The Legalities of Lust… In the Sermon on the Mount

January 26, 2012

In Matthew 5:27-30…

Does this passage primarily function as an indictment against legalism (the Pharisees), or is it addressed toward everyone?

It does both. It condemns legalism and the “cover” that legalism affords.  Legalists maintain a sinful lifestyle but offset their sin by acts of righteousness in order to take shelter under those acts and feel forgiven.  To those who would draw the line and attempt to box God in and say, “well I’m not really being adulterous, I haven’t slept with that woman, I’ve just looked at her and thought about it…” Jesus says “ah but I am concerned with the desire of your heart.  If you claim to know me, and claim to want the blessing of my Father then listen to what I have said, mourn over your sin and you will be comforted; hunger for my righteousness and you will be satisfied; be pure in your heart and you will see Me for who I really am,  And that vision of me will outshine any earthly temptation you face.”

The message of Jesus is that the key to sexual purity is to seek “a circumcised heart (Duet 10:16), a heart on which God’s Holy Law is writtenJer 31:31-34), a new heart (Ezek 36:24-27), a heart that is pure (Matt 5:8).  Only God may grant such a heart in fulfillment of his new convenant promise, the promise that forms the theological foundation for the radical demands of the sermon on the mount.”[1]

 What does it mean to look at a woman to lust for her?  Is there to be no admiration for a woman’s body?

“The man whom Jesus here condemns (in Mt 5:27, 28) is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to stimulate his desires; the man who finds a strange delight in things which waken the desire for the forbidden thing.”  The verb here is a present participle, which is to say that it has the sense of on-going action.  To look and keep on looking, the lustful look “locks eyes on another person and uses him or her to fuel one’s sexual imagination.”[2]

“The “look” that Jesus mentioned was not a casual glance, but a constant stare with the purpose of lusting. It is possible for a man to glance at a beautiful woman and know that she is beautiful, but not lust (Job 31:1) after her. The man Jesus described looked at the woman for the purpose of feeding his inner sensual appetites as a substitute for the act (James 1:14, 15). It was not accidental; it was planned.[3]

The “lust” in view here is the word epiqumhsai or (epi-thu-meysai)  which means literally to fix the desire upon (object could be good Mt 13:17, Lk 22:15 used of Jesus; or bad 1Co 10:6). It means to have a strong desire to do or secure something. To desire greatly.

Mankind, both male and female were created in the image of God.  In the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. (Gen 2:27)  This includes their physical person as well as their spiritual nature and soul.  Whether one lusts and sins when one looks at the human body is not reliant on the ‘body’ viewed but in the heart of the viewer.  “To the pure all things are pure. But the man whose heart is defiled can look at any scene and find something in it titillate and excite the wrong desire.”[4]

To appreciate a human body properly, within the context of God’s good creation, one must see beyond the physical and see that this is someone created in God’s own image made to know Him and glorify Him.  The problem with today’s pornography culture is that individuals are not seen as the image of God but rather as a means to excite the eyes for sexual gratification.  They are a means to an end.  Anytime we look at the opposite sex as a means to some end we are not glorifying God but denigrating his creation, and ourselves.






[1] Quarles, 124.

[2] Ibid. 117.

[3] Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

[4] Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press.

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