In April 2003, while hiking alone in a remote Utah a slot canyon, Aron Ralston’s right arm became pinned when an 800 pound boulder became dislodged. Unfortunately, he had failed to let anyone know his plans. Ralston spent five days trying to free his arm, without success. Finally, not expecting to survive another night, he carved his name, date of birth and presumed date of death into the sandstone canyon wall. After waking at dawn the following day he discovered that his arm had begun to decompose due to the lack of circulation. Finally, dehydrated and delirious, Ralston amputated his arm with a pocket knife, tied a tourniquet on the stump, rappelled down a 65-foot cliff, and began hiking out of the canyon. He came upon a family that was camping, who called for help. Four hours later he was evacuated by helicopter. Today Ralston is a motivational speaker, who continues to enjoy hiking-but now he lets people know when he’s heading out to the wilderness!
In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus said: “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 lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
When Jesus said, “you shall not commit adultery”, he was saying something that every Jew knew by heart. It was one of the Ten Commandments. You can almost hear the religious leaders say, “Preach it! Amen! You go! That’s right Jesus!” as they think to themselves, “I’ve never committed adultery. I know a lot of other people all around me are a bunch of wicked sinners. They’ve done it—but not me.” But Jesus did not stop there… There’s an important three-letter word: “but”. We should pay extra close attention to the buts in the Bible. “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.”
When most of us think of the word “lust,” we associate it only with sexual desires. The Greek word for lust in verse 28 means a strong desire, for either something good or for something evil. (Too often we crave evil, but see Matthew 13:17 and Luke 22:15 for examples when this word is used for desiring something good). So Jesus was simply reminding us that this commandment forbids coveting anything, good or bad, which is not lawfully yours. Committing adultery in our hearts happens when we look at someone who is not ours in order to gain gratification. Jesus is forbidding staring, desiring, craving, imagining or having a thought about being with someone else other than your spouse. Adultery of the heart includes emotional connections which are not yours to have. We men tend to struggle more with sexual fantasies; I’m told that women often struggle with fantasies of emotional connections. Women may keep in touch with old flames, imagining what it would be like to live with them instead of their own husbands.
God sees and cares about the heart, because that’s where sin conceived (Matthew 15:19; James 1:14-17). Where does the problem start? When lust is conceived—when we put resources to it—when we follow our strong desires with our imaginations or with other actions. That’s when it gives birth to sin and sin to death. James tells us, “Don’t be deceived. You think that following through with these lusts are good for you. They are not. They bring destruction, they bring death—in your relationship with God and in your relationships with others.” Then James goes on to tell us that only good things come from God. When we indulge these lusts sinfully, we steal from the good gifts that God has for us.
At least five truths flow from Matthew 5:27-30:
 Jesus uses the eye and the hand because the eyes are what we use frequently to indulge our
covetous thoughts and the hands are used often to carry out those thoughts with sexual sin.
 Jesus does not say “cut off both hands or pluck both eyes”. We are not to literally dismember our bodies.
We could cut off all of these body parts and still sin with our hearts.
 The “right” eye and hand mean our strongest, most dear eye/hand. Jesus is telling us that nothing is to be
too precious to get rid in the fight against sexual sin.
 To “stumble” means to entrap or to trip up. Get rid of whatever traps you in sexual sin! We must act decisively!
 Sin makes us guilty before a holy God, and deserving of hell. Jesus is serious about sin!
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Memorize one of these passages: Job 31:1; 1 Corinthians 6:18; or Romans 13:13-14.
- Make no provision for the flesh; cut off and destroy any thought of coveting or sexual sin.
- Keep fighting the good fight! God is pleased with your struggle against sin and will reward you.
- You can’t do this alone. God created the church to help each other. Reach out, open up. TCC is ready to help: For free hope and help, write to: contact us here. Learn more about TCC Counseling here.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)