“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.”
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
(Matthew 5:27-32 NIV)
Jesus’ disciples knew that adultery was a sin, according to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14). In a similar fashion to His uber-righteous definition of murder, Jesus expands the definition of adultery to include lustful looks and divorce.
Again, Jesus clearly identifies sin to include both the action and the intention of the heart. No one escapes the searchlight of the Law’s coverage. In Jesus’ previous re-definition of murder, He covered both the act as well as the harsh, hurtful words we use against each other. In this new definition of adultery, Jesus goes beyond acts and words to mere looks and glances.
Jesus uses some very raw and grotesque illustrations to show the unbelievable horror of not going to heaven – far worse than gouged-out eyes and severed hands.
In this section, Jesus also links divorce in with adultery. Divorce was rampant in Jesus’ day. A man could divorce his wife for the most petty of reasons – for burning his dinner, to finding a dust bunny in a corner of the room, to inadvertently showing her ankles in public.
Jesus only gives one justifiable cause for a man to divorce his wife: sexual immorality. Everything else, Jesus said, was a sin. This certainly was a huge shock to the current way of life and societal norm of Jesus’ disciples.
There were (and are) so many practical implications to Jesus’ teaching on adultery here. The main point, as we learned earlier from the Teacher, is that sin covers the physical act of adultery as well as the very intentions of our thoughts.
Jesus also shows God’s heart for the institution of marriage, and the value of both men and women in His sight. Jesus brings incredible worth and hope back to women, seeing them on equal footing with men before God, not just as property or objects of pleasure for men to do with as they choose.
Father, help us to see both men and women as You see them – with infinite value, so much that You sent Your son to be the payment for our sins and welcome us into Your very presence. We confess that there is no way for us to earn our spot in heaven. Jesus makes it clear in this passage that You judge the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Jesus, thank You for showing us how to live here on this earth, for being not only our Savior and Lord, but also our Teacher and Mentor, showing us the way to bring glory to You.
How do you see men and women? What are the thoughts and intentions of your heart? Pray for new eyes, to see people as God sees them.