A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Far too many of us waste our minds by filling them with terrible things. When it comes to sexual sin it is corrupt thinking, believing that sex is only about pleasure, which leads people astray. Although God intended the sexual act to be intensely pleasurable it is not pleasure but intimacy and oneness that God desires for His people. When people focus on pleasure instead of intimacy there is a tendency to devalue the beauty of the oneness that God intended.
Jesus’ New Testament teaching about adultery confirms that evil-mindedness is at the heart of the seventh commandment. Jesus specifically addresses wrong attitudes about sexuality in His teaching on adultery in Matthew 5.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27–28)
The key to understanding Jesus’ teaching lies in what it means to “look on a woman lustfully.” It is not just looking at a woman that is the issue. Jesus is not asking men to go through life with blinders on. Jesus’ words indicate that it is not just the look but something in the way that the woman is being looked at that is the source of the sin. It is a lustful look, not just a glance, against which Jesus is speaking. It is that type of look that Jesus equates with adultery.
What is a “lustful” look? The word in the Greek translated as “lustful” means “to long for” or “to desire.” The term implies that the person is not desiring relationship, intimacy, and marriage. The desire and longing that characterizes the look is purely physical. It is a desire for pleasure. The “luster” desires the other person in a physical sense only. There is no thought of the person’s life, feelings, or standing with God. (Such thinking would by its very nature prevent illegitimate sexual desire!) The lustful person is thinking only of himself, of the pleasure to be gained. This is the type of look of which Jesus is speaking. It is a leer that ignores the heart and soul of the woman. It objectifies her and makes her nothing more than a physical source of pleasure. It is dehumanizing.
The story of David and Bathsheba provides an excellent example of such sinful gazing. We read in the story that David first saw Bathsheba bathing. Stumbling across a beautiful woman who happens to be bathing is not in and of itself sinful. But it is clear that as David looked at Bathsheba, the look became something more than a brief unintentional glance. The look evolved into wanton lust. Although David may have initially been innocent, at some point the sinful attitude toward women that he had previously allowed to possess his heart took over. Just as he had with Abigail years earlier, David viewed Bathsheba as someone who could please him. He wanted Bathsheba for himself, and he felt entitled to her.
David’s lust was evident in the actions that followed. He inquired as to who Bathsheba was, not because he was concerned about her life, but because he wanted her. The report that she was married did nothing to squelch his desire. The urge for pleasure controlled his thoughts and drove his actions. David’s adultery was the physical expression of what was already in his heart.
This account of David’s sin and the teaching of Jesus show that selfishness is at the core of adulterous thoughts and actions. Selfishness causes one to view another person as a source of pleasure instead of as the child of God they are. Selfishness separates the beauty and intimacy of proper sexual relations from the pleasure associated with it. Such selfishness turns sex into a purely physical act devoid of any deeper meaning.
Thinking wrongly about sex undermines the bond of intimacy that is the foundation of marital unity. This is why Jesus warned of violating this union. When the beauty of sexual intimacy is lost, the marital bond is weakened. When a man looks at a woman (or a woman at a man) as solely a physical object he is intentionally thinking inappropriately about sex, marriage, and God’s plan for men and women.
It is easy to condemn David for his sin, but the tendency to view sex as a purely physical act meant for personal pleasure is present in all of us. Billions of dollars would not be spent on pornography if there were not a large number of people who pursue sexual pleasure apart from true intimacy. Surveys of Christian men’s use of pornography have shown time and again that men of faith are not immune to such sexual sin. The tendency to violate God’s commandment against adultery seems to be innate, as a result only through intentional effort can it be avoided.
All of us need to look at our lives and evaluate our attitudes about sex and intimacy. We all need to step back and look closely at our lives to make sure that we are building into our lives the protections that will keep ourselves pure and our marriages safe.
This is part 6 in a series of posts taken from my book, Life Medicine. I will be speaking on this subject Sunday October 18, 2015 in the Chapel (not main sanctuary) at the Fullerton Evangelical Free Church at 10:00. Video of the message will be uploaded to my Vimeo page in the coming weeks. Comments, questions and shares are always welcome.