Matthew 5: 27-30, Lust is Adultery!
General Idea: Jesus cuts right to the root, the heart of the problem with most marriages. Instead of coming out and saying divorce is sin and wrong (which He does later in v. 31), He tells us to be watchful for what leads up to it, trying to save us the strife, confusion, the broken relationship, and the hurt before it is too late. He ties together the Seventh and the Tenth Commandments (Ex. 20: 14; 17) which are further honored by following the precepts of Ephesians 5:22-33. This means, to prevent the Seventh, we have to safeguard the Tenth, guarding ourselves from lust, and modeling good character. Coupling this with real love will result in keeping a healthy marriage alive. Otherwise, lust will be the factor that leads to divorce. Then, He suggests surgery, to cut the cancer of lust and sin out of the heart, as an illustration to the importance and urgency of this matter. This was not a new teaching, rather Jesus was again challenging the Pharisees with their own laws, pointing out the irony of their having the teaching right in this case, but not in their practice. This is why He later calls them hypocrites.
1. "You have heard it said," Jesus is expanding on the OT Law and what the Pharisees teach by confronting them with their own regulations.
a. Our society does not see adultery as an urgent problem. Lust is even encouraged. However, in God's Will, and His point of view, this is a serious offense and a prime destroyer of relationships! Remember, God is a God of relationships.
i. Some of the Pharisees were teaching, with their own laws, that lust was the cause of adultery, while others were saying as long as you did not commit the specific act, you were not guilty of it. Jesus was resolving their debate, as well as ours.
ii. The book of Job, "look at a woman to lust for her" considered lust wrong even then (some scholars consider Job the oldest book in the Bible, predating Moses, while others place it Solomon's time. In any case, it is old), and the very thing to guard so as to keep us filled with integrity, that we do not fall, or have false accusations placed against us (Job 31:1-12).
iii. The problem with an act of sin begins in the heart with inner feelings (Mark 7:21-23).
b. Looks, or looking, refer to one's seeking to lust, wanting what is wrong, and not for them, seeking what does not belong to them. This ranges anywhere from having a desire "to being physical with them" to possessing them completely. This leads to impropriate conduct and the destruction of relationships.
i. Although this term, "looks," that Jesus uses does not refer to just a "quick glance," some people teach that it is OK to look at another with admiration for beauty and not be guilty of "lust." However, you would be tempting yourself wrongly and placing yourself in an awkward, even dangerous situation. So, don't!
ii. And this goes to women who, (yes, they do!), lust!
2. Lust is the factor that leads to divorce. As a prominent Christian group that holds seminars called "Every Mans Battle" teaches, if you have a problem in this area, and most men do, take it seriously. Every man's battle is not finding parking; it is lust!
a. Jesus lists this immediately following murder in the Ten Commandments to emphasize the seriousness of this destroyer of relationships (Ex. 20: 13-14)!
i. Adultery in the Old Testament was a capital offense, deserving death (Ex. 21:24-25; Lev. 20:10).
ii. If you think adultery and lust are OK, think again, because God has promised to judge this act (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
iii. Adultery destroys marriages, families, friendships, and is passed on to multiple generations, destroying the lives of the children who follow the same patterns as their parents!
3. Jesus calls us to Surgery of the heart:
a. "Pluck it out" obviously is not meant by Jesus to be literal, and telling us to mutilate ourselves, or we all would be blind and lame! However, some people in the monastic movements in the Middle Ages did take it literally!
b. Matt. 18:6-9 gives us the key to unlock this riddle. Used as a radical illustration, it may wake us up to the severity to which Jesus draws us. It is essential for us to understand this, even though our culture does not see it. We must model and teach what is right, and not be hypocritical.
c. The hand is the act of adultery; the eye is what leads up to it. We have to maim ourselves internally to safeguard our soul and outward relationships.
d. This illustration was shocking to some of the Jews who believed that we are resurrected physically to how we were before we died.
e. Sin is a cancer in our soul. We must be convinced that sin is extremely destructive, to us as well as those around us, as it will spread and consume us from within!
i. If you only guard one entrance to your heart and not any other, you are producing halfway measures and halfhearted efforts; this will only give sin more time and opportunity to wreak havoc!
ii. Do not seek or follow the flawed wisdom of people when God has already given you the answer (Gal. 1:16)!
iii. Radical surgery is required to treat the cancer of sin! And to treat cancer you have to Cut it Out (Phil. 4:8-9)!
