Question:

Does Matthew 5:27-28 about lust apply to both married and single men? I've been curious about this and want to gain a correct understanding of the passage.

In the context of that passage is Jesus talking to Jewish men who were married? If so, does that mean the passage only applies to married people or both married and single?

What does it mean when Jesus says "adultery with her in his heart"? One Greek dictionary I consulted gives one definition of adultery as "unlawful intercourse with another man's wife." If that is the case, then does the lusting only count as sin if the woman lusted after that Jesus is speaking about is another man's wife?

I'd appreciate your comments regarding these questions. Thanks! 


Answer:

"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. 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 5:27-30).

The topic under consideration was a Jewish tradition not to commit adultery. At first glance, you would suppose that the tradition was nothing more than a quote of one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14). But Jesus' comments shows us that the Jews had taken this law very literally. They condemned the action of adultery, but ignored the things which led up to the act.

Adultery can be committed by single or married people. A single man having sex with a married woman is still committing adultery. Thus a single man lusting after a married woman is still guilty of adultery.

This is the direct application, but the concept has broader applications than just adultery as Matthew 5:29-30 demonstrate. Anything which causes us to stray into sin should be removed from our lives. I stopped watching television decades ago because I found the foul language being used creeping into my thoughts. I decided it was time to do something about it before it started slipping out of my mouth. The amusing thing is that I haven't missed it. Sometimes we have to make radical decisions to make radical changes in our lives. But the point here is that Jesus is talking about all sins, of which adultery serves as one illustration.

Lust is not limited to just adultery. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:15-17). Lust is anything so strongly desired that a person is willing to consider breaking God's law in order to obtain it. A lust for adultery is one example, but other lusts must be treated in the same manner.

Even in the Ten Commandments, "You shall not commit adultery" was considered a representation of all sexual sins. It wasn't seen as only forbidding sex with someone who is married to another person. Paul stated, "For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"" (Romans 13:9). What Paul is saying is that the last six of the Ten Commandments are an expansion on the law to love your neighbor as yourself. In that same way, you can see that the rest of Moses' discourse on laws are an expansion the Ten Commandments.

Thus sex with someone who is engaged to be married is treated the same as if they were already married (Deuteronomy 22:22-24). By extension sex with someone not married is a violation against that person's future spouse, so it too is forbidden even if they have not yet met their future spouse (Deuteronomy 22:13-14, 20-21). In the New Testament you find it summed up in "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).

Therefore, the prohibition against looking at women with lust in your heart is directly talking about men thinking about committing adultery with a married woman, but this is done to serve as an illustration of a series of sins which fall into the same class. It would be just as wrong for women to lust after a married man. It would be just as wrong for a man to lust after a single woman. It would be just as wrong for a man to lust after another man or for a woman to lust after another woman.

What Jesus is teaching is that sin starts with lust. It is not limited to the actual deed. That is the point we should take away from his lesson.