AVOIDING ADULTERY DOESN’T GIVE YOU A PASS TO INDULGE IN LUST
William Barclay: It is necessary that we should understand what Jesus is saying here. He is not speaking of the natural, normal desire, which is part of human instinct and human nature. According to the literal meaning of the Greek, the man who is condemned is the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her. The man who is condemned is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to awaken his lust, the man who looks in such a way that passion is awakened and desire deliberately stimulated.
John Nolland: In this second antithesis the adultery commandment is expanded to include indulgence in illicit sexual activity in the realm of the imagination. The challenge is given to go to the limit to eliminate sin.
Craig Blomberg: Either way, the present tense participle refers to one who continues to look rather than just casting a passing glance, and in either case the mere viewing or mental imagining of a naked body is not under consideration. Instead Jesus is condemning lustful thoughts and actions—those involving an actual desire (the most literal translation of the verb epithyme ) to have sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse. Yet despite the danger of overapplying this verse, an even greater danger is that of underapplying it. Adultery among Christians today is a scandal, yet it almost never occurs without precipitation. Christians must recognize those thoughts and actions which, long before any overt sexual sin, make the possibility of giving in to temptation more likely, and they must take dramatic action to avoid them.
Donald Hagner: He shifts the attention from the external act to the inner thought. There, in the inner person, lie the real problem and the initial guilt. To lust after someone sexually is to nurture a burning desire for that person in one’s heart. Such lust has a consuming effect. Where lust exists, the discipleship of the kingdom requires dramatic and determined action to rid oneself of the cause.
Robert Gundry: True discipleship, then, will show itself through sexual self-discipline in the heart as well as in act.
John MacArthur: And in the text before us, our Lord is giving us several perspectives on sin. First of all, in the very passage I just read, we see the depth of sin. And that is not only an act, it is an attitude. It is much deeper than just committing adultery. It is even looking on a woman to lust after her. And so our Lord shows us the depth of sin.
Also, I think we see here the deceit of sin, that it’s never as simple as it looks. Sin would like to make us think that if we’re highly respectable on the outside, we’re all right. Jesus shows us that you could be highly respectable on the outside and be rotten on the inside.
We see not only the depth and the deceit of sin, but we see the destructiveness of sin. Our Lord is showing us that sin will cast someone into hell. At the end of verse 29 He says it, and at the end of verse 30. Sin is so severe that the ultimate end of sin is to cast people into an eternal hell.
This is the destructiveness of sin. So serious is it that we would be better to maim ourselves if that would prevent it. We would be better to deal with ourselves in a very harsh and brutal way to prevent sin because of what sin can do.
I. (:27-28) JESUS’ TEACHING ON ADULTERY FOCUSES ON LUST
A. (:27) Traditional Teaching of Jewish Religious Leaders
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;”
J. Ligon Duncan: But the Lord Jesus wants to make it clear that that command cannot nearly be kept by literally refraining from adultery in sexual immorality. It must be kept at a deeper level because the law is a matter of the heart. He teaches us that in this passage. Notice again, that Jesus is not attacking the Old Testament, He’s not attacking the moral law, but the Lord Jesus is attacking the interpretation of the moral law by the Pharisee in His day.
B. (:28) Transcendent Teaching of Jesus
“but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her
has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Richard Gardner: Adultery does not begin in the neighbor’s bedroom, Jesus says, but in the craving in one’s heart to possess the neighbor’s spouse.
David Thompson: Now in verse 28 Jesus wants to take an understanding of adultery to a whole new level. When He says, “But I say to you,” it is very emphatic in Greek. Jesus is speaking as Divine King and He is addressing God’s perspective of what is classified as adultery, namely, “looking on a woman to lust for her.” One might say, “I’ve never committed adultery because I never divorced my mate.” Jesus says think again; just as you have a speech problem in that you’ve committed murder, so you have an eye problem in that you’ve committed adultery
(Grammatical Point #1) – The participle “looks” is present tense which means Jesus is speaking about a continual habitual looking. This is not a one moment in time glance; this is a repeated gazing.
(Grammatical Point #2) – The infinitive “to lust” is a purpose infinitive. In other words, the premeditated purpose of the looking is to lust. The tense of the infinitive is aorist, which would seem to indicate that the action of lusting occurs before the action of looking (Dana & Mantey, p. 230).
Now here is Christ’s point–if a man or woman continually and habitually is prompted by lusts to continually look at something immoral–this one is guilty of committing adultery in his/her heart.
Paulson: So, in Jesus’s terminology, lust is a desire to possess. It’s an intention to dominate. Which then inflames to a coveting desire. So when a man lusts after a woman, he takes the mystery of personhood and reduces her to a consumer item and covets her as a thing, rather than a person. . . It’s impossible to live in the kingdom of God when we objectify his crown creation. Human beings. . .
Do you know one of the best spiritual disciplines you can embrace if you’re struggling with lust is fasting? Because we remind our soul that our body doesn’t control us. We start to rewire parts of our brain to go no, no, I don’t need that. I can feed on something a little bit different.
II. (:29-30) RADICAL REMOVAL OF THE PATHWAY TO TEMPTATION ADVOCATED
A. (:29) Picture of Removal of Right Eye
“And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you;
for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish,
than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
William Barclay: “stumble” — Behind it there are two pictures.
- First, there is the picture of a hidden stone in a path against which someone may stumble, or of a cord stretched across a path, deliberately put there to make them trip.
- Second, there is the picture of a pit dug in the ground and deceptively covered over with a thin layer of branches or of turf, and so arranged that, when unwary travellers set foot on it, they are immediately thrown into the pit.
The skandalon, the stumbling-block, is something which trips people up, something which sends them crashing to destruction, something which lures them to their own ruin.
Grant Osborne: The idea of gouging out and cutting off, needless to say, demands a violent, decisive measure for removing the source of the temptation. The reason is seen in “to fall away” (σκανδαλίζει), a strong term that does not simply indicate temptation to general sin but that which leads one virtually into apostasy. This would be moral apostasy or very serious sin.
Thomas Constable: It is extremely important for us to monitor our thoughts carefully because of the depth, and power, and subtlety, and perverting nature, and effect, and danger, and pollution of sin (cf. Rom. 8:13-14; 1 Cor. 9:29; Col. 3:5).
B. (:30) Picture of Removal of Right Hand
“And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you;
for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish,
than for your whole body to go into hell.”
William Barclay: Of course, the words of Jesus are not to be taken with a crude literalism. What they mean is that anything which helps to seduce us to sin is to be ruthlessly rooted out of life. If there is a habit which can be seduction to evil, if there is an association which can be the cause of wrongdoing, if there is a pleasure which could turn out to be our ruin, then that thing must be surgically excised from our life. . .
If people are harassed by thoughts of the forbidden and unclean things, they will certainly never defeat the evil things by withdrawing from life and saying, I will not think of these things. They can do so only by plunging into Christian action and Christian thought. They will never do it by trying to save their own lives; they can do it only by flinging their lives away for others.
Craig Blomberg: The “right” eye and hand refer to those viewed in antiquity as more valuable. Again, eternal judgment appears as the punishment for those who fail to heed Jesus’ words. Sin that is not dealt with leads inexorably to judgment. Jesus is not implying, however, that sexual sin cannot be forgiven when there is true repentance.
William Hendriksen: Sin, being a very destructive force, must not be pampered. It must be “put to death” (Col 3:5). Temptation should be flung aside immediately and decisively. Dillydallying is deadly. Halfway measures work havoc. The surgery must be radical. Right at this very moment and without any vacillation the obscene book should be burned, the scandalous picture destroyed, the soul-destroying film condemned, the sinister yet very intimate social tie broken, and the baneful habit discarded. In the struggle against sin the believer must fight hard. Shadow-boxing will never do (1 Cor 9:27).