Journal Entry // April 29, 2023
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (ESV)Matthew 5:27–28
As Jesus helped us understand that he has come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, so too does he now take the time to correctly interpret some points of the Law and teach us to better understand the spirit of the law and not just the letter of the law. He has previously interpreted for us the deeper true meaning of “Do not murder”. Here Jesus now brings us to the commandment to not commit adultery. Again, Jesus here brings a point of emphasis that centers on the heart and not just the outward expressions that everyone can see. Jesus is teaching us that the true intentions of our hearts are important. More than that, our heart’s motivations are essential to following Christ and living a holy godly life.
As I read and think over this passage this morning, my attention is brought to the point that I want to define what it means to fulfill this commandment. I want to be the one who draws the line between what is adultery and what is not. As with all the commandments, I want to make my obedience more reliant upon my desires and abilities. I want to be the one who sets the standard. Sure, God is the one who set the commandment and I want to be obedient to him. Yet, in my duplicitous heart, I want to allow my eye to wander without consequence. If the fulfillment of the law is simply not to have sexual relations with another woman other than my wife, then this allows for all kinds of actions with other women that never reach that level. This leaves hundreds of missteps that continue to drive and push me along the path toward crossing the line that even I have set. My own inadequate interpretation of this commandment leaves the door wide open for temptation and sin to take hold of my heart and eventually lead me to a place of physical adultery.
Jesus turns my understanding on its head and gives me the correct place to draw the line on adultery. Adultery is simply looking at a woman with lustful intent. No mincing words or side-stepping the question. Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter, my own heart. It’s important to note what Jesus did not say in this. He did not say that just looking at a woman is adultery. He did not say we could not engage or communicate with another woman. What he confirmed as adultery was the lustful intent to commit adultery.
Jesus is requiring not only physical purity but mental purity. This is true across the board with all the commandments, but especially true with adultery. Lustful intent is a phrase that I have been thinking about for the last two weeks. It has been a while since I have actually taken the time to journal my thoughts, yet I have been contemplating and thinking about this phrase for many days now. It is a phrase that strikes at the core of my heart. Not just with lustful thoughts, but with all the different forms of idolatry that tempt and lure me. Lustful intent brings to my mind the purposed action of a decision. Lustful intent is a phrase to describe the point where I have concluded that it is ok to move forward with this temptation and seek the sin. Lustful intent is the opening of my heart and mind to the very things that are forbidden for my good. It is my selfish desires being placed over and above the law of God. It is my pride determining that I know what is best.
This phrase, lustful intent, has been so helpful these past two weeks as I have been focused on this passage and how to integrate it into my mindset and life. It really gets to the heart of the matter with temptation and sin. I like to fool myself into believing that temptation has captured me or that it has tricked me somehow into believing a lie when in actuality it is simply a matter of my heart being intent on lust. It is my heart deciding that the lust before my eyes is more important than obedience.
So where do I go from here? Jesus will address that in the next few verses but for now, I simply want to continue to use this phrase to help me think and react properly. Temptations will come. The world we live in has no shortage of temptations. Reminding myself on a regular basis to evaluate my desires through the phrase, “lustful intent” is a great start. Each and every interaction with a woman should be evaluated with this phrase. I should question my intent early and often throughout the day. Question my intentions and align them with Jesus. Instead of lustful intent, there should be a holy intent. An intent that is focused on loving Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.