What did Jesus mean in Matthew 5 verses 27 to 30 when he said, (27) You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; (28) but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (29) "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (30) If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (NASB)
Notice in verse 27, Jesus first quotes the 7th of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery.
But then Jesus seems to shock us when he says in verse 28, but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
But then Jesus immediately goes into his discourse in verse 29 of how you should tear out your eye if it causes you to stumble and in verse 30 that you should cut off your hand if it causes you to stumble.
And so whatever the lust is that Jesus is talking about in verse 27, it is so important and so dangerous that Jesus feels you should take a drastic measure to change.
Now we have to give Jesus some credit here. Jesus was a reasonable man. We know Jesus is not a legalistic God. We know from reading the New Testament that Jesus will choose being merciful to people over judging them.
And in sharp contrast to the other teachings of Jesus, this verse has been used to teach that God is very condemning of men who gaze on a beautiful woman and who might get turned on by looking at a woman.
Would Jesus really be saying that if you look at a woman and think she is beautiful or if you become sexually aroused by looking at a woman that you are guilty of adultery and you should pluck your eye out?
That would be like saying if you smell food and it causes you to have an appetite and causes your saliva to flow in your mouth, you should cut your saliva glands out and stomach out so that you do not become a glutton.
But we know from the Bible that God does not condemn people for having emotions. God only condemns people for acts of the will. And thinking a woman is beautiful as well as getting turned on or becoming sexually aroused are not acts of the will but rather emotions.
Maybe looking at what Jesus said in the Greek will help us better understand.
Using Young's Literal Translation of Matthew 5: 27 to 28, Jesus said, "'Ye heard that it was said to the ancients: Thou shalt not commit adultery; but I -- I say to you, that every one who is looking on a woman to desire her, did already commit adultery with her in his heart."
The prerequisite for sin is always an act of the will. In this case the act of the will in Matthew 5:28 is the transliterated word, epithumeo which can mean, to covet things forbidden, to desire earnestly; to have a longing desire for.
The Young's Literal Translation translates the Greek word epithumeo as to desire her. When Jesus said, to desire her Jesus meant to to desire to have sex with her. What other desire would Jesus be talking about?
When Jesus said in Matthew 5: 27-28 that it was adultery to desire a woman Jesus was talking about an act of the will, not an emotion.
The confusion surrounding Matthew 5:28 comes from some translations of the word epithumeo.
For example lets take the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation of the verse. In the NASB Matthew 5:28 says, "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
It is not clear from the NASB translation what looks at a woman with lust for her means. Does it mean looking at a woman with goo goo eyes, or with a hey babe you're hot look on your face?
And then there is the word lust in there. What does lust mean?
Lust according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is:
1a: pleasure, delight
2: usually intense unbridled sexual desire.
Lets take each of the definitions of lust and substitute them into the NASB verse and see if what Jesus said makes sense.
First lets change lust to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary 1a definition, pleasure or delight. So Matthew 5:28 would read But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with pleasure or delight for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Does this mean if I vote for Hillary Clinton and she becomes our next President and then I look at her during her inauguration on TV and look at her with pleasure and delight, I am sinning? No I don't think pleasure or delight is what Jesus was referring to.
Ok, lets plug-in the second meaning of lust. So Matthew 5:28 would read But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with intense unbridled sexual desire for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Now lets assume that a man gets married and on his wedding night when he and his wife get out of the limo to go up to their hotel honeymoon suite and because his wife has been touching him and he is thinking about what will happen in their honeymoon suite, he has intense unbridled sexual desire. And while he still has intense unbridled sexual desire and is sexually aroused, he is walking into the hotel, and he looks over and sees the female hotel clerk. Did he sin by looking at the female hotel clerk while he was aroused and had intense unbridled sexual desire?
No he did not sin because even though he was aroused and had intense unbridled sexual desire, his desire to have sex was for his wife.
