We’re going to keep on looking at some things that Jesus said in Matthew 5. There in the Sermon on the Mount, He has six statements where He says, “You have heard it was said,” or, “You have heard the ancients were told,” “but I say to you.”
Some folks skim over the surface of that and come to the conclusion that Jesus was altering the law. But as you look at it a little more closely, you see that He’s not altering the law. He’s bringing back His disciples to the standards that were always there in the law and in the original intent of the law of Moses. And our question today about lust and adultery revolves around that very thing.
Is Lust As Bad As Adultery?
Is lust as bad as adultery? Well, some folks say it is, because they read from Matthew 5 where Jesus said,
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 lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – vv. 27-28
Again, Jesus didn’t say that lusting is just as bad as adultery. But He’s pointing out something here that is really the original intent of the law of Moses.
The Original Intent of the Law of Moses
In the law of Moses, when God said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” He didn’t mean—and forgive me for saying this—”Just make sure you don’t penetrate someone of the opposite sex with your sexual organ—men. Or vice versa—women. but anything right up until that point is okay.” That’s not what He meant, we all know that. Being involved in sexual activity with a member of the opposite sex to whom you are not committed in a covenant of marriage is wrong.
Anyone who has the crazy idea that it would be okay to go right up to the point of intercourse and actually not technically commit adultery, and that would be okay, is fooling themselves. Right? Right.
Jesus is just taking it all the way to its logical end. Adultery always begins with the thought of adultery, the desire of what we term lust. He wants us to cut that off, cut adultery off at its source. He wants us purged of all sexual immorality, not just including the actual act of intercourse, but everything that leads up to that.
Any kind of sexual activity with a member of the opposite sex to whom you are not married, all the way back to the very source of when the thought enters the mind. The lustful thought that if you yield to that, that it leads on to worse things.
Lust Is Not As Evil As Adultery
Is lust as evil as adultery? No, of course not. Jesus is giving this warning to prevent adultery by cutting it off in its very early stages of lust. That’s the kind of purity that He expected, not just under the law of Christ, but of course under the law of Moses.
We’re fooling ourselves here if we say, “Well, this is a new standard.” Oh, come on! This is not a new standard. This is implied in “Thou shall not commit adultery”. Don’t get anywhere close to even the beginnings of what leads to adultery.
Job had that figured out. He said,
I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin? – Job 31:1
What is he talking about there? I have made a decision I’m not going to be mentally undressing the young women that I see.
Goodness, the Ten Commandments! Don’t covet. One of the things that God says not to covet is your neighbor’s wife. What’s that all about? That’s thoughts. That’s desires. That’s in your heart. That’s in your mind.
Why might you be coveting your neighbor’s wife? Well, come on, it’s pretty obvious. Lust is forbidden. This is not something new under the new covenant, it’s under the old covenant. That theme keeps on going as we read all of Jesus’, “You have heard it was said… but I say to you,” statements. It becomes very clear that this is not a new standard. That standard can be found in the law of Moses.
Practical Advice for Dealing with Lust
All right, so Jesus gives some very practical advice about what to do to obey Him in this. He says,
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. – Matthew 5:29-30
He’s not literally saying—of course we know this—to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. What He is saying is that lust is a damnable sin. The guy who’s full of lust and always lusting, maybe not acting on that lust and actually raping people or getting involved in adultery or fornication, is still guilty of immorality and it’s a damning sin.
Cut Off What Makes You Stumble
What do you do about it? Get rid of what it is that’s causing you to stumble!
Obviously, your eye can’t literally cause you to stumble, neither can your hand. And so we’re not literally cutting those things out. But there are things that can cause us to stumble. Get rid of those things! If it’s a place where you drive by every day and you see something that would cause you to stumble, stop driving by that way. If it’s a TV show that you watch and that causes you to stumble, stop watching that TV show. You might want to just stop watching TV altogether. Okay?
I travel an awful lot. I spend a lot of time in hotels. I just have made a covenant with myself: I don’t turn on the TV. Why? Because I’m by myself, got the channel flipper, I might be looking for something totally legitimate but see something that’s not legitimate and then be tempted. I cut it off. I’m not going to turn it on and allow myself to be tempted in that regard, following Jesus’ instructions to help me avoid lust or immorality.
That’s today’s Little Lesson. Thank you so much for joining me! God bless you.