“I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5: 28
Adultery is never okay. Even in cultures that allow polygamy (having multiple wives), to have an affair with someone other than a spouse is considered wrong. Therefore, it’s safe to say that in every culture and religion, adultery is never accepted. In the Old Testament, God addressed the issue of adultery in the Ten Commandments handed down to Moses. The seventh commandment says very simply, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). It was pretty straight forward – until Jesus came along.
Now it would be easy for the majority of people who have never taken part in an affair to check the box on this command and move on, but Jesus had more to say on the matter. Jesus said that if you’ve ever looked at a person lustfully, then that is the same as committing adultery in your heart (my paraphrase). In other words, Jesus makes this cut and dried command applicable to every person.
So what is lust? Jesus isn’t talking about lusting or desiring things like money, fame or power. Jesus is talking about sexual lust. To find a person physically attractive is not lust. Lust becomes a problem when we begin to imagine sexual fantasies, a kind of sexual intimacy with that person. It’s in that moment that we have gone from appreciating beauty to lust. And here’s the problem: No one knows when you do it – not your spouse, not the people in your office, no one – except you and God.
Have you been struggling with lust? I know I do. It’s a daily battle for everyone. It never quits. So what can we do? First, confess it to God the moment the lustful thought occurs. Second, ask God to help you look away and concentrate on something else. Third, resist the temptation of porn and sexually explicit media which is like pouring gasoline onto a fire. Finally, ask God to help you appreciate and respect the beauty of others, who are loved and made in the image of God. And when you do fall into lust, be like Paul in Romans 7 and say to God, “I did it again. Please forgive me, cleanse me, and help me focus on something good (my paraphrase).”