You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
In an interview in 1976 with Playboy Magazine, President Jimmy Carter is quoted as saying, "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times". While this is an admission that practically no men or women would publicly make, practically all men and women are guilty of this. Yet Jesus says having lust in your heart for another person is the same as having committed adultery.
As we learned previously, the Jewish law focused on a person's outward action. Jesus' new righteousness focuses on the inward actions of the heart. Whoever has the desire to commit adultery is also guilty. Are there any people who can stand up to this standard when it comes to the issue of lust? Modern researchers estimate that 90 percent of men and women in committed relationships today frequently find other women or men sexually attractive.
Some people have suggested that to control our thoughts, we should plunge ourselves into Christian action; to do something to fill life so full that there is no time for these thoughts to enter; to decline to read certain literature; to decline to see certain films; to decline to visit certain institutions. Now, Jesus does say that we are to go to great lengths to avoid compromising situations. And while these are worthy suggestions, in my opinion, they are temporary solutions to an eternal problem.
If we are being honest with ourselves, as President Carter was, we know that we cannot be so vigilant as to avoid these thoughts altogether, no matter how busy we make ourselves, no matter how hard we try to avoid certain things. We are humans, with human weaknesses; fallen creatures.
In this teaching, Jesus is showing us the weakness of the law and at the same time He is showing us our own human weakness and telling us that we, on our own, will never be righteous. We will fail to meet this standard, and we will need God's grace and mercy and forgiveness- always. We are always in need of a savior.
Maybe, instead of avoiding our thoughts or pretending they do not exist, we should confront our thoughts, and attempt to understand them and their source. This may be a better way of resolving them. Maybe we need to recognize that we may never rid ourselves of them completely and to make a conscious, sincere effort to seek forgiveness at the end of each day.
Tomorrow we study divorce.