What Jesus Says About Sexual Sin
Why is sexuality so uncomfortable to talk about? There are three main reasons.
- We do not talk about it very often, if ever.
- This topic is a source of grief and shame for some.
- The Bible’s teaching on sex is countercultural.
Jesus is not saying this to leave you feeling broken and ashamed. He is helping us heal and thrive. Jesus’s words here are not aimed at people who do not believe in Him. This passage is specifically for disciples: students of Jesus.
Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’”
Jesus goes right to the heart of the issue by quoting the seventh commandment, which the listeners at the time were familiar with. “Adultery” is sex between a married person and anyone other than their spouse. The punishment for adultery was being stoned to death, so it was not very common. Most people hearing the seventh commandment probably thought, “Check, that one was easy.” But Jesus goes further.
Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Two words from this verse are essential to understand.
Looks: “Looks” in Greek implied purpose. The purpose here was lust. The action described here is not just noticing beauty; it is intentionally looking at someone to fuel a sexual desire.
Heart: We often associate thoughts with the brain and emotions with the heart, but in the Hebrew worldview, the heart was the source of your thoughts, emotions, and will. It was the control center for your life.
Jesus is saying that when you engage in looking at a person to fuel sexual desire, you have already committed adultery at the center of your being.
What is the big deal?
To Jesus, sex is a huge deal. To understand why we need to understand His perspective on sex and people.
- Sex is good. Humans were sexual before we were sinful. In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply. This is a direction to Adam & Eve to have sex and have children. There is an entire book of the Bible celebrating sexual desire, Song of Solomon.
- Sex is not essential to a good life. Christianity is the first religion in history to say that you can have a whole and meaningful life as a single person. This is so countercultural now. The New Testament does not share the modern view that marriage (and, therefore, sex) is the pathway to a full life. Jesus never married, and His life was and is meaningful.
- Sex can do significant damage. This is why sex is compared to fire in the book of Proverbs. Fire is good but very dangerous. Society today rejects this and says that sex is simply a biological appetite. It operates under the belief that as long as there is consent, it is not harming anyone. If that were true, why are many deep regrets sexual in nature? Why is sexual abuse so much more devastating? Why are sexual addictions so enslaving? Because sex is not just a physical appetite. It has a physical component, but according to the Bible, sexual desire needs a context strong enough to hold and protect it. That is marriage.
These truths about sex lead to Jesus’s perspective on people. The damage sexual sin leads to is damage done to people who are made in God’s image and precious to Him. We are not objects. When we engage in that lustful stare, we depersonalize and objectify people. We are diminishing their humanity to satisfy our own desires. This is why sexual sin is such a big deal to Jesus. This behavior is a violation of our humanity.
Why does Jesus care?
Because he cares about you and the people you hurt and objectify with this behavior.
Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Jesus does not mean this literally because the problem is not just your eye or your hand. It is your heart. The problem is not only physical, so neither is the solution. What is Jesus actually saying? Look at the phrase he repeats twice.
Matthew 5:30 “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
The word used for “hell” in Greek was “Gehenna.” Gehenna was a real, physical place. It was a garbage dump on the south side of Jerusalem where trash was dumped and burned. It was an image of complete ruin.
Jesus says that when we engage in sexual sin, we put ourselves on a path to absolute ruin.
Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. “
The right eye and hand were seen as more important. Soldiers who were missing their right eye or hand were believed to be massively disadvantaged. Jesus is saying that in light of what sexual sin will cost you, avoiding it is worth any price.
- We are all sexually broken.
True righteousness is much deeper than simply not committing adultery.
- Jesus loves sexually broken people.
Jesus does not hate you. He loves you. There is so much shame surrounding sex, but the Bible is full of stories of Jesus meeting sexually broken people right where they are and loving them. Shame was conquered when Jesus died for you. He forgives, and He loves. God never adjusts His love to your conduct.
- Submitting your sexual brokenness to Jesus is worth whatever it takes.
Take drastic measures to follow Jesus in this part of your life. You cannot manage it on your own. You will not be free until you are willing to bring your brokenness into the light.