#7 If Your Right Eye Causes You to Sin, Gouge It Out
Commands of Christ
Matthew 5:27-32 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (NIV)
Freedom:From self-destructive and insatiable desire. “If you don’t look, you won’t lust“ (Dr. Dale Linebaugh).
Why do men lust? Men are hard-wired so that the body of an average woman attracts them. Males seek out females in the great majority of societies, and how a woman appears is usually what first attracts a man and encourages him to risk rejection to develop a relationship. Attraction is completely normal. What isn’t normal is for a woman not to attract a man. Generally, the more distinctively female a woman is, the greater her attractive power, and the more distinctively male a man looks, the greater his attractiveness. Looking by itself isn’t lusting, but continuing to look can lead to lust.
Some men are more attracted to women than are others. Women are also visually attracted to men to a greater or lesser degree, so this isn’t exclusively a male problem, but probably more men due to a more visual imagination, than do women. Some studies show that males score higher than females in visual spatial tests, for example (http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/enviro/EnviroRepublish_20341.htm accessed 9/22/04). So whereas gossip may be more tempting for women, lust is more tempting for men, generally.
So if attraction is natural and God made us the way we are, what’s the problem? Selfishness is also natural, but isn’t right. Sin transforms attraction into lust. Lust (epithumia= “desire, passionate longing”- New American Standard Concordance Greek Dictionary, sv. #1939) is attraction out of control, and does not come from God, but from the flesh and the world (1 John 2:16).
Many young men who confess they lust think it’s a minor, almost natural condition--a fact of life. But Jesus’ teaching should shock. Not only is lust unnatural, but it is worse than deadly—without repentance it will literally put you in hell. Jesus told us that lustful looking is the same in God’s estimate as going to bed with the woman, which is adultery. (v. 26). He warns adulterers (those married who have sex outside of marriage) and fornicators (generally the unmarried having sex) that they will be punished in the lake of fire, apart from repentance and faith in Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-10, 18).
American and western culture generally have highly sophisticated TV programs (Black Entertainment Television, “Sex and the City,” etc.) that provoke to sexual immorality. Many American movies have scenes of sexual promiscuity or worse. Rap music often debases women as objects of scorn and as playthings. Pornography flourishes on the Internet, and provocative magazine covers are visible at almost every checkout counter. Lust supports and is in turn enflamed by many such enterprises.
Lust desires the woman sexually, sometimes suddenly. Tenderness in married love is twisted into selfish exploitation of the woman, which leaves her used, possibly pregnant, and possibly with a sexually transmitted disease.
Sexual sin by a Christian is particularly offensive to God because it involves our body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), not an instrument of sin. It’s also idolatry, because we put more value upon a female (or male) body (creation) than we do upon God (Creator).
Lust is found among false teachers in the church, whose eyes are “full of adultery” and who “seduce the unstable” (2 Peter 2:14). Pastors sometimes exploit women in their churches. Adultery was practiced among priests and prophets of Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 23:14).
Steps toward adultery
It begins in the heart, by watching another’s partner (Prov. 4:23 ; 6:25 ; Matt. 15:19), or watching a virgin (Job 31:1).
We make provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:12 -14) when we allow unholy liberties with our eyes, including what we see on TV, CDs, the Web, in magazines and books.
This is self-destructive behavior (Dr. Laura Schlesinger), because it cannot be satisfied within the will of God. If we simply lust, we become more and more frustrated with no possible satisfaction. If we commit physical adultery, we will likely destroy our name, our marriage and possibly our livelihood, and wound many. If we lust for one woman, we will lust for others, and no one can have all the women for whom he might lust, leading also to frustration.
Should we take the command literally, to gouge out an eye or cut off a hand? Some have. The mind (heart) is the origin of the problem, not the hand or the eye. The mind directs the eye to look and the hand to act. Cutting off a member would, however, put great fear into us not to repeat the sin, as should the prospect of actually losing an eye. Jesus’ point is that as awful as losing an eye would be, it’s certainly worse to endure the eternal fires of hell.
We are to use all available means to fight sin, and among them is our willpower. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire and greed, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).
Romans 8:13 tells us that if we live according to the flesh we must die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, we shall live. This is the best way to avoid dismemberment, not simply by willpower, but by the Spirit’s power. God can take away the proclivity to lust, and can mortify any other sin, when our own willpower is insufficient.
No Christian must sin. God promises an exit at every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
Antidotes to adultery
If you’re unmarried and cannot control yourself, marry (1 Cor. 7:9).
However, marriage obviously doesn’t solve the problem of illicit sexual relations or there would be no adultery (Bill Gothard).
Don’t let a woman capture you with her eyes (Prov. 6:25) and avoid the home of the loose woman (Prov. 7:7-27).
If necessary, simply flee, as did the Israelite Joseph did when a woman tried to seduce him (Gen. 39:12). “Flee immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18).
A study of pastors who committed adultery found that their personal devotional life stopped an average of 3 years before the sin. They had lost the fear and perhaps the love of God.
Reduce the situation to an absurdity. Is it worth the awful price for 30 minutes of secret pleasure? Satan will try to obscure the cost (Charles Stanley). One ministry leader who committed adultery wrote, “If I’d only known the price.” A very bright young pastor in a growing church was caught in adultery. It can ruin us financially (Job 31:9-12), and cause the loss of our soul (Prov. 7:23 , 27; Rev. 22:8, 15).
A joyful marriage—including rejoicing in each other sexually—is perhaps the best antidote (see Prov. 5:15 -19; Song of Solomon 4). Keep yourself in good physical shape and look as good as God has made you to be. Date your wife and keep variety in your sexual love.
Randy Alcorn suggests these strategies to avoid adultery: realize that we indeed can commit adultery; keep in daily fellowship with God; back off early when you’re strongly attracted to a woman and be accountable to a friend who has permission to ask questions about this subject (“Strategies to Keep From Falling,” Leadership 9:1, p. 44).