“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” - Matthew 5:27-30
As He did with murder and anger, Jesus goes to the source of the sin of adultery. If we really want to be part of His solution to the world’s problems - and have a salt and light impact - we must learn how to control our sexual desires and cut off our opportunities to act on them.
If we do not want to commit adultery we must win the battle by addressing the issues that lead to adultery - looking with lust and thinking adulterous thoughts. His brother James gives a detailed anatomy of a sin in his New Testament letter. He writes that a look is followed by strong desire, or lust. Lust leads to temptation, which is followed by sin, and sin always leads to that banquet of consequences the Bible labels as “death”. (James 1:13-15, Romans 6:23)
Jesus and His brother James teach that it is easier to conquer sexual sin before taking a second look, thinking impure thoughts and nurturing lust. We should win the victory before our lust leads to the confrontation of temptation. Jesus taught that His disciples should pray every day that they might avoid temptation. (Matthew 6:13)
The teaching of Jesus about plucking out our right eye or cutting off our right hand should not be applied literally. The spirit of this teaching is that if what we are looking at is leading us to sin, we should stop looking. Only the Lord knows the sin that is caused in our world today because people look at pornography, or provocative movies that incite them to lust and sexual sin.
Likewise, He is teaching that if what we are doing with our hand is leading us to sin, we should stop doing it. In another place He includes the foot and the application is that if where our feet are taking us is leading to sin, we should not go there (Matthew 18:8).
What does your culture think about lust and sex? How do these cultural values differ from Jesus’ teaching?
Take a moment to pray, Thank God that He is able to keep us from falling into sin. Ask Him to help you resist temptation in every area of life.
This post is adapted from a lesson of the Mini Bible College, an online study of the whole Bible. We highly recommend their audio resources and written materials, available in many languages, to anyone who wants a stronger understanding of the Bible.