I once saw a birthday card that began its greeting with “Everything I love in life is illegal, immoral, or fattening.”
August 9, 2023
I am often challenged on what is seen as my incorrect interpretation of Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
I’m told that I’m wrong to say to that every lustful thought is adultery of the heart “because Jesus was clearly talking about lusting after a married woman.” The definition of adultery is the “voluntary sexual relations between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse.” Two single people can’t commit adultery.
This is a typical comment: “What if you’re unmarried and look at a woman with lust? You’re not committing adultery, as you are not married. Ray, please clarify your position.”
I can’t help but have a twisted sense of sympathy with this person. This is because on the night of my conversion, when I was confronted with these words of Jesus, they made me feel distressed. This wasn’t because I was sorry for my sin but because God was putting His finger on a sin that gave me great pleasure. As a young man, to enjoy life I had to travel to find good surf. Then, I had to paddle out in cold water and dangle my feet as potential shark bait.
It was a continual effort to try and find pleasure in life. But not so with lust. It was instantaneous, and it greatly contributed to making my life enjoyable. And there were no sharks—or so I thought. What I didn’t realize that wonderful night was that through the new birth, God would give me a new heart that longed for righteousness.
But let’s go back to that pressing question. Was Jesus really talking about lusting after married women? If we think He was, and we want to have lustful thoughts about women, all we need do is to make sure that the potential victim is single. If she is, we can lust our little hearts out. If she’s not, we can’t—because God sees that as adultery.
But there’s a problem. How do we know if she’s married or single? The answer is obvious. We should approach the prospect and ask if she’s single or if she’s married. And, out of courtesy, we should explain why we’re asking. Again, if she is married, we don’t lust, and if she’s single, we do. Those who go by this rule should also restrict themselves to pornographic sites where women are single.
“Make sure you walk in the fear of God, that you guard your heart with all diligence, and that you are always ready to run from Potiphar’s wife.”
It’s clear that the road to this sinful behavior is a dead end, in the truest sense of the word: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
Jesus warned, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:9).
If that doesn’t put the fear of God in your heart, nothing will. But that’s what we need: the fear of the Lord. Therefore, make sure you walk in the fear of God, that you guard your heart with all diligence, and that you are always ready to run from Potiphar’s wife.
Here’s the back door: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).