Yes the verse says, lust for her. This means the man has to have intense unbridled sexual desire for the woman he looks at.
Ok, so the man has to not only have intense unbridled sexual desire which is an emotion called sexual desire or being aroused, but he also has to have it for the woman he looked at.
What does that mean. I thought an emotion was a state of the body an involuntary, uncontrollable part of our body. How can you have an emotion for a person when the emotion is not something you can control?
I am over 50 so there are many times when I would love to have intense unbridled sexual desire for my wife but I just can't turn it on and off at will.
So then what is the NASB trying to say? How can you look at a woman with lust if lust is an emotion of intense unbridled sexual desire which you cannot control?
The truth is lust is not a good translation of the Greek word epithumeo. The translators should have used a word which shows responsibility, which results from an act of the will, not a word that can be confused with an emotion.
The word they should have used for epithumeo.is the word covet. Most likely Jesus used the word chamad when he originally spoke in Hebrew in Matthew 5 verses 27 to 28 because most likely he was referring to the 10th commandment which has the same word chamad which means to covet.
The 10th commandment in Exodus 20:17 says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." " (NASB)
The Hebrew word Chamad' or to covet is the word Jesus most likely spoke in the original Hebrew which was then translated into Greek as epithumeo and then by the NASB as lust.
And even if Jesus was not quoting the 10th commandement still the English translation of the word epithumeo is to covet things forbidden, to desire earnestly; to have a longing desire for. Even the English definition of the Greek word epithumeo shows responsibility and shows Jesus was not referring to sexual arousal which is an involuntary emotion, but rather Jesus was referring to an act of the will.
But for the sake of argument lets assume the NASB translation lust really means the emotion of intense unbridled sexual desire.
Ok, lets change the facts a bit. Now it's ten years later. The husband and wife are together at the grocery store shopping for groceries and they are checking out. The attractive 27 year old female cashier catches the attention of the husband as she bends over to take the groceries out of the cart as he can see her breasts. He tries not to look but begins to get aroused. Then as if that was not enough, she spills the strawberries on his side of the counter. He squats down to pick them up and while he is picking them up the cashier comes over to help pick them up and she has a short skirt on and when she squats down she spreads her legs a bit and when his eyes go from picking up the strawberry to putting the strawberry in the container, his eyes can't help but see up her dress and see her panties. He tries not to look but her legs are spread and because her bottom is so much lower than her dress that sets on top of her legs his peripheral vision can't help but see each time he looks down to pick up the next strawberry and then when he looks up to put it in the container. Needless to say he becomes aroused. Because he is aroused all he can think about is that he wants to get home and get in bed with his wife and have sex.
Now the husband of ten years has experienced an increase in his emotion of sexual desire or intense unbridled sexual desire caused by the grocery store clerk but his conscious desire is to have sex with his wife. Is he sinning?
No because even though the grocery store clerk caused the husband to have an increase in his involuntary emotion of sexual arousal, the husband's conscious desire is still for his wife.
I think we can all agree that "sexual arousal" is different and separate from our will of our mind. Our will of our mind decides who to have sex with. But "sexual arousal" is an emotion that happens due to erotic stimuli and we do not have control over it - and it is not sin.
But lets get back to the truth. The truth is that Jesus was not talking about the emotion of intense unbridled sexual desire or sexual desire at all.
Jesus was talking about the intentions of the mind, the desire of the will of the man. No matter how sexually excited a man gets, when a man loves his wife he will want to have sex with her and only her.
Only a man with a cheating heart would want to have sex with anyone else. And that is the man Jesus was talking about. And for that man it wouldn't really matter how sexually aroused he is, he will be coveting every pretty woman he sees because he is not satisfied and content with his wife. And the Bible teaches the sins of the heart lead to physical sins and that is why Jesus knows that this is a very serious problem that needs help.
