There’s one thing that holy men are not allowed to address–sexual issues, lust or anything of that genre. Holy people just don’t do that. But Jesus did.
“You have heard that it was said, do not commit adultery, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28).
At first I can imagine the crowd on a mountainous plain looking shocked. Followed by eyes avoiding others and looking down on the ground. It gets worse.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, 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. If your right hand causes you to sin, 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” (Mt 5:29-30).
I’m sure the gasps were literally audible. Including from the 12.
It’s bad enough to think your thoughts are adultery, but that you need to cut off body parts to avoid hell if you struggle with lust?
Some of the early church fathers took this literally. They just couldn’t figure out how to tame the beast of lust and so they had themselves castrated. It didn’t work. They missed the word in v. 28 that adultery was committed in the heart.
So what in the world was Jesus saying? In a nutshell he is saying just what he said–sin is in the heart.
With this Jesus topped several towers.
Tower # 1 – Self Righteousness
It’s easy to accuse and judge those who have gone through with the full act of participation in adultery. But the sin is not just in the act but in the heart. That makes everyone who has committed adultery in the heart an equal sinner. The damage may be less but the sin is the same.
Tower #2 – Seriousness
Sometimes sexual sins can be the bane of most joking. Have you ever seen most comedians? It’s almost all sexual. Jesus takes the nature of the sin to the level of shocking sobriety. It’s better you don’t have eyes and hands then entertain the sin of adultery, both in your heart and in your action.
Tower #3 – The Issue of Perspective
We like to soften the blow of our sins (even of the heart) by saying it is wrong because it is unfaithful to the person. It definitely is that. So much so that Jesus makes it plain. This sin could cause you to be justly thrown into hell.
Yes, nobody is sinless.
Like it or not lust is something that has entered 100% of the human heart at some time, some more than others. What man hasn’t at some point lusted after another and what woman hasn’t entertained fantasies?
“All other sins a man commits outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against the body” 1 Cor 6:18. And I believe that is true of fantasy as well.
What are we to do?
- We must take serious the issue of sexual sin. “No coarse joking,” Paul said (Eph 5:4). Deal with our thoughts.
- It’s not just about avoiding sexual sin of the heart but pursuing purity. Purity of heart, mind and soul.
- Humility. It’s easy to judge those who have fallen. Jesus says we are all fallen.
Truly this text was a shocker. Many eyes cast to the ground in shame. But all on equal footing. Next teaching, Jesus. This is getting uncomfortable.