27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:27-30
This is one of the strongest passages if not the strongest passage concerning the actions we should take towards sin! As you could imagine this has been misunderstood and misapplied in history. A man named Origen of Alexandria, in the early 200s, wrongly took the sayings here literally! Even though some people have misapplied this passage most people have not applied it all! Let’s make sure that we don’t fall into either of those categories.
It is important to know that Jesus is not advocating physical self-mutilation, but He is using a dramatic figure of speech to help us see the kind of extreme self-discipline that committed disciples will display. Let’s take a step back and look at what is happening in this verse. It is very important that we know context to best understand what Jesus is teaching us.
Starting in v. 27, Jesus gives a quote from the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:14). In v. 28 he talks about not even look upon another man’s wife. Here He is alluded to the 10th Commandment which is to not covet. Coveting is a “desire to have.” In this case it is a desire to have something that doesn’t belong to him.
Adultery was considered one of the most serious offenses because it broke the relationship that was a reflection of God and his people. Adultery was often used to describe the way in which the people of Israel went after gods other than the one true God. Ezekiel 16:2; Hosea 4:13 Joseph recognized that adultery not only would have been an offense to Potiphar but was especially a “sin against God.” Genesis 39:9 King David, after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, confessed his sin to God by saying, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” Psalm 51:4
Jesus reaffirms the Old Testament teaching but takes it a step further to give us an understanding of the original meaning for marriage. It is not enough to just stay pure physically we are to stay faithful to our spouses in every aspect of our lives. This includes coveting/wanting another person. Looking lustfully at another woman breaks the bond of oneness that a man is to have with his wife. Read Proverbs 5:15-23 to get a good picture of this!
Lust originates in the heart. Matthew 15:19. Our actions come from our heart so what we think/feel will be lived out in our lives. Adultery, therefore, is not only physical act but also mentally engaging in such an act of unfaithfulness.
Okay… so that is what we are to understand about v. 27-28. I gave you all this information because what we are about to say sounds extreme but I wanted you to have a good perspective on how God feels about this sin. Jesus illustrates the seriousness of lust through two graphic examples: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee” 5:29, and “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” 5:30. Jesus is using an hyperbole. You may remember in English class that this is a deliberate exaggeration. Jesus used this expression for the sake of emphasizing the seriousness of single-hearted devotion to our spouse.1
Okay.. here is where this passage should run head on, full speed into your life. If you are dealing with the temptation to covet someone who is not yours (anyone you are not married to) than as a disciple of Jesus you should be willing to take drastic measures to avoid and stop this behavior. Do you need to pluck out your eye? Certainly not! Jesus is teaching this is a matter of the heart. It cannot be corrected by removing an arm or an eye. What we do see, however, is that when we get a good view of how horrible this sin is we should be willing to take any steps needed to avoid it!
I can hear your objections. You are going to say “I am not married so how does this passage apply to me.” Well neither the married man or the sigle man should be lusting after someone who is not his wife. Just because you do not have a wife and someone you can Biblically and appropriately lust after doesn’t mean you get to choose from any and all of the other 3 billion women in the world! Remember this “your spouse is the only legitimate source of intimacy in your life!” (Say that five times outloud, it will be good for you) If you are not yet married than their is no souce of intimacy for you. Not online or offline!
So what are things we might do in our day and age with this same problem?
- Turn your phone over to your parents.
- Confess to you parents your need of more accountability.
- Break off an unhealthy relationship.
- Avoid going to a certain friends house that provide you opportunities to look upon things that cause lust.
This might seem like extreme measures. As we have seen today the Bible prescribes extreme measures if that is what is necessary. If you have quesions about this passage or need help please let us know!