From what we have seen so far in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua is indeed correcting our understanding of what His Father really meant when He gave His Law (Torah) to Moses. The attitude of our heart is the most important thing. Specific commandments like, ”You shall not murder”, and “Bring your gift to the altar”, help us measure how far our heart has come toward operating the way God designed. After all, that’s really what the Law is: God’s operating instructions. If we operate within the parameters of the Law (choose life), we get all kinds of good things (blessings); but if we operate outside His design parameters (choose death), we suffer all manner of consequences (curses). (Deuteronomy 30:11-20; James 1:22-2:13). If our heart is right with our Creator, then we will do His commandments naturally, as an act of love for Him. And that is the exactly what the Apostle John, the Apostle Paul, and Yeshua Himself told us.
Yeshua continues his teaching by addressing another sticky point of human nature:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ”You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:27-32 NKJV)
This passage seems simple enough to understand. It’s an easy progression from seeing someone attractive, to thinking about how desirable that person would be, and then imagining having sex with that person. The scary thing is that Yeshua says the wrong kinds of thoughts are enough to break the commandments about improper sexual relations. That’s much more difficult than simply avoiding the physical act of sex. As with murder, Yeshua gets straight to the heart of the matter – meaning it’s only by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit that our hearts can be remade to keep the commandments in the way God intended (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 12:1-2). But Yeshua was not the first to teach this principle. The oldest book in the Bible explains it:
I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps? (Job 31:1-4 NKJV)
We also have a great example of what happens when a man looks on a woman with lust: King David did it, lusting after the beautiful (and married) Bathsheba. Before long, David’s lust caused him to covet, commit adultery, lie, murder, and conspire to cover up his sin. All of that brought God’s judgment through the death of his innocent infant son, and continual strife in David’s family line.
Such things are far from God’s ideal. In fact, the marriage covenant speaks to God’s ideal, which is why Yeshua discusses it here. Before a young man and woman marry, their priorities are all about themselves – his favorite foods, her activities with her friends, his sports teams, her dream job, and so on. Then one day they meet and capture one another’s hearts, and then their priorities begin to change. Instead of thinking about themselves, he begins to think about her and she begins to think about him. In time they are married, and then the transformation of their thinking really takes off. They live together, so they must find a way to get along or all the good feelings that happened during their courtship will quickly disappear. As the years go by, these two very different people learn to do more than just live together. They actually become a unit, thinking, talking, playing, working, raising children, and doing all kinds of other things almost as one person. Why is this so? Because they made a commitment to one another that was much higher on their priority list than their commitment to themselves.
Do you see the picture here? That is exactly what happens to Creator God and His people. He wants a beautiful bride to share the glory of Himself and His Kingdom. That’s the whole reason He made human beings in the first place. And then our ancestors turned from Him, wanting to create their own reality and follow their own ways. And yet the Lord pursued them, always seeking a way to break through their hard hearts and win them for Himself. And yet it is our hard hearts that caused Him to set up this provision for divorce. He never intended it that way. He wanted a bride who was always faithful, keeping His commandments because in them He provides life and love and blessing, and in them she can remain pure and clean and set apart for Him alone.
But His bride did not remain faithful. That’s the picture God gave through the prophets Hosea and Ezekiel, among others. Even now, after His own Son laid down His life for the bride, we still rush off after our own desires. We still commit adultery in our hearts, lusting after what looks good, what feels good, what tastes good, and what we think makes us happy. And that’s why Yeshua said something that doesn’t seem to fit with adultery and marriage relationships. He said if our right eye causes us to sin, we should pluck it out, and if our right hand causes us to sin, we should cut it off, because it’s better to enter into life with pieces of our bodies missing rather than to go into hell fully intact. Why would He say such a thing? And why, later on in His ministry, would He say it again in the context of protecting innocent children (Matthew 18:6-9)?
Because the shame and pain and reproach of physical disabilities are only temporary, but there are eternal consequences for violating the things our Creator considers precious. If we are connected to the Maker of all life, we can be sure He will restore us completely, even if we lose everything we have on this planet.