Look again at verses 27-28.
“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 lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
The imagination is powerful. Think of all the things we imagine: new jobs, more money, more influence, better friends, better weather. When we begin to imagine better relationships, especially when it deals with the areas of love and marriage, then our issues begin. You see, our minds are a theatre with the pictures fed by the eye. The sinful heart takes that picture and drives that sin in deep in the heart. And it sullies how we look at those made in God’s image. Prior to the Flood, Genesis 6:5 gives the indictment: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Whereas last week we looked at the sixth commandment (“You shall not murder”) and saw how Jesus corrected the Pharisees’ interpretation, this week we look at how Jesus sheds light on God’s view of the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”). Psalm 119:96 says, “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.” The Pharisees were caught interpreting the commandment too narrowly. In this case, they only looked at the particular act — and even then in some cases it was permitted (such as when you “lie with a slave or a Gentile”). Only lying with an Israelite’s wife was not permitted. They interpreted it far too narrowly.
Jesus here though shows how “exceedingly broad” the commandment is. “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Whereas Jesus affirms that the particular act is sinful, so is what Ligon Duncan calls “eye adultery” — and he is merely quoting the Apostle Peter: 2 Peter 2:14: “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!”
Men and women need to recognize some things. From songs, to movies, to bookstores, to the Internet, sex has been reduced to something simply for fleshly gratification. Of late, I cannot listen to songs dealing with this area. Men singing songs that objectify women — they are called awful names, described in awful ways, and are simply seen as conquests.
But if you see the videos, you see that women dress in styles that invite this. And since that’s the style in Hollywood and coming out of Madison Avenue, young women (even teenagers) are highly susceptible to wearing clothing that is skin-tight, plunging necklies, exposed midrifts, low wastelines, and high hemlines. Teens are especially susceptible to this, given how their quest toward adulthood leaves them 15 wanting to dress like 25.
This is exactly why Paul tells young men to remain “self controlled” (Titus 2:6). This is exactly why Paul in 1 Tim. 2:9-10 Paul exhorts Timothy “that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” This applies to both genders, but if we more time worrying about our fashions over our faith, it will show. We find ourselves not only taking umbrage with the seventh commandment, but we do so by violating the tenth commandment, “Do not covet.”
Why is this a gospel issue? Because if we believe in the sovereignty of God and believe that he has given to us what he has, then we find ourselves not coveting but being content.