Saturday 05 February 2022

Bible Book:

'But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' (v. 28)

Matthew 5:27-30 Saturday 5 February 2022

Psalm 75:1-7


This passage continues the pattern we saw yesterday of Jesus extending Old Testament law to cover not only actions but internal dispositions. The text seems to have in mind the behaviour and attitudes of men towards women. This raises the question of which aspects of this teaching are specific to Jesus' day, and which, if any, it would appropriate to interpret more generally. The growing awareness of the particular and widespread problem of male sexual violence towards women might be grounds for not rushing to generalise. On the other hand, women as well as men experience lust, and women and men experience lust for men as well as women.

One clear implication from the passage is that avoiding committing adultery is not sufficient as a Christian sexual ethic. In the context of an increased appreciation of the range of ways women are impacted by male behaviour and attitudes, Jesus’ criticism of lustful looks (v. 28) might be understood as highlighting a concern with behaviour well below the threshold of sexual violence. Jesus seems to expect that his followers will take responsibility for their attitudes and behaviour much more broadly.

 As in the case of yesterday’s teaching on anger, some Christians have argued that Jesus sets up a standard that very few people can achieve. Most people have experienced sexual desire for another person. Other passages in the Bible, such as Genesis 2:24–25 or the Song of Songs, suggest that sexual desire and relationships are a good part of what it means to be a human being created by God. This makes it hard to conclude that Jesus means in verse 28 that any experience of sexual desire is morally equivalent to adultery. If this is right, the next question is how should we understand the lust Jesus means his followers to avoid?


To Ponder:

  • What sexual behaviour do you understand Jesus to be criticising in this passage?
  • Does this passage set up a standard that is possible to follow, or one that most people will find it impossible to meet?
  • Is this passage helpful in informing a Christian response to addressing the problem of male sexual violence towards women?
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