Jesus was trying to help men understand that when they catch themselves coveting every pretty woman they see, they should recognize that those feelings are very dangerous because they are a warning to you that you are not content with your wife and that you now have a cheating heart and even though you may never have the chance to commit physical adultery, the fact that in your mind you are constantly wishing you could; this will destroy your relationship with God and with your wife.
Jesus was trying to say, that if you catch yourself having these thoughts of constantly wishing you could have sex with the women you see, those feelings of coveting other women are going to eat away at you and destroy your relationship with your wife and with God.
And that's why Jesus said in the next verse in Matthew 5: 29, If 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. (NASB)
Jesus was saying to the men that if you do have these covetous thoughts running through your mind when you see women, then you need to do something drastic about it. Because you are dangerously close to committing physical adultery or at least ruining your marriage and your relationship with God. And so it would be far better to do something drastic to prevent you from committing adultery, and prevent you from divorcing your wife, and prevent you from turning away from God.
That is the real message of Matthew 5 verses 27 to 29. It is a warning to married men to check their thoughts and make sure they are not wishing they could have sex with other women. Because if they are, then they are in need of a major overhaul of their heart.
When this happens it is time to sit down with your wife and start thinking about why the marriage relationship is about to unravel. Jesus is saying it is not normal to have thoughts of adultery running through your mind when you see a woman. It is a warning that there is something really wrong with your relationship with your wife and with God.
And thank God we have the original Greek translation to clarify what the word epithumeo means. It is not an emotion. It is an act of the will.
Epithumeo does not mean, lust, if lust is the emotion of sexual desire, but rather it means to covet or have a conscious strong desire for, which is an act of the will.
Comment by: Old Site
Date: 2/9/2013 7:49:33 PM
A reader says ... I felt the below two paragraphs taken from an allegory found at this page here, very much fit with this subject. Note, in this allegory women are represented as roses, while the most conservative Christian should be able to admit that neither the beauty of roses or woman should be despised, and that no one should be despised for appreciating their beauty at their best.
Sally's father knew that although seeing female roses obviously could cause the impure one to wickedly lust after and covet a certain beautiful rose, that yet the pure one by no means needs to do so, but rather by realizing and contemplating the special beauty God has given to roses at their best state, can be inspired to more highly esteem God's wondrous creation of roses and the very rose God gave him, even if significantly faded. Yet he said, it is sad that the stern man with the long black coat must think roses cannot even be seen without being lusted after, and thus many roses in the Moslem part of his society are so completely covered in public, that they largely appear like a gloomy bag of beans. He said, in the days of King David and Solomon and Queen Esther, roses never were made to look like a mere bag of beans but rather their young and fresh roses were beautifully adorned and even danced and were very beautiful for everyone's eyes to see. He then said, although a man very much must turn away his eyes rather than to wickedly lust after a certain beautiful rose, and then be tempted to steal it, that does not mean roses must be made to look like mere bags of beans so no one can see their beauty. He said, to appreciate seeing the wondrous beauty God has given to roses at their best, and to thank God for making them so beautiful, or to wickedly lust after a certain beautiful rose is very different. dH-13
Sally's father then thought about how the best beauty of roses, such as Esther carefully prepared and Solomon vividly described, like a glowing fire in a fireplace can warm a man's heart towards God's special creation of roses and his very own rose. Sally's father then also thought about how many houses in the stern man's society were very cold and dark and gloomy because fire in his society was believed to only be dangerous, destructive, and very evil. Sally then earnestly asked her father if he did not think that it was very sad that the special beauty of roses, like Queen Esther carefully prepared for a whole year and Solomon graphically described, and which God intended should greatly bless mankind, now instead of blessing as God intended often is merely a pain and temptation to men, because many dare not enjoy or even imagine such excellent beauty, but rather must fight against it, and even though realizing it could often make them to more highly esteem God's creation of roses, and to more ardently love their own rose even if faded. Sally's father then with tears said such is very sad, and told Sally that the stern man's teachings had oppressed and caused humanity great difficulty in many ways. dH-14