“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
Adultery is defined in the dictionary as a sexual relationship between a married person and one who is not their spouse. This prohibition against adultery is included in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:14) and so is at the core of the Old Testament Law. But Jesus, as he did with murder, goes beyond the letter of the law and gets to the heart of the matter. According to Jesus, adultery is not just a physical action. It is also a matter of the heart and mind. Jesus tells us that to look at a woman, other than your spose, with desire to have her makes you guilty of adultery.
A Call to Purity
I believe that Jesus was talking about more than just adultery in this passage. I am quite certain that he is talking about all forms of sexual sin, whether adultery, fornication, pronography, or sexual fantasies. And I believe he would include substance abuse as well. And anything else that would defile us and keep us from wholehearted devotion to him.
As followers of Christ we are called to be pure and holy. And not just in our actions, but in our thoughts as well. Allowing impurities to continue in my life will hinder the spiritual life with God that he desires. I live in this world and have to interact with it. I need to eat, sleep, work and rest. Relationships with other people are important. But I need to guard against allowing any of those things to cause me to stumble. My stumbling is not just a personal issue. It impacts all of those that I have a relationship with. And that is true, even if they have no direct knowledge of my failure (1 Co. 12:26).
Things That Cause Us to Stumble
Jesus follows his words about adultery with a challenging statement. If my right eye or hand causes me to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. That sounds pretty extreme, and I’m not sure that Jesus meant it literally. It would seem to be more metaphorical; I need to remove from my life those things that are a stumbling block. If I have a problem with drinking, I should stop going to places where there is easy access to alcohol. If I have a problem with pronography, then I may want to make sure that I do not have private access to a computer. If I have friends that often lead me into sin, I may need to cut off, or limit, those relationships.
None of this is intended to be legalistic. Instead, Jesus is giving instruction to help us live a life that is pleasing to God. We should not be living our lives for what we can gain here. Instead, we should be looking to eternity, and not letting anything here hinder that. Don’t let anything in this life keep you from eternal life. Remove it instead.
Other Posts in the Sermon on the Mount
- An Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
- Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12
- Sermon on the Mount: Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16
- Sermon on the Mount: Understanding the Law – Matt. 5:17-20
- Sermon on the Mount: Resolving Conflict – Matthew 5:21-22
- Sermon on the Mount: Committing Adultery – Matthew 5:27-30
- Sermon on the Mount: Divorce – Matthew 5:31-32
- Sermon on the Mount: Taking Oaths – Matthew 5:33-37
- Sermon on the Mount: Turn the Other Cheek – Matt. 5:38-42
- Sermon on the Mount: Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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