This one might be a bit long, but the topic is too important in our society to limit what needs to be said.
Last week we, in Are You A Murderer?, spoke about Jesus’ interpretation of the Sixth Commandment which says: “You shall not murder.” He taught us that the actual act of murder was built upon the framework of being angry with our brother, and we walk away with a renewed understanding of this commandment. The anger will be judged by God, even if we haven’t committed the act. Also, the act is more clearly defined for us as killing with anger in our hearts.
This week we move to Jesus’ interpretation of the Seventh Commandment as we open the text in Matthew 5:27. We read: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Adultery is a thing that is responsible for ruining lives, crushing dreams, and crashing hopes. The act itself is a thing that turns one’s stomach inside out when they have been the victim. The bond between a husband and wife should be the most intimate bond in human existence only coming second to our relationship with our Creator. Why than do we have so many acts of adultery in our culture?
We have this problem in our culture today because we don’t understand what Jesus is saying here. We either don’t get it, or we do and we choose not to listen. It’s that simple. Let’s dig a bit deeper to clear things up a bit. The next two verses read: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” As we look at these verses, we see Jesus starting with the eyes and not, how shall we say, other body members in explaining the sin of adultery. Why? Quite simply, because it starts there. The eye is the first member of our bodies that begin the process of adultery. The next body part is the hands and the next is the actual act itself. This text doesn’t teach us to remove our eyes and cut off our hands. It teaches us of the severity of this horrible act and how important it is to protect ourselves from ever being in compromising positions.
Jesus is saying that there is a process involved before the act of adultery is committed. A lustful look, and conversation begins. You touch this person with your hands, the act comes into fruition and at a minimum one relationship is killed.
There is one thing that I have never seen before in this passage that jumped off the page at me while studying for this lesson. Let’s go back and look at the part about hell. In Matthew 5:29-30, when speaking about the eye causing a person to sin, Jesus says the person is thrown into hell. While He is speaking about the hand causing sin, Jesus says “go into hell.” In the incident of the eye causing a person to sin there is a force level that implies a resistance on the part of the person going into hell, perhaps because they think they have a defense and don’t deserve this eternal punishment. Perhaps we can imagine this person saying “I didn’t do it! We only <insert whatever physical act here,> we didn’t commit adultery!” I believe Jesus is teaching us here very clearly. It is just as wrong to look with evil, adulterous things in our mind as it is to use our hands. We seem to think, in our culture today, that we can think but not act. We say things like: “I can look, but I can’t touch.” Jesus is saying we are wrong, and the text stresses the difference significantly.
Jesus is giving us a very forceful lesson on the Seventh Commandment. He is not the flowery nice Jesus here. He is The Lord and is speaking accordingly. He desires purity of our hearts and not simply not committing the physical act of adultery. He judges the hearts of men and does not need a jury trial to prove guilt or innocence.
Remember to check your eyes. Check them, before you must check your hands. The next step will never occur. Don’t let your eyes cause your mind and heart to wander from the person that God created for you. There is too much on the line.
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Matthew 5:28 – “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”