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. If your right eye causes you to sin, 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 sin, 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.
When Jesus taught about the sin of adultery, doubtless there were people there who were proud that they were not like those sinners. But looking lustfully at a woman is committing adultery in our hearts? That’s different. How can someone be blamed for what their eyes do? Jewish teaching was that external things, such as the parts of your body were the cause of defilement. Jesus challenged that idea by saying, “If you really believe that your eye is causing you to sin then pull it out.” Wallace made this observation about the passage: “The condition thus has a provocative power seen in this light. Just the opposite of Jesus’ affirming that appendages cause sin (as many have assumed, since a first class condition is used here), he is getting the audience to sift through the inconsistency of their own position. It is not the hands and eyes that cause one to sin, but the heart.” (DB Wallace, Greek Grammar, 1996, p. 693).
We may be amused by the idea of someone blaming their eyes or their hands for their sin, but are we so different? Haven’t we at some time said something like “I have wandering eyes,” “he has wandering hands,” “I couldn't help myself,” or “I’m only human.” There are whole doctrines built around the idea that our bodies are the cause of sin. To that idea Jesus says if you really believe that than cut it off. Nobody took him up on the challenge then and no one is doing it now.
The purpose of this study is not to decide who is to blame, but to decide where the problem lies. There are two things you have to do if you have a problem: First you have to admit there is a problem, and second determine what is causing the problem.
If we admit that we have a problem with sin then we need to determine where is the temptation is coming from. Jesus taught that our bodies are not to blame. Perhaps God is to for the situations we find ourselves in?
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James used words for hunting and fishing. You have to draw out the animal you want to catch. “Dragged away” is too strong a phrase. You have to lure it out of it’s hole. Where does the desire come from? It comes from us. Where does the will to act on the desire come from? It comes from us. When we combine our will with our desire it produces sin. “Sin is the union of the will with lust” (Robertson, Word Pictures p.18).
Sin gives birth to something too. It gives birth to death. The world likes to talk about the joy and pleasure of living a life without rules or bounds. Sin is pleasurable, but the world doesn't talk as much about where you end up.
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
The younger son had been safe in his father’s house. Satan dangled a pretty shiny lure in front of him. Who forced him to go off to a distant country? Who forced him to spend his money on wild parties? Nobody forced him to do any of that. He did it because he wanted to do it. He had fun. He did whatever he wanted to do. He lived by his own rules. He had a great time until the money ran out. He had been a gentleman of wealth and privilege, but in that country he was worth less than a pig.
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of. Those things result in death!
When he came to his senses…
What did he realize when he came to senses?
Let’s not delude ourselves, our sins come from us. God is not the source of our temptation. But God is the source of something:
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Temptation is something that we do not have to face alone. Jesus not only died that our sins could be forgiven, he is at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf.
Temptations will come. There is nothing we can do about that, even Jesus was tempted. But God promises that they will never be more than we can handle.
Different temptations are handled in different ways. For example, in Gen. 4.6-7, when Cain was angry about his sacrifice being rejected God said to him “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” The desire Cain felt was something