GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 15)
The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus. Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament. The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus, in all he was and was to do, came not to set aside or annual the Law but to fulfill it. In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43). Separating the counterfeit from the Real – next with the prohibition against Adultery.
So far we have learned that the measure of God looks at the heart and not just outward actions. So apart from the external prohibition against sexual immortality – adultery – Jesus targets issues of the heart. With murder, the issue addressed was anger. With adultery, the issue is looking at a person with lust.
Matthew 5:27-3027“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If 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. 30And 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.
1. Measuring spiritual living from the heart. Here Jesus takes a second explanation of the true standard of the Kingdom of God. In other words, lusting after a woman in our hearts is adultery. The backdrop is the 10th commandment: you should not covet your neighbor’s wife. Beyond the physical and sexual violation and breach of relationship by sexual activity with one who is not your spouse, this is spiritual contamination between a righteous God and a sinning pilgrim. It is not the Law, but the Rabbinic explanation of the law that is at fault.
Just as the momentary pleasure of anger toward another is murder in the heart, so the momentary pleasure of lusting after others is adultery in the heart – has already committed adultery with her. Admittedly, this is not just looking, but looking with lust. It is not innocent looking, but I find that the gap from looking to looking with lust as a short step. Maybe others have better mental control than me. My sense of this passage is to try to play near the fire without getting burned, or near a line without crossing over, is a dangerous matter, which is measured by the standards of the Kingdom of God.
2. Better to lose my eye or a bodily limb, figuratively speaking, than ignore the heart where true spiritual life or death resides. Jesus provides dramatic illustrations of the necessity of guarding our hearts. The ultimate eternal destiny of the follower of Jesus is illustrated by the warnings against the infidel heart. The lessons here are multiple: the largest values in life are measured by eternity; no momentary pleasure is worth the eternal losses for a wayward pilgrim; sin is a destructive force that will take us to our personal destruction.
Do you remember Jimmy Carter’s interview by Playboy magazine in 1976? Bless his heart. While he was only a marginally competent President, in my view, he may have been the most spiritual and godly man serving in the Presidency in my memory. In that interview, he repeated Jesus’ warning against adultery being committed in the heart by looking at a woman with lust. He was ridiculed for that, but he was, and is, right.
The larger lesson is as to the dangers of sin in the life of a believer. James 1:13-1513When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. This is truly the dangers of playing close to the line, or near the fire, while neglecting our heart to our own personal demise. It is a risk for every believer.
We all stumble in many ways. James 3:2a. Forewarned is forearmed, it seems to me. Best to you this week as we travel the pilgrim’s road together. Next week – the subject of divorce.
— John Moore