You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV)
When Jesus addresses the issue of adultey, he comes to a problem that hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Adultery was the subject of a specific command within the ten commandments. He isn’t talking about general sexual immorality, but sexual immorality within marriage. This is a very serious sin, but Jesus’ hearers probably felt safe (exactly as they would have felt about murder). However, Jesus turns the whole issue on its head by saying that the lustful look is exactly like the act of adultey, because it involves the heart. What is envisaged here is not a casual glance, but the lustful look that dwells on the object of the desire and takes it on in the imagination and thought. The standard of purity that Jesus demands is very high indeed. By pointing out that physical adultery and adultery in thought are both sins, Jesus is showing that no-one can escape judgement by claiming that they have not sinned.
The second part of this section of Matthew 5 seems very severe. What we need to understand is what Jesus is saying – if you are involved in an adulterous relationship then drastic action is required. If the eye signifies looking, then the hand might signify touching. Both are senses that would be involved in this type of relationship. Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation, but radical action to deal with the sin. Don’t be fooled by 21st century morality that protrays adultery as ‘having fun’ and hurting no-one. How many films have you watched in the last year that have portrayed sexual adultery as acceptable? God does not find acceptable what the world has long been portraying as harmless.
Remember that Jesus is not against sexual enjoyment. What he is advocating is keeping it within the marriage relationship. Sexual purity is very important in God’s eyes and men and women of all ages need to pray for the strength to resist the temptations presented to them by the world.
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