27 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
I’m starving..... I could eat a horse! Really???? Well no, not actually but I am really, really hungry. We understand easily the technique of exaggeration to make a point and sometimes, unlike the example above, that point is really important and that’s what Jesus is doing in this teaching Matthew records. The marriage relationship between a man and a woman is one given and blessed by God and is the only sphere in which a full physical relationship is to be enjoyed so lusting after another person even when nothing actually happens is much more than harmless “window shopping”. When we dwell on impure thoughts and take perverse pleasure in them there’s only one word for it ... sin! That’s why Jesus makes a big deal of it. Not only this but anything that causes us to sin. It’s much better not to look, not to touch and not to dwell and so deny the opportunity for temptation; to coin a phrase.... ”Don’t even go there!”
We have a tendency today to trivialise sin, in fact, it’s a word we don’t even like and if we can fit in another word like mistakes or failures so much the better but in the end no matter how we refer to it, sin is offensive to God and is then by its nature serious because it separates us from him potentially forever. Making amends for something as serious as sin and bringing peace with God (atonement) cost Jesus his life, a cost he bore willingly so we enjoy that new relationship with the living God.
A Prayer - Incarnate Jesus, thank you that you formed in me good desires and fashioned a body that feels pleasure. Yet, how quickly desire turns into an all-consuming idol, how easily pleasure becomes a god. Remove the impure thoughts and improper desires knowing that these are not harmless sins but violations of my soul and your honour. AMEN (Quoted in Seeking God’s Face. Baker Books)