4. How we can avoid the sin of adultery by plucking it out:
a. We are called to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. That means to not be hypocrites, but have our virtue real and impacting, and, with our eyes upon our Lord, allow our character to become like His (Matt. 5:20).
b. By setting up a barrier one level above the offence, then to choose not to cross it, will help safeguard us from it. That means to make a commitment not to lust! Lust leads into adultery, and that leads to the next passage dealing with divorce (Matt. 5:31-32).
c. This also means we may have to take drastic action in order to get rid of whatever may be tempting us to sin. Remove all stumbling blocks that may cause or encourage you to sin! Get rid of peers who steer you wrong, movies, magazines, clean our your hard drive, and get someone to hold you accountable. (Gen 39:7-12; 1 Cor. 6:18; 15:33-34).
5.The good news of Grace is forgiveness of our sins. But beware. Although you are forgiven, the destruction you caused will have lasting consequences. You may not be able to rebuild the relationships destroyed by the sin of adultery. For the unrepentant adulterer, there may be no hope. However, if they do repent, the hope of salvation in our Lord is still available--as He is for us all (1 Cor. 6:7-11)!
Our life on earth is not our ultimate hope and reality. This is mainly a place to learn and grow. Thus, what we do or do not do here will echo throughout eternity, and determine our place in the future with rewards or condemnation! Do not let the lust of your flesh rule your heart and rob you of your future. Rather, seek forgiveness, and safeguard your future actions!
1. How did you deal with lust prior to becoming a Christian or prior to growing deeper in the faith?
2. What is your view of lust? Do you think it is a problem in your life, or in our society? How do your views stack up to Jesus' words?
3. What does it mean to be on watch for what leads to adultery?
4. What happens when we fail to watch for what leads to adultery?
5. Why do you suppose society does not see adultery as a real problem, even encouraging lust? What do you suppose will be gained by that mentality?
6. Why is lust, in God's Will and view, such a serious offense?
7. Read Job 31:1-12. What do you think Job's view and plan was to deal with lust?
8. The problem with an act of sin begins in the heart with inner feelings. What are some inner feelings with which you struggle? (Answer this question priestly, [to a pastor] or privately, to someone you trust who can hold you accountable.)
9. Why do you think lust is the factor that leads to divorce?
10. How, and why, would a Christian think adultery and lust are OK? Keep in mind that what we say is not always how we act, as 50% of Christians (Barna Report, 2000) have had affairs. In addition, at a Youth Pastors conference I went to in 1997, the hotel where we all stayed reported the biggest usage of porn from cable TV in their history that week. I offered to do a seminar the following year dealing with pornography, and it was turned down supposedly due to the fact it was irrelevant and unneeded!
11. Why would setting up a barrier one level above the offence help safeguard you from that sin?
12. Some people teach that it is OK to look at another with admiration for beauty and not be guilty of "lust." What do you think?
13. What is the drastic action you may have to take to get rid of whatever may be tempting you to sin?
14. What did you think, Pluck it out, meant when you first read it?
15. What can you do to better model, and teach what is right, and not be hypocritical?
16. Yes, as a Christian, you have forgiveness of your sins. However, have you considered that the destruction you cause by this sin may not be able to be restored? How can that motivate you to live a life of integrity?
17. When did you become convinced that sin is extremely destructive to you and those around you? If not, what would it take to convince you?
18. What would happen if you only guarded one entrance to your heart and not the others? That may mean setting up only half of a plan, leaving big holes in it, or not thinking through all of the potential problems and security holes.
19. What we do or do not do in the present will echo throughout eternity and determine our place in the future with rewards or condemnation! How can that motivate you to live a life of integrity?
20. How we can you avoid the sin of adultery? Carefully consider all the steps you need to take and make a commitment to keep them. Then, have someone hold you accountable.
© 2002, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org