust has a cascading effect on all aspects of our lives. It’s a sin that leads us into other sins, with destructive effects on ourselves and others. We learn this from the story of Susanna, found in the Greek version of the Jewish Bible.
The story of Susanna is part of what is known as the Deuterocanonical Scriptures. Catholic and Orthodox Christians accept these books as part of the Bible. Protestants don’t. Susanna’s story is included as an additional chapter (chapter 13) of the book of Daniel. Whether or not one accepts this chapter of Daniel as inspired Scripture, it is an insightful text for contemplating lust.
Both beautiful and devout, Susanna is married to Joakim, a wealthy and well-respected Jew, living in Babylon during the Jews’ captivity there. She soon attracts the attention of two elders of the Jewish community, men who had been appointed as judges of the people. The men began to “desire” Susanna. They became “overwhelmed with passion” for her. Yet there is more than just lust at play.
First, the story teaches us that we ask for trouble when we don’t talk about our sins to somebody we trust. The elders “did not tell each other of their distress, for they were ashamed to disclose their lustful desire to possess her.” Sin proliferates in the human heart when we keep it secret.
When we acknowledge our sins and sinful desires to others, we weaken that sin’s power over us. We gain friends and supporters who can advise and pray for us, and keep an eye on us as well. Remaining the “strong silent type” when it comes to sin is the first step in losing the battle.
Sin Leads to More Sin
How sin leads to more sin is easily seen in how the story plays out. The impassioned elders become peeping toms, spying on Susanna as she bathes outside in her garden. Waiting until she’s alone, they come out of hiding and demand she have sex with them. She, the righteous foil to their immorality, refuses.
They cry out, drawing the attention of passersby. They claim that they discovered her naked with another man, who then ran off. As elders in the community, their authority carries far more weight than Susanna’s. She is condemned to death according to Jewish law.
One sin begets another. Their lustful desires led them to both lying and attempted murder. This is exactly how sin works. We think we can hide and fence off a part of ourselves, as if we can live a bifurcated existence. As is demonstrated in the elders’ lust, which leads them to try and unjustly kill a righteous woman, one sin always requires more sins.
Fortunately for Susanna, a young Daniel intervenes. God helped him discern the deception of the two elders. But he has to prove it. He interviews the two men separately to see if their story holds up under scrutiny. It doesn’t. The judges claim they witnessed Susanna’s adultery under two different types of trees. Susanna is vindicated, and the two men are put to death for their false testimony.
From Lust to Death
What began with two men acting unjustly and indulging lustful thoughts leads to their deaths. Our sinful desires and behaviors don’t simply “come out of left field.” The elders had been “pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free.” Men who were supposed to be righteous leaders of the community “perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments.”
As Chris Rock and Terry Crews both had to learn the hard way, lust leads to other sins and pain for ourselves and those we love. Their story, like that of Susanna, teaches us that lust isn’t just about sexual sin — it’s a threat to our relationships, our lives, and the lives of everyone around us.