I don’t know how many times I’ve read Matthew 5:27-30 and I’ve always seen it as a simple condemnation of sexual lust. I wonder if there isn’t something more here as well.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
No doubt, there is a condemnation of lust in this passage. If we lust after someone sexually, we may think we can say, “Oh, but at least I didn’t actually commit sexual immorality with them,” but we have already taken that action in our hearts. We have already violated God’s will.
However, I think there might be something more here. Not just a simple condemnation. Is it possible there is a warning in this passage as well?
I can’t help but remember the time my wife and I decided we were going to go look at some new cars with the commitment that we weren’t going to buy anything. We headed out at 5 pm. By 9 pm we were pulling up to a friend’s house to show them our new car. What happened? The fact is, we had already bought a new car in our hearts. All that was left was to go through the motions to do it in reality.
Many Christians know they should steer clear of pornography, adultery, homosexuality, or other kinds of sexual immorality. However, they think they can control and enjoy their lust. They think they can fill their hearts with all kinds of sexual thoughts and never actually act out on it. Some are even Christians who have physically committed those other sins and are trying to stop, but they think they can continue to stare at their eye-candy and allow mental fantasies to take place. They keep wondering why they can’t stop their sinful behaviors.
Perhaps Jesus’ point is more than just a condemnation. It is a warning. Lust is the problem. If you’ve already committed adultery with someone in your heart over and over again, guess what is likely to happen when the opportunity arises. You’ll likely commit adultery with them in your bed.
I learned a long time ago that I can’t say, “I’m just going to go look at new cars, I won’t buy one.” Perhaps we all need to learn the same thing about immorality. “I’m just going to look at and think about that person sexually, I’m not going to do anything with them,” probably won’t work either.
Lust is the problem. Start working there.
Today’s card for our Zealous for Good Deeds Fall Focus highlighted Titus 1:15-16:
“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
This passage is not saying that pure Christians can be involved in impurity and immorality but it is still pure for them. The point is that those who are pure only involve themselves in pure pursuits. Further, as they talk with others and experience life, they look toward the pure instead of the impure.
Some folks pride themselves on double entendre. That is, they can say something that at one level is harmless but on another is filled with immoral innuendo. Interestingly, you can even find this in some kid’s movies as movie makers think they can slide something in that will go over the children’s heads but entertain the adults.
Paul’s point is the pure miss out on this kind of thing. Because their mind is focused on the pure and their sights are focused on the pure, they miss out on the innuendos and the double entendres. To folks in the world, this is classed as naivete. They look down on the pure as inexperienced, foolish, stupid and ignorant. But God classes this as honorable. In fact, I Corinthians 14:20 says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” God wants us naive about evil. He doesn’t want us to be able to immediately jump to the immoral thought behind much of modern conversation and entertainment.
If we can immediately see the impurity behind statements, pictures, jokes, etc. we have some work to do on our personal purity. We need to work on training our minds in godliness and purity. Keep in mind we are working on progress not perfection here. I’m not saying if you ever catch some joke you are evil and hopeless. I’m just saying we need to work on this. Because, if we don’t and if we just plug away, Paul said we will be unfit for any good work. In other words, we cannot be zealous for good deeds and filled with bad thoughts all at the same time.
Here are 4 keys to help us pursue purity in all things:
1. Keep Good Company
I Corinthians 14:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” If we want to pursue purity in all things, we need to make sure the companions with which we spend our time are pursuing purity. If our best friends, the one’s on whom we rely for strength and encouragement, are impure, speak impurity and pursue impurity, we will never overcome. This company may be real live people, but then again it may be the deejays we listen to on the radio, the characters we follow on television, the bands we listen to in our mp3 players. If you want to pursue purity in all things, make sure you are keeping good company.
2. Read Good Words
In Acts 20:32, Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” If you want to pursue purity in all things, then you need to be in God’s book. Obviously, you can read other things. Christians are not limited to only reading the Bible. However, reading and studying God’s good words should take precedence over all other reading. Only by hiding God’s word in our heart can we chase away the impurity that may have residence there.
3. Meditate on Good Thoughts
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I’m told the word translated “think” in this passage is not the idea of fleeting thoughts, but purposeful consideration and meditation. If we want to be pure, we need to think about pure things. We need to meditate on pure things. No doubt, we have all messed up our purity at some point. Therefore, it is a pipe dream to think we can never have fleeting thoughts of impurity. But we can choose where we allow our minds to dwell. We need to work on purposefully focusing our minds on the positive and pure. We must not merely read God’s good word, we must focus our mind’s attention upon it and dwell there.
4. Pursue Good Actions
Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (II Timothy 2:22). If we really want to pursue purity in all things, we have to let the purity rubber hit life’s road. Whether we feel like it or not, we need to just make ourselves do some good things. Then we need to do some more. Then we need to do some more. The more good actions we take, the more good our mind has to dwell on, the more fulfillment from good things we receive, the more purity will take over.
As I said, remember this is about progress not perfection. Let’s work today on growing in the pursuit of purity in all things. I’ll help you if you’ll help me.