Summary: We continue our series with Matthew 5:27-30 where Jesus talks about lust and the need to cut sin out of our lives.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part nine)
Back in the days before automobiles, two preachers met in a certain town. The first asked the second how he was doing. “Furious!” replied the second. “Someone stole my bike and I think it’s one of my church members! I don’t know what to do.” The first preacher said, “Here’s what I’d do. I’d preach on the Ten Commandments this Sunday and when I got to ‘Thou shalt not steal’ I’d really hammer it home.” The second preacher said, “I think I’ll take your advice.” The next Monday, the first preacher ran into the second one and saw that he was riding the bicycle. He said, “I see my advice worked.” The second replied, “Not really. When I got to ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery', I remembered where I left my bike."
1) Adultery of the heart.
Matt. 5:27-28, “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."
Here we see Jesus stressing the same point he made earlier regarding murder. As murder isn't just the act but the heart condition as well, so it is with adultery. There's the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. There's the literal statement and the broader context.
Jesus highlights that the act by itself isn't the only sin but it's also what takes place before the act that is of great concern also. Jesus' listeners would think that as long as I don't act on my desires it's okay. But Jesus is saying you've already acted on your desires in your heart, and that's not okay.
We can't control what pops in our mind; we can only control whether or not we entertain it. When a lustful thought happens we have to choose to dismiss it. If we entertain it, we're asking for trouble. Before it's an act; it's a thought. Before an affair happens you have the desire of the heart at work. That desire is fed and if it's not controlled it develops into action.
In Jesus addressing our state of mind he's also addressing our intentions. Sometimes we don't commit the act because the opportunity isn't there, and we think we're okay because of it. But Jesus would say, "If you did have the chance, you would. Therefore, the desire of your heart is to commit the act; there's just something circumstantial preventing you from doing so".
It's not like we have these thoughts but we dismiss them saying, 'what am I thinking? It would be stupid to act on this; I have way too much to lose." That's different. It's when our lustful thoughts communicate, "If only I had the chance, I wouldn't hesitate in carrying it out", is when we're in deep trouble because what happens if the opportunity does present itself?
There's something else we need to consider. We see the word lust and we typically think of it in a sexual way. However, I can lust after someone in a nonsexual way too. We might lust after someone else's wife or husband in a way that we just want to be with them; in a covetous way. "I wish she was my wife instead of his."
And I think this is especially important for women to consider. The ladies might hear these verses and dismiss them because they aren't typically given over to sexual lusting like men are. However, when I look at it in its fullness, I realize how it applies to a woman.
A woman may lust after a man for qualities beyond the physical: his intelligence, his sense of humor, his maturity, stability, etc. So when you see these qualities in someone's husband, this will become problematic if it isn't reigned in. I could begin to fantasize and obsess about it. I may even begin to act on it.
This is how affairs happen. For a man it's primarily the physical attraction but for the woman it's more of an emotional one. So we all can fall into the trap of lust. As Jesus wanted us to look beyond the physical act of adultery and see it in a deeper sense, he also wants us to look at lust as more than just a sexual desire.
"Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully". Notice Jesus says woman and not another man's wife. Woman would imply any woman, married or not. So how can I be committing adultery if she's not married? The obvious answer is because I'm married. But what if I'm not? Is it a problem if I'm single and she's single? Yes, because I'm looking at a woman created by God and loved by God in a way that God did not intend for me to look at her. She's not my wife so I shouldn't think of her in a sexual way.