Take a Look at Your Motives
“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. If your right eye causes you to sin, 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 sin, 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.” (Matthew 5:27-30)
In our verses for today, Jesus again goes deeper than the mere act of the sin of adultery. As he considers the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery” [Deuteronomy 5:18]), he challenges us to think about the lust behind the action which resides in one’s heart.
Later in the New Testament, James puts it this way:
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)
The source of temptation is found within one’s own heart, stemming from evil desires, lusts, or cravings. Sadly, a devious heart builds and baits its own trap. Unchecked lust yields to sin and unconfessed sin brings death. We are to restrain our sinful passions and appetites.
We find in Proverbs a similar warning:
For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. (Proverbs 6:23-26)
God is serious about sin. No matter how trifling we may consider it, God never winks at it. It cost Him the life of His Son. He justly and righteously abhors our wallowing in it like a cleaned sow returning to the mud. Sin will always break our communion with God and ultimately carries with it a death sentence. Jesus teaches us here that we are to restrain corrupt glances and keep out defiling impressions. We are to quickly flee the temptation to sin. These precepts are given as a hedge around us to keep our hearts pure.
This principle can be applied to anything that we are lusting after: fame, fortune, pleasure, comfort. Are you living an unsatisfied life always in pursuit of more worldly passions? Are you buying into the same lies that our mother Eve bit into when she lusted for the forbidden fruit? God is holding out on me, there is more out there than He is willing to give me, my way is better than His, I can be more satisfied with created things rather than the Creator, I know better than my Maker.
-K. H. Von Bogatzky
All of these are eventually found wanting and lead to death. This is why Jesus speaks so severely regarding our sin in the verses for today.
We do well to watch over our hearts, suppressing the first rising of corruption and lust, avoiding occasions whereby we are prone to fall, and declining the company of those we are easily ensnared by. Basically, we are to keep out of harm’s way! If I were trying to diet I shouldn’t camp out in an ice cream store! This is a relatively easy principle to understand.
God requires nothing of us that is not for our advantage and ultimate good. It is His desire to give us good things, things that are pleasing and perfect. We are the losers when we wrongly choose to follow the lusts of our own hearts.
“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
Take It to Heart
“For the love of God is broader than the measures of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.”
(Frederick William Faber)