28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28–29, NKJV)
Jesus said the place sin begins is the heart. The heart is the mind, the seat of our intellect, will, emotions, conscience, and volition. “Lust” means to “set the heart upon,” to “long for” (Strong’s Concise Dictionary of Greek NT Words, I:31). In the heart, lusts (and plans to fulfill them) are contemplated, formulated, and postulated before they are practiced (Jas. 1:14-15). The mind is also the place where lusts can be regulated, resisted and refused (Jas. 1:16; 1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus used exaggerated language in vss. 29-30 to describe the extent of the repentance required to remove the source of sin and escape the suffering of hell. Repentance changes the heart so that the lust to sin no longer has a place to reside within us. To repent of our sins we will have to surrender things very dear to us in order not to perish in sin. (The removal of an eye or a hand illustrates the severe nature of repentance.) We will not see the profit of severing our connection to the sin in our hearts as long as our lusts are more precious to us than eternal life. Giving up sin is a small price to pay to escape the everlasting punishment of hell.
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV)
Sin, including the sin of adultery, begins in the heart. The actual sin of adultery puts lust into action. That is, adultery is the physical action of a lustful heart (Heb. 13:4). The sin of lust occurs in the heart, and it leads to the sin of adultery, which is committed with the body and against the purpose of the body (1 Cor. 6:18). Lust and adultery are two distinct sins, with one leading to the other. (This is similar to hate in the heart and murder – two sins, with one leading to the other, 1 Jno. 3:14-15.) Some say today’s passage justifies putting away a spouse who has committed a lustful action (such as viewing pornography). Viewing pornography is certainly a sin of fleshly lust, but it is not the sin of adultery (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5-7). (One can lust without committing adultery, but one cannot commit adultery without lust being in the heart.) We cannot redefine adultery to include pornography, and then legitimize putting away a spouse for the cause of pornography. Viewing porn and committing adultery are distinct sins. Viewing porn is lewdness, uncleanness, evil desire, and sinful passion. But, it is not the sin of adultery. Let us help people repent and repair the damage done to their marriages by pornography. But, let us not sanction divorce and remarriage for the cause of lust (pornography), and call it “for the cause of fornication” (Matt. 19:9).
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17, NKJV)
The universe is an arranged system of celestial bodies we call the cosmos. Here, John speaks of another world or “kosmos” – the system of evil that is in opposition to God and His will. This arrangement of evil – the world – consists of the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (v. 16). The god of this world, the devil, uses these three avenues to deceive and entice souls to their eternal demise. At least one of these three elements is at the heart of every sin and false doctrine that exists. Cleverly disguised as pleasure, success, fulfillment, joy, and self-satisfaction, and many other things, Satan uses them to lure people away from God. The world offers a counterfeit love. We must love God genuinely. That means we must not love the world. It is fading away, but life everlasting is for those who do the will of God.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. 37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. 38 Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You. (Psalm 119:36–38, NKJV)
God’s word is the treasure upon which we must set our hearts. Longing for things that can never satisfy our souls is futile. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by it many souls are destroyed (1 Timothy 6:10). The world sets many things before our eyes to entice us to devote our hearts to worthless things instead of fearing God with full devotion. For example, pornography is wreaking havoc upon our society. It is a monetary driver on the internet, and it is being normalized by the entertainment industry. Young people are watching it in droves, and their concepts of moral purity are being drastically distorted. We must turn our eyes away from such defiling things by embedding God’s word into our hearts. God’s word says do not look lustfully with our eyes (Job 31:1; Matthew 5:28; 1 John 2:16). We must devote ourselves to fearing God instead of indulging the flesh. Lord, “revive me in Your way” and lead me not into temptation.
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2–3, NKJV)
James continues to bring our focus to the driving motives behind conflicts and battles with others. Selfish cravings never satisfy one’s desire to be satisfied and fulfilled. Lust leads to fights and battles with those we believe are preventing us from acquiring our desire. Murder and greedy yearnings are never satisfied through hateful actions that deprive others of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When one’s motive is to “spend it on your pleasures,” others will be treated as disposable rather than with decency and respect. Asking God to help us achieve our goals when evil motives reside in our hearts is a hypocritical and futile approach toward God and toward life.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8–9, NKJV)
After affirming the value of both marriage and celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Paul gives divine counsel to those who are not married and those who are (as well as to subgroups of each) in 1 Corinthians 7:8-16. To the “unmarried and to the widows” Paul rehearsed the benefit of remaining single while exercising self-control against fleshly temptations. (Recall the context of “present distress” that further explains his divine advice, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40). It seems plausible that they had asked Paul whether a person should marry at all (7:1). He answered that remaining without a spouse was a virtuous choice, while being careful not to deny the God-given right to marry, particularly in light of its benefit against the temptations of sexual immorality (7:2). Without a doubt, if the unmarried and widows were to marry it must be a God-approved marriage. You see, not every marriage has God’s approval (Mark 6:17-18; Romans 7:3; Matthew 5:32; 19:9). We cannot legitimize any marriage that God calls “unlawful” and “adultery” without incurring His displeasure and wrath (Ephesians 5:5-7). Whether or not we are married, we must make choices that enhance and protect our moral purity.
27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 6:27–29, NKJV)
Just as one cannot put a firebrand to his chest without getting scorched, or walk on hot coals without burning his feet, adultery will not leave the person who yields to its temptation untouched by its pain, sorrow, and regret. Then, there is the broken trust, the broken marriages, and the lives of spouses and children that are left is tatters. And for what? For a tantalizing, momentary thrill? To fulfill fleshly lust? To escape the monotony of marriage? To follow the deceptive lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? Adultery is a betrayal of vows made before God and of trust mutually shared. It dishonors the bodies of those involved, while shaming God who gave the body for holiness, not moral defilement (1 Corinthians 6:16-20). Guard yourself against this transgression against your own flesh (Genesis 2:23; Ephesians 5:28-31). God’s warning is clear: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul,” and, “Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32, 33). God’s command against adultery is for your protection and purity (Romans 13:9). Honor your marriage by maintaining holy sexuality (Hebrews 13:4).