Mathew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
You have heard that it was said
Jesus is going to correct and clarify the teachings of the Pharisees. Jesus’ interpretation is going to uphold exactly what God had said, not changing the law, but clarifying it for his disciples. Jesus clearly teaches that both genders are to remain faithful to marriage vows. Jesus is using this particular example in the context of broken relationships. Just as Jesus began teaching against breaking of interpersonal relationships due to anger using the most extreme example of murder in verse 21, He begins teaching against lust by using the most extreme example of murdering a marriage relationship through the sin of adultery.
28 but I say to you
Jesus is going to emphasize again that sin begins with a wrong choice inside before there is ever an action outside.
that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her
Jesus tells us that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Now, at first it looks like Jesus is setting up a new, more stringent moral standard regarding lust, but remember that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, or change it, but to fulfill it. When Job seeks to assert his integrity before God, In Job 31, he begins in verse 1 with saying “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I look at a virgin? Now Job likely lived sometime between Noah and Abraham, and yet, long before the law was given by Moses, he knew that it was sin to look at a young woman with lust.
everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her
Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a young, unmarried girl with lust. This sin tends to start with looking. Jesus emphasizes that it is the eye gateway to the heart or soul where this particular sin tends to enter. In Matthew 6:22, Jesus asserts that the eye is the lamp of the body. “If your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Things you see easily reach your heart and soul, so, as the children’s song says: “be careful little eyes what you see”.
As Martin Luther said “You can’t stop a bird from flying overhead, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” In other words, you cannot always help what is presented before your eyes, but you can help whether or not you dwell on and fantasize about what you’ve seen. Let’s just say that not much good happens for Christians late at night on the internet, as a general rule. Avoid temptation, and especially temptation that you have caved in to in the past. Psalm 101:3 says I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
Just the seeing alone is not the problem. It’s allowing oneself to be lured and enticed and desiring sin that’s the problem. James 1:14-15 says But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. The etymology of the word lust in Greek is “to be hot after something.” In this context, lust is any sinful desire that is contrary to the will of God. Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
When John encourages us not to love sinful things in the world in 1st John 16, he lists 3 primary categories saying: 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The second phrase, “lust of the eyes,” means we desire what we see.
So, if, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:22 the eye is the lamp of the body. Our eyes can lead our heart into sin. The Psalmist says of the arrogant in Psalm 73:7, “Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot.” The “lust of the eyes” describes someone who is mesmerized, or captivated by an outward show, desiring someone that God has forbidden us to have. And the inordinate desire to have anything contrary to God’s will is sinful.
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
In fact, Jesus says that once we get to the point of looking with lust, we’re already sinning, and it can only get worse from there. Is this as bad as committing the physical act of adultery? No, but it is on the same path, and it is sin.
So, how do we keep the bird from building a nest in our hair?
Well, I think one thing that we can do is put up defenses. Take a stand to not put yourself in tempting situations.
And if we come across temptation, then our next line of defense is to stop the evil thought in its tracks. 1st Corinthians 10:5 5 We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. The moment the enemy or the world around us starts with his old lie “did God really say”, then we claim the Word of God and destroy the false argument. Then we take that thought captive, recognizing it for the bad actor that it is, and refuse to let us influence us.
We cannot always prevent a negative thought from entering our mind, but we do have the ability to prevent that thought from taking root—and the Word of God helps us do this. And we leave no room for these thoughts by remembering what Paul told us in Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Continually dwell on these things. Changing the focus of our thoughts toward these things will make the attacks of the enemy and of the world around us more easy to recognize by contrast—it will look and feel wrong. And our perspective will be more in line with the way Jesus wants us to live.
But in order to accomplish this transformation of our thought life that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about, it takes some discipline: eye-discipline and thought discipline, and some determination to live the inner thought life the way that God wants us to. This is how we defeat the enemy in spiritual warfare—with standing on the Word of God in obedience to what Jesus has told us. That is how we overcome, because He has already overcome the world.