THE FORBIDDEN DESIRE
You have heard that it has been said: You must not commit adultery. But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman in such a way as to waken within himself forbidden desires for her has already committed adultery with her within his heart.
Here is Jesus’ second example of the new standard. The Law laid it down: You shall not commit adultery (Exo.20:14). So serious a view did the Jewish teachers take of adultery that the guilty parties could be punished by nothing less than death (Lev.20:10); but once again Jesus lays it down that not only the forbidden action, but also the forbidden thought is guilty in the sight of God.
It is necessary that we should understand what Jesus is saying here. He is not speaking of the natural, normal desire, which is part of human instinct and human nature. According to the literal meaning of the Greek the man who is condemned is the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her. The man who is condemned is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to awaken his lust, the man who looks in such a way that passion is awakened and desire deliberately stimulated.
The Jewish Rabbis well knew the way in which the eyes can be used to stimulate the wrong desire. They had their sayings. “The eyes and the hand are the two brokers of sin.” “Eye and heart are the two handmaids of sin.” “Passions lodge only in him who sees.” Woe to him who goes after his %yes for they are adulterous! As someone has said, “There is an internal desire of which adultery is only the fruit.”
In a tempting world there are many things which are deliberately designed to excite desire, books, pictures, plays, even advertisements. The man whom Jesus here condemns is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to stimulate his desires; the man who finds a strange delight in things which waken the desire for the forbidden thing. To the pure all things are pure. But the man whose heart is defiled can look at any scene and find something in it to titillate and excite the wrong desire.
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