Adultery Begins In The Heart



‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Matthew 5:27-28

Our Lord began by referring to the seventh commandment, Exodus 20:14. The Old Law punished the physical act of sin but didn’t reach any further. Jesus again goes to the root of the problem, the heart, Job 31:1, as He did with the prior subject pertaining to anger and murder.

For a person to lust after someone else is to commit sin. Let it be understood that lust isn’t just desire, but unlawful or illicit desire. Thus, it’s impossible for someone to lust after his or her spouse since there is nothing sinful about those desires. Sexual desire isn’t intrinsically wrong.

Sexual desire is God-given and natural, Genesis 1:28. However, it must be fulfilled in the only authorised relationship for such, marriage, Hebrews 13:4.

For our eyes to see an attractive person doesn’t automatically mean that we’ve lusted. However, to focus our thoughts on that individual and have illicit thoughts or fantasies is to be guilty of committing adultery in our hearts.

Someone once said, ‘you can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you certainly can prevent them from nesting in your hair’, how true!

In like manner, there’s nothing we can do to prevent some temptations, but we can always keep them from having a resting place in your heart! It should also be noted that there is a difference between a look of lust and a look of admiration or affection.

For instance, there is nothing wrong with fathers gazing admiringly upon their daughters who have grown to maturity, but they should not desire them sexually. It is possible to recognise physical beauty without lusting in our hearts.

Jesus’ teaching in this passage is difficult for many, especially men. Even if a person doesn’t physically commit adultery, they still stand guilty before God if they merely have the desire to commit the act. If they stare and wish they could gratify their lust, they have sinned.

Truly, it is impossible for one to actively commit physical adultery without first committing the sin in his heart. Hence, the physical act includes the mental and can be shown to be a more serious transgression, Matthew 19:9.

Bruce, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Jesus, though tempted in all ways, Hebrews 4:15, endured such temptations but did not yield to such sin. He was able to see women as other than objects for His gratification. “He was tempted in all points as we are, but desire was expelled by the mighty power of a pure love to which every woman was a daughter, a sister, or a betrothed: a sacred object of tender respect.’

Our Lord’s teaching here clearly shows that we can commit a sin within the confines of our minds. God has always expected His followers to physically abstain from adultery, but to be truly righteous is to develop a mindset that doesn’t even desire those things that are unlawful.

If we are able to remove lustful thoughts from our hearts, the physical act of adultery will no longer be a problem. King David would not have committed adultery with Bathsheba if he hadn’t seen her and lusted after her, 2 Samuel 11.

If he hadn’t committed adultery, then he wouldn’t have murdered Uriah, 2 Samuel 11:14-16. Much evil could have been prevented had David simply turned away after spotting Bathsheba for the first time!

It’s easy to see how idleness and immodesty led to David’s lust and unrighteous actions. If we keep busy doing what is right and dressing ourselves modestly, such will go a long way toward preventing lustful thoughts from harbouring in our minds or the minds of others!

May we endeavour to develop hearts that are pure, Matthew 5:8. May we meditate upon those things that are noble, pure, and virtuous, Philippians 4:8. May we be distinct from the world and not possess ‘eyes full of adultery’, 2 Peter 2:14.

May we, like Job, make a covenant with our eyes, and decide not to look intently upon others lustfully, Job 31:1. If we can keep adulterous thoughts out of our hearts, physical infidelity will never be a problem.