I am continuing in Dale Allison’s The Sermon on the Mount.
After speaking about anger and the sixth commandment, Jesus moves on to the seventh: you shall not commit adultery. Just as Jesus equated anger with murder, here he equates lust with adultery.
The old song about standing on the corner watching all the girls go by says, “They can’t put you in jail for what you’re thinkin’”. Murder and adultery are specific acts for which you could be punished by law. But anger and lust get into the realm of thought and emotion. Yet Jesus does relate them to more than just thought. Anger gets expressed in speech, such as calling someone a fool. And lust has something to do with the eye and hand (Matthew 5:29-30).
Allison carefully avoids the idea that Jesus declares war on evolution and the hormones that have developed to drive the necessary human sexual impulse. In forbidding lust, Jesus does not oppose attraction or suppose that human beings can cancel out that part of them by will power.
For one thing, the command to refrain from looking upon a woman with lust means something more specific than it seems. In this context the Greek word for woman usually means wife, not woman in general. So Jesus stands with the tenth commandment that prohibits coveting “your neighbor’s wife”. Allison says that this shouldn’t be overstated. Jesus would oppose making other people sexual objects regardless of marital status.
Still, I would be a little less politically correct and note that the context here is relational. Adultery is a sin in the context of relationships. It is not just a sin against the idea of purity. It is a sin against covenants that involve husband, wife, family and community. So, it seems to me that when Jesus says lust equals adultery, he must see it as more than a sin against the woman. It must endanger relationships. It must threaten marriage and covenant.
Another thing Allison points out is that this passage clearly involves hyperbole. The call to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand has shock value, but was never meant to call for literal self-mutilation.
But it does suggest drastic action might be necessary. I would say that in our culture it might mean you need to smash your computer like the porn-obsessed husband in the movie Fireproof.
But the wife in that movie should have quit her job and broken all contact with the married doctor she was flirting with, as well. Jesus seems aware that emotions and hormones are such powerful influences that drastic action may be needed.
Allison points out that Jesus expected sex, as a biological function, to cease in the age to come (Matthew 22:30). Thus human nature does not have a permanent sexual component. I would point out that Roman Catholic writer, Peter Kreeft, argues against this position in his Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven– But Never Dreamed of Asking.