Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
In Matthew 5, Jesus set a higher standard for avoiding sexual immorality. First, He condemned adultery in the bed. He said in verse 27, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’” Jesus was not disputing that. He did not negate the Old Testament law, but He raised the bar for sexual purity. You see, the Pharisees thought, “As long as I do not commit an actual act of adultery, I am okay, right?” Wrong.
When I was a youth minister, I shared with the teenagers four rules for dating that will prevent you from sexual immorality. One: Don’t pull up. Two: Don’t pull down. Three: Don’t unbutton. Four: Don’t unzip. Those are good rules. But does following those rules automatically make you sexually pure? No.
We ought to condemn adultery in the bed, but Jesus went a step further–He also condemned adultery in the head. That is where it all begins. He said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (v. 28).
Let me clarify two things Jesus was not condemning. First of all, Jesus was not condemning sex within marriage. You can lust all you want after another person as long as that other person is your mate. That is normal. That is God’s plan. In fact, Paul addressed this very topic in 1 Corinthians 7. Some of the Corinthian Christians had come out of a very sexually immoral background, and they thought they ought to abstain from sex so they could be more holy. Paul wrote, “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. . . . Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (vv. 3, 5). If both you and your mate agree to abstain from sex for a short period of time, that is okay–but if you abstain too long, you will be tempted by Satan. Jesus was not condemning sex within marriage.
Second, Jesus was not condemning appreciation of God’s creation. He was not saying it is a sin to admire somebody’s beauty. That is natural. It is not that first look He was condemning but the second look–that gaze that leads to a mental undressing of the other person. The point of Matthew 5:28 is very simple: whatever is immoral in the bed is immoral in your head.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Sex Life” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
Dag Hammarskjöld, “Markings,” trans. Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden (New York: Ballantine, 1993), 9.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org