Read Matthew 5:27-32
Continuing with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, today, we look at what Jesus had to say about adultery and some of the strange things he said regarding that topic.
When you look up the word "adultery" in Strong's Concordance, you get the standard definition: "to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife." But you also get this definition, "A Hebrew idiom, the word is used of those who at a woman's solicitation are drawn away to idolatry, i.e. to the eating of things sacrificed to idols."
In other words, you aren't just cheating on your spouse. You are cheating on God as well.
So what did Jesus say about adultery in general? As he did with anger, he looked at the heart's intent. He said that when a man looks lustfully at a woman, it is the same as committing adultery with her. The intent of the heart is what is looked at here, and to drive that point home, Jesus added the following:
"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. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off 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 5:29-30, NKJV).
So did Jesus mean he wants us to pluck out our eyes or cut off our body parts? Not at all! Jesus uses the eye and hand metaphor for how dangerous it is to give in to the sin of adultery. Jesus implies that if your right eye is infected with disease, then the logical thing to do is pluck it out. Likewise, if your hand is diseased and spreading, the logical thing to do would be to cut it off. His point is not that one should literally pluck out their eye or cut off their hand. But, that one should recognize that the source of lust comes from within the mind and heart of man, not from the physical organ itself. When we allow those lustful thoughts to fester, they grow and are acted on, thus resulting in sin. Jesus is teaching that men need to bring their lust under the control of the Holy Spirit.
But currently, this is not what most churches stress. Most churches look at 1 Timothy 2:9 and claim how a woman dresses can cause a man to sin. The entire responsibility for what a man thinks is placed on the woman. And that is horrifying. It also goes against what Jesus taught.
Jesus discusses divorce and how the sin of the heart (wanting what it can't or shouldn't have) results in adultery. In fact, he stressed that married people should never divorce unless the sin of sexual immorality (fornication, aka cheating on their spouse) is present. The point is clear, lust begins in the mind or flesh (as does all sin) and weaves its way into the heart, infecting the whole body. Once the mind starts to make excuses for why it's okay to sin, then it has no trouble convincing the heart to follow through.
God looks at the intent of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10). But, suppose we do not bring our desires under the total control of the Holy Spirit? In that case, we allow sin to reign in our lives and ultimately say to God, "I don't want to be obedient to you. You are no longer in charge of my life." And God will do as you ask and leave you to your own desires (Romans 1:24-25; Psalm 81:11-12).
This is why we are told repeatedly in the Scriptures to run from sin. It destroys not just your relationship with God, but in the case of adultery, it destroys whole families. This is why Jesus put it so bluntly: in the end, it would be better to lose a limb than to see the destruction the sin of adultery can wreak.