Not Traditional, Original

Looking At Women and Adultery, Part Two

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With Lustful Intent

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 ESV)

In the last article, we looked at the part of the verse “everyone who looks at a woman”, and identified that women are looked at more sexually by everyone in general, and especially men, in particular.  We also looked at how women contribute to this process in their choice of attire.

In this article we’re going to focus on the words “with lustful intent” to get at the true meaning behind this teaching.

First, though, let’s look at some examples. Most of us enjoy some candy every now and then, or perhaps some ice cream.   Let’s say you are at an ice cream place.  At the wonderful ice cream store you have a generous serving of ice cream and it should be time to go. But your eyes are drawn to, lets’ say, a triple scoop hot fudge sundae, and your mouth starts drooling.  You keep looking at that ice cream sundae, and you can almost taste it going down.  You know that you have already had all you should have.  Anymore and you could get fat, or spike your blood sugar which will cause health problems, weight gain, diabetes complications, and so on.  But it looks so good.  You look a long time.

How many people would say you have sinned?  No, you are sorely tempted, but you have not sinned.

So let’s take it a step further.  You don’t stop looking. Finally you can’t say no to the anticipation of more cold, sweet, gooey delight, so you go get that triple scoop chocolate fudge sundae, and start wolfing it down.

The question is when did you sin?

Before we answer let’s look at another example. Let’s say you are 12 years old again, and your brother just won’t stop mouthing off about something nasty about you. You could walk away, but you’re really angry. He really needs to stop talking that way about you. Part of your reasoning is that because he’s done it before and he will do it again. And if you tell your parents it is just going to get both of you either a lecture, or some pious platitudes like, “You boys need to just get along.  Go along and be friends, be brothers.” That’s never worked either. The more you think about it the madder you get.

So, you feel like you can’t take it anymore, you rear back and you sock your brother in the jaw.

Again, the question is when did you sin?

Here’s the answer. In the above case, you sin when you fully committed to actually throw the punch. In the ice cream store above, you sinned when you fully committed to overeat.

There is a point at which the desire to do something sinful wins. It captures the person’s mind and heart. They give in. That is the point of conception, the point at which the person changes from being tempted to having sinned.

That is what it’s talking about in Matthew 5:28.  The verse is simply saying that just like everything else in life the sin doesn’t start with an action.  It starts with the committed decision to do the action.

Matthew 5:28 gives an analogy form the method of how people sin. It starts with people being tempted. Some people are tempted and they don’t walk away from the temptation. Instead, they allow all the temptation to dwell and grow in their mind. The overeater, instead of walking out of the ice cream store, allows himself to just look at the delicious ice cream products until he just gives in, and decides to have too much. The 12-year-old doesn’t decide to walk away; instead he just keeps dealing with his brother, letting his anger build until he just gives in and starts fighting.  And, likewise, the adulterer doesn’t turn his eyes away, but keeps looking and letting the desire build until it is overwhelming to him, and he gives in, and decides to go after the illicit sex.

The point is that sin is not just a physical act. It is a process. It starts with temptation, and a decision that results in an act.   Jesus’ point here is that sin begins in the mind and heart. And the only way to stop sin is to change the mind and the heart.

Jesus taught about this same kind of thing in another parable:

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. (Matthew 21:28-31 ESV)

The above parable by Jesus really nails this idea of when sin actually happens. Here we have two sons. He told both of the sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son said he wouldn’t go. The second son said he was going to go. Jesus’ question is which of the boys did the father’s will.  The answer is the second, the one who said he wouldn’t go.

Why?  Because he changed his mind and went. The end result of his thinking process was that he did the right thing. The first son said he would go, but he sinned because he changed his mind and his resulting action was that he didn’t go.

This is a wonderful example. It shows how the mind reasons but can be changed. It shows that the end result is either sinning or acting righteously, and coupled with these other verses we see that the sin is conceived when the final decision is made to do the sinful act.  And the most important part about this verse highlights that despite what you’re thinking in any given time in the process you only sin if you do the sinful act.

So what all have we learned here? We also see here that it is not sin to be tempted. In the previous article about this we talked about how men look at women naturally, instinctively. It is not a sin when a man’s eyes are attracted to the sight of a woman.  And even when he is tempted, he has not sinned if he does not do the sinful act.

In Matthew 5:28, the key words are “with lustful intent”.  With lustful intent refers to the fact that the person has decided to commit adultery. He’s done deliberating and he’s committed to doing the deed.  The deliberation may have been long and hard or it may have been short and shallow.  It doesn’t matter; a hasty decision is as much a decision as a lengthy one.  Once you have made a decision, you now have intent. 

It says that when a man has looked at a woman “with lustful intent” he has committed adultery with woman.   It doesn’t say in Matthew 5:28 that when a man looks at a woman he has already committed adultery in his heart.  It says when he has looked at a woman with “lustful intent”, when he has made the decision, when he means to do it, then he has committed adultery.

The writer of James addresses this concept also:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin…  (James 1:14-15a ESV)

Isn’t this interesting?  This really describes the process well. We all have desires. Some desires are not bad at all but good, like the desires to get some fresh air or to work in the garden or to be the best you can be at your job. However, some desires are enticing, luring, and captivating. Riches can be very captivating.  Food can be very enticing.  Power can be a great lure.  And here, in our example, the pleasures of illicit sex can seem so wonderful.

But the concept I want to focus most in this verse is “desire…gives birth to sin.”  Sin has a birth, a starting point.  That starting point is when you no longer are just thinking about it, it’s the point where you intend to do something about it.  There is that concept again: intent.  It’s exactly the same as what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28; “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent…”.

The Covetousness Clause


It may complicate things for some people (although I don’t think it should), but there is another sin that may be part of this process.

Matthew 5:28 is specifically talking about the sin of adultery. The point of the verse is to realize that the sin of adultery doesn’t begin when you actually touch the other person, but when you become willing to. But don’t think that someone can lust, and not be sinning.  We can’t think that we can lust and that we don’t sin unless we actually commit a physical adulterous act.

There is another sin that people can do, and it doesn’t involve touching other people at all.  That sin is covetousness. Covetousness is a mental state of powerful, wrong desires.  Just having powerful desires is not covetousness. Someone may have a powerful desire to become a doctor. That desire motivates them to study hard in school all their lives, to do the eight years of schooling beyond high school, to do the internships and all the other requirements to become a doctor. That’s not covetousness, that’s passion for a good thing. God wants us to maintain godly passions. Only ungodly passions are covetousness.

Yes, it is available to have a passion for the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.  Instead of having a passion to be a doctor in order to be able to use all your talents for God and to help people heal, you could have a passion to be a doctor in order to be powerful, and to get rich so that you just get the things that you want for you. It’s all about you, you, you.  That’s really covetousness for riches and power, and the person is willing to do the work of becoming a doctor in order to fulfill their covetousness for riches and power.

There are many examples of covetousness. A person walking around with his head driven with desire for big, expensive houses, fast cars, expensive vacations, partying is full of covetousness. A person walking around with his or her head full of desire to have sex with every person they desire is full of lust.  The words of lust and covetousness are synonymous. Most people just use the word lust in reference to sex, but lust can refer to any object of desire from cars to food to houses to experiences like traveling and entertainment.

And again, some objects of desire are neutral. Having sex with someone you’re not married to is wrong, but it’s not wrong to own a car, a house, some food, or to go on a vacation. It’s a matter of balance. It’s a matter of the motives behind the actions.

It boils down to whether or not God is more important, or that car, house, vacation, or money is more important than God.

The reason covetousness is wrong is because it’s idolatry. Instead of God being the object of a person’s passion it’s for all those things above; the houses, the cars, the money, the sex, etc.

In the case of sexuality, the Father wants us to have a passion for our spouses. The book of Song of Solomon has a big section that talks about the love between a man and a woman. Our Father, God, made man and woman, and endorses the marriage bed. Part of being a newlywed is the huge excitement over sexual passion, and being able to enjoy an abundant sex life with your partner.

But again, to have a passion for something requires a choice, a decision. You could be tempted to want riches and honor, but faithful believers decide not to. They resist that temptation.

So, once again, it’s not a sin to be tempted; it becomes a sin when the decision is made to do a sinful act. One of the sinful acts is to covet the wrong things.

Freedom from Guilt over Being Tempted


We are talking about an incredibly important distinction, and how it relates to this area of sexuality.   It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, yet he was found to be without sin. There is no reason for umpteen million men to feel guilty every time a beautiful woman enters their field of vision. It is especially important not to feel guilty if a man is out and about and sees an scantily clad girl on a billboard or on the beach or in the gym, or even just on the street. She doesn’t have to be scantily dressed, she can be just dressed in a that emphasizes her physical beauty. She’s dressed to look sexy, and she’s out in public for all to see.

(Again, one of the points that I hopefully made in the previous article is that women need to be more conscious of the affect they have on men in this area.  And you men that want your wives to dress sexy in public need to think about this too.)

So men, be at peace.  If a gorgeous, sexy woman pops into your field of vision and things start stirring, and your mind starts to think sexy thoughts, you haven’t sinned yet.

How to Deal With Sexual Temptation


Just stop looking.  In the book of Job we see that Job made the decision to do this very thing:

I promised myself never to stare with desire at a young woman. (Job 31:1 CEV)

If you don’t want to eat candy, don’t go into to the candy store. If you don’t want to keep eating, get up from the table.  And if you don’t want to commit adultery or the sin of lust, turn your eyes away, stop staring, look at something else, you get the idea.

We know that as simple as this sounds, this is not always easy to do from a strength and stamina viewpoint.  There are many books, counseling programs, sexual addiction clinics and other therapy options all designed to deal with this issue. If it were so easy we would not need all those things.  A lot of people need help overcoming this particular sin, and there is nothing wrong with that.  If you need help, get it.

Still the concept is not complicated. When you find your eyes fixing on an object, and your desire building for something that you should not desire, move your eyes somewhere else.

Just remember the temptation is not sin. So, if you are tempted, don’t feel guilty about that.  It is part of life.  And it is not a sin unless you decide to act on it.

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

February 2nd, 2013 Posted by | Sermons | no comments

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