1 August 2016

Matthew 5:27-30

"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 lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell." (vv. 27-30)

Psalm: Psalm 124



The verses preceding today's extract from the Sermon on the Mount are the key to understanding it, with its repeated contrast between "you have heard that it said" and "but I say". In each case - murder, adultery, divorce, oaths - Jesus contrasts the way Old Testament teaching was traditionally interpreted by the religious leaders of the time, the scribes and Pharisees, with his own more exacting requirement. The overall thrust is to go behind a literal approach, which could easily lead to people finding ways to evade the rule, to the spirit of the rule and the need for a change in our inner attitude.

Clearly verse 28 refers to more than just noticing an attractive woman. And obviously, verses 29-30 are not meant to be taken literally. Jesus has a habit of making striking statements to bring home a point. You may think of other examples.

Note how the authority of Jesus comes out in all these sayings.

To Ponder

  • To what extent is Jesus' teaching here practicable in today's world?
  • In what other ways should a Christian's conduct should go beyond conventional standards?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..