“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.
Jesus continues in these verses to go straight to the heart of Jewish Law; this time commenting on the seventh Commandment. The commission of adultery would seem to involve quite a bit more than a roll in the hay in Jesus’ view, since guilt took place when the man looked at another woman with desire. Others have commented on this extensively, and I’m happy to let you consult them for their wisdom, for this post, I will assume that the words speak plainly enough. The principle, in my view, extends beyond another man’s wife and goes to any possession of another person; house, car, furniture, TV… whatever. It isn’t yours, and “lusting” after it is a spiritual problem.
Jesus makes this point in verses 29-30 by the use of some hyperbole. Even most literalists will agree that Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation, the tearing out of eyes and chopping off of hands. However, the right eye and the right hand are illustrative of the principle I mentioned, for they represent the things we cast our gaze upon, and our deeds. Is our gaze always upon the possessions of others or things we cannot or should not have? If so, then our gaze is clearly not on the “things that are above”. What about the things that we do? Are we just about getting “things”? Maybe we are all about taking things…
With this in mind, we step back and look at the larger Kingdom concept: How does our gaze upon the spouse of another effect the community of believers? How does it affect the relationships involved? How would this affect our own marriages?
Unlike previous teachers, Jesus is going way beyond the mere commission of a physical act and into the inner thoughts and motivations of the heart, for in the Kingdom of Heaven, sin in whatever form brings about relational problems between believers and God.
“Good” Christians look down on adultery in the church, but tolerate it. But when it comes to homosexuality, they rise up in horror. They are both equally horrifying to God. Too bad in our society we have started saying “living with” instead of “committing adultery with”. I am writing a book about Senegal in West Africa. In the Serere Noon religion, if a man was caught in adultery, his underwear was hung high over his house and he was shamed so much, sometimes it led to suicide.
That’s an interesting approach 🙂
Thanks for zooming out and considering the “lust” of wanting all things not yours. With the infestation of pornography in American culture it’s easy to to zoom in on that principle without the larger implications. I also like that you connected this sin to the damage it inflicts on relationships. Well done.
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