The Danger of Lust (Matthew 5:29-30)

Jesus continued to teach about the danger of lust and the importance of purity in Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Lust is the enemy of purity, and the battlefield between the two rests in the hearts of people. Jesus expanded the seventh commandment (you shall not commit adultery) to include the intent behind the law. He employed two metaphorical illustrations to emphasize how to deal with lust: the eye and the hand. Self-mutilation is not what is meant, because a person could be blind and without hands and still lust.

Jesus calls us to a radical moral commitment by taking an uncompromising approach toward lust. The eyes look and lust, while the hand indicates that mental adultery is a type of robbery. The right hand and right eye were regarded as very valuable.

We should take this passage at its plain, rather than literal, meaning. The issue of lust is a matter of the heart and must be dealt with from the heart. Mutilation will not cleanse the heart. Jesus’ counsel involves cutting off the pathway of lust: sexually impure thoughts in our minds.

Origen of Alexandria (195 to 254) castrated himself so that he would not be tempted. I met a blind evangelist years ago who had taken these words of Jesus literally and blinded himself. The Lord is directing His people to deal drastically with lust because that sin will damage us and other people. He is not advocating physical damage but purity of heart and mind.

The right hand could be thought of as the skills we use in life, while the right eye could be viewed as the way the see. These two constitute a person’s most important and significant faculties.

Eternity is more valuable than our time on earth, and eternal truth is more important than cultural values that contradict scriptural standards. Colossians 3:5 says, “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”

D.A. Carson observed, “Our generation treats sin lightly. Sin in our society is better thought of as aberration, or as illness.” Generally, our culture tries to treat the obvious symptoms of sin instead of recognizing sin as sin and repenting of it. Sin enslaves and entangles. When lust resides in a person’s heart, the only cure is repentance of sin and a commitment to purity.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. In these verses, He teaches us to deal radically and decisively with the sinful desires, impulses, and appetites that could lead us into sinful and evil acts.

If our eyes cause us to sin, don’t look. If our foot causes us to sin, don’t go. If our hand causes us to sin, don’t do it. Purity is more important than popularity, and it is better to miss out on something than to be led into moral failure or ruin.

Lust is a sin. Purity is our calling. The two are not friends, but combatants. Purity of heart is far more important than peer acceptance.

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