The Harm In Looking
Read Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off, and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
What lies do you tend to believe about lust? What did Jesus really mean when He said to get rid of the body parts causing us to sin?
There’s no harm in looking. Man, if that isn’t a powerful lie! I’m not hurting anyone. Another lie: No one knows what I’m thinking. God knows, friend. All of us have fallen for these lies at some point or another. Over the past few days, we have established this truth—what happens inside our hearts matters. We sin from the inside out.
In today’s verses, Jesus addressed the issue of sexual sin. He affirmed the Law in Exodus 20:14, the 7th commandment, which forbade adultery. Any sexual act outside of the covenant of marriage is a sin. But once again, Jesus defines sin as more than merely an external deed but an internal attitude of the heart. He said that if you even look at a woman with lustful intentions, you are committing adultery with her in your heart.
Women, Jesus may be addressing men specifically here but it would be foolish to think that this doesn’t apply to you as well. Women can struggle with lust just as much as men. Lust is sin regardless of your gender.
Now, we might be fooling ourselves into thinking that lustful fantasies are a “safe” way to satisfy our sexual desires but we are wrong. Lust is a sin that separates us from God and has harmful effects on our lives. As with all sins, we need to take the consequences of lust seriously.
For example, porn is a serious problem in our society with negative consequences. It can lead to addiction, unrealistic expectations and sexual dissatisfaction in real life, social isolation, mood disorders, neglecting responsibilities, sexually objectifying others, sexual violence, and of course, relationship problems.
As spouses, thinking that we can look as long as we don’t touch is incredibly painful to our spouse. It’s like saying, “I’m not cheating on you, honey. But I wish I could. In fact, I’m imagining being with someone else right now.” Ouch. Every time we look lustfully at someone else and our spouse catches our eyes wandering, they feel like they don't measure up. They aren’t enough. They feel as if they are being cheated on. And Jesus agrees.
Hopefully, we’ve established that there is harm in looking and that lust does hurt other people. But what about the lie that no one knows what we’re thinking? In Matthew 9:4 Jesus showed the scribes that He knew what they were thinking before they spoke out loud: “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” In Jeremiah 17:10, God said, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind….” If we think we can hide our lust from God, we are kidding ourselves.
Friends, Jesus knows that we can have clean bodies but dirty hearts and minds when it comes to sex. Remember, Jesus is not just concerned with our external cleanliness. He is concerned with the purity of our hearts (Matthew 5:8). That’s why He says it’s best to cut off a body part that is causing you to sin. Obviously, Jesus isn’t advocating for us to maim ourselves! But He is telling us to cut out the temptations in our lives. Sin leads to death and eternal punishment. As theologian John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”
Lord, thank You for Your grace and forgiveness in every area of my life, particularly in the area of sexual purity. Expose the sins of my heart to me, help me to reject temptation, and remove it from my life. Help me to walk in sexual purity in my heart, mind, and actions. Amen.