“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 lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28
Many years ago, in 1976, the press felt that President Jimmy Carter really stuck his foot in his mouth in an interview with Playboy magazine. He said, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” This comment set off a national armchair theological debate that almost cost him the election. What would Jesus say about this comment? Actually He is quite clear on the issue. President Carter was honest and right; lust is not only as bad as adultery, but in God’s eyes, it actually is adultery! How can this be?
God knows the thoughts of our minds and desires of our hearts. We are guilty in God’s eyes if our thought-life and our heart-life are not correct. While our actions are what cause us to be separated from our spouse or our fellow man, it is our thought-life (a sinful heart) that separates us from God.
Evil actions first begin as evil thoughts. If we keep our minds pure, we don’t have to worry about sinful actions. Carter was simply acknowledging every man’s ongoing battle with lust. He went on to add, “This is something that God recognizes I have done, and God forgives me for it.” Where Carter was a fool was choosing Playboy to make his confession. For all he did was drive more men to read his interview in a magazine built on lust and adulterous thoughts. You don’t throw gasoline on a fire to put it out.
Because we are sinners, lust will always be a problem we battle. We want to acknowledge it and confess it to God while keeping our eyes away from the “gasoline” that can make the fire mighty dangerous. Thank God He forgives us for all our sins when we confess them to Him.