“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.
(Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)
Over the past few days we’ve been studying Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount in which He explains the responsibilities of those who are His disciples. Included in this is a raising of the bar when it comes to sin. Rather than sin being defined simply as an outward, visible behavior, Jesus tells us that sin includes our thoughts.
After giving us an example of this teaching in which He confirmed that anger is a form or murder and is therefore just as much sin as murder itself, Jesus gives us a second example today. In this example He teaches that lust is just as much sin as adultery.
It’s interesting that Jesus chose these two examples. Anger and sexual lust are two of the most powerful influences in our world. The person who gives in to them is not in control of himself but is allowing himself to be controlled. Sadly, this pretty much describes our world.
When it comes to sex in our society, we’ve become a nation and a world that views it no differently than other biological needs such as eating and drinking. We encourage the free expression of sexuality while ridiculing any talk of the negative consequences of doing so.
But Jesus again establishes His authority (But I say to you) on the matter. Despite what we think or have heard, God’s standard is much higher. The outward act of adultery is sin, for sure. But so is looking at a woman with lustful intent.
Lust is letting our thoughts run while looking at or thinking about another person. This could be in the flesh or via pornography and other types of sexual media. Much of today’s popular music, movies, and TV shows, for example.
While Jesus’ words address men, the same principle can be applied to women. Also note that while adultery is technically committed by a married person, lust can be committed by the unmarried. No human being has never lusted.
Noticing an attractive person is not a sin. It was no sin for David to notice Bathsheba. The sin is in the cultivating of the thought – when the glance becomes a stare and our mind takes over. When we are tempted to sin sexually God commands us to flee [1 Corinthians 6:18] as Joseph did with Potiphar’s wife [Genesis 39]. We’re told to flee because sexual temptation is too strong a force for us. We cannot control it. It can only control us.
Lust is a sin because it is a selfish act. When we lust after another person we are devaluing them – we reduce them to a sexual object for the purpose of gratifying self. We are to value people more than this. Everyone has been made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27] and as such when we devalue them we devalue God.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.