Lasciviousness refers to the practice of debauchery, lewdness, or licentiousness. In a word, to be lascivious is to be lustful. Lasciviousness was condemned not only by Jesus, but also by Jude and the apostles Peter and Paul. Interestingly, the word lasciviousness is not used in the more modern Bible translations, but is found in the older versions such as the American Standard Version, Young’s Literal Translation, and the King James Version.
The King James Version translates Mark 7:22–23 this way: “Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” The NIV renders the same passage like this: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” The NIV replaces “lasciviousness” with “lewdness.” The NLT uses the words “lustful desires.”
Other passages in the New Testament including this word are 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 4:19; Galatians 5:19; and Jude 1:4.
Lasciviousness also means “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.” It’s having a complete disregard for the integrity and honor of others. Examples of such behavior include that of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2:6–7) and false teachers who promise freedom but who are themselves “slaves of depravity” (2 Peter 2:2, 18–19). Also, Paul used the word lasciviousness in reference to sexual excess (Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19). Jesus’ words recorded in Mark 7:22 have the same implication.
Lascivious behavior may include the way we dress, when our goal is to appear sexy or sensual. Lasciviousness also encompasses viewing sexually explicit media. This would include salacious magazines, movies, and television, as well as outright pornography. Numerous studies have shown that pornography is highly addictive, and countless marriages have been destroyed as a result of it. It has also been determined that many child molesters, sexual predators, and even murderers have been influenced by such material.
Lascivious behavior is prevalent in the work environment where both men and women work in close proximity. Though sexual harassment laws have helped curtail unwanted advances from fellow-workers, flirting, suggestive touching, and inappropriate language are commonplace.
Without question, today’s postmodern society encourages men and women to be “sexy,” but we must understand that Christians are to be virtuous. In his letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul said, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18–20, NLT). As followers of Jesus, our focus is to be holy in spirit and in body.
It’s important to understand that those who indulge in lasciviousness are putting their souls in dire jeopardy. Paul makes this abundantly clear in his letter to the Galatians: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21, NLT).