Greetings to you! The theme for our morning’s meditation is “The source of truth and purity is in the heart.” In the passage today from the Gospel of Matthew , Jesus reminds the disciples that he had not come to abolish the law which was given to them. But rather that he had come to fulfil it. Jesus was talking about being obedient to the spirit of the law rather than to the letter of the law.
The problem at that time particularly with the Scribes, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law was that they were ready to keep the letter of the law but not the purpose for which the law was actually meant. Jesus goes on to give them the actual meaning of the law with reference to adultery, divorce, oaths.
Jesus teaches the disciples about the seventh commandment which is, ‘You should not commit adultery’. Jesus says, ‘But I say to you that everyone who looks at women lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart’. “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. 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”.
Here again we see the Pharisees and the scribes and the teachers of the law limited the scope of this commandment. They believed that only if a man committed physical adultery, he was guilty of breaking this commandment even though coveting another man’s wife is prohibited in the tenth commandment. They had a conveniently narrow definition of sexual sin and a conveniently broad definition of sexual purity.
Jesus again goes to the heart of the matter just as we can commit murder with our words so also we can commit adultery with lust in our hearts and minds. Jesus is not denying the natural sexual relationship within marriage but rather about unlawful sex outside marriage whether practiced by married or unmarried people. Jesus does not forbid us to look at a woman, but forbids us to look at her lustfully. Any fantasising or imagination of sexual relationships with a woman who is not your spouse is to commit adultery. So any sexual practice which is immoral in deed is also immoral in our looks and our thoughts.
Jesus shows us that it is the eye which instills lustful thoughts in the heart and makes us commit adultery. The eyes of the heart are stimulated by our physical eyes. God wants sexual purity not just by avoiding physical adultery but in our thoughts and hearts by avoiding lustful thoughts. The danger with lustful thoughts is that it would lead us to unfaithful alliances and being sexually immoral.
Jesus then goes on to teach us how to deal with temptations of lust. He says that, “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”.
And similarly, he talks about the hand. What does Jesus mean by this? Jesus does not mean that we should mutilate our eyes or our hands if they lead us to sin. What does he mean by using this metaphor? It is radical, ruthless moral self denial. It means that as disciples of Christ, we are to reject sinful practices so resolutely that we die to them or put them to death (Mark 8:34; Romans 8:13; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5).
What Jesus is saying is if temptation comes through your eyes then don’t look! If your feet lead you to sin in a particular place then avoid that place.
In our own context with the flooding of pornographic material on the internet it is very easy to fall into sexual sin. Pornography degrades women and treats them as sex objects and presents to our eyes unnatural sexual stimulation. If our eyes feast on these pictures then we are not only sinning but inviting disaster. Jesus therefore calls us to deal radically with sexual sin in our life.
The next area that Jesus talks about is about religious oaths. The Pharisees had worked out an elaborate formulae through which they stated that an oath was valid if it was sworn using the formula by using the Lord’s name, or Jerusalem or the earth. If the oath was not kept, they would claim that they have not invoked the name of the Lord and therefore were blameless.
Jesus on the other side, calls for integrity in all our speech. Jesus says, “And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one”. By stating this, Jesus is saying that our words must be credible. People should be able to take us at our word rather than having to swear on something or someone else. A Christian’s word must be credible and people should be able to trust us.
We are to deal radically with our lustful thoughts which lead to sexual sin. Jesus calls us for a deeper righteousness and inner purity which will reflect the heart of God. May God truly help us to obey the spirit of the law rather then the letter of the law.
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