Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here is Jesus’ second example of the new standard. The Law laid it down: You shall not commit adultery ( Exodus 20:14 ). So serious a view did the Jewish teachers take of adultery that the guilty parties could be punished by nothing less than death ( Leviticus 20:10 ); but once again Jesus lays it down that not only the forbidden action, but also the forbidden thought is guilty in the sight of God.

It is necessary that we should understand what Jesus is saying here. He is not speaking of the natural, normal desire, which is part of human instinct and human nature. According to the literal meaning of the Greek the man who is condemned is the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her. The man who is condemned is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to awaken his lust, the man who looks in such a way that passion is awakened and desire deliberately stimulated.

The Jewish Rabbis well knew the way in which the eyes can be used to stimulate the wrong desire. They had their sayings. “The eyes and the hand are the two brokers of sin.” “Eye and heart are the two handmaids of sin.” “Passions lodge only in him who sees.” Woe to him who goes after his ‘yes for they are adulterous! As someone has said, “There is an internal desire of which adultery is only the fruit.”

In a tempting world there are many things which are deliberately designed to excite desire, books, pictures, plays, even advertisements. The man whom Jesus here condemns is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to stimulate his desires; the man who finds a strange delight in things which waken the desire for the forbidden thing. To the pure all things are pure. But the man whose heart is defiled can look at any scene and find something in it to titillate and excite the wrong desire.

[William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible]


Illustrate by the threefold temptation of our Lord. To have those thoughts suggested to his mind was in no sense sin. We may say, he could not help their coming. They were presented from without. Bodily passion may present to us temptation; the presence of others may become force of temptation; circumstances may prove temptations; evil spirits may suggest temptations; but we must see clearly that temptation is outside our true selves. “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust;” something he has, not something he is. An old divine quaintly says, “If Satan comes up to my door, I cannot help it; if he lifts the latch and walks in, I cannot help it. But if I offer him a chair, and begin with him a parley, I put myself altogether in the wrong.”


It bears no relations to a man’s will until the man exercises his will upon it. And that will may refuse a parley or may admit a parley. That will may reject the temptation or may cherish the temptation. Sin comes with the cherishing. The possibilities of man’s dealing with temptation are shown to us in the threefold triumph won by the Lord Jesus Christ over temptation when in the wilderness.