In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to the crowds, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5: 27, 28) Here Jesus is quoting from Exodus 20: 14, the 7th of The 10 Commandments, with an emphasis on looking lustfully with the eyes as he defines the essence of an adulterous heart.
Then, Jesus continues with the harsh analogy of gouging out your right eye if it causes you to sin, for it would be better to lose one part of the body than to have your whole person thrown into hell. In other words, He challenges His hearers to consider the ramifications of one bad choice (looking lustfully) which can lead to much larger consequences (an adulterous heart).
Today the heart is greatly tempted by viewing pornography, the place where lust is most dramatically exploited, encouraged, and embodied for this generation. The pornography industry in America today is estimated to exceed $10 Billion/year, and is larger than the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball combined. With an estimated 420 million pages of pornography available online, 13,000 new porn videos released annually, and 900 million videos available for sale or rent, one can’t help but be concerned about how this is shaping our gender and sexual identities, as well as our relationships.
Amazingly, the pornography industry is legal and oft-promoted as socially acceptable, as it has become a part of today’s cultural and economic mainstream. But, it is destroying hearts, homes, and relationships 24/7 all around the globe. Now considered one of the fastest growing addictions among young, impressionable adolescent males, as well as a large percentage of men (especially those under the age of 30 who grew up with ease of accessibility to the internet), looking lustfully has become a way of life. Jesus’ words ring true today, and it should break our hearts and realign our prayers for all who struggle with and ultimately succumb to this temptation.
But, the lustful look and the adulterous heart isn’t simply a man’s issue. Women also struggle with their own lustful temptations (and many accompany their male counterparts in the world of pornography). Adultery has no distinct gender or age boundaries, or other lines of demarcation. The need for purity of heart exists for all. So, how will you pray for those who wrestle with sexual temptation? How will you come alongside them with compassionate empathy and support? And, most importantly, how will you maintain your own purity of heart?
Previous to His statements about the adulterous heart, Jesus also said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5: 8). May the eyes of our hearts search earnestly for God and focus our attention on all that honors and pleases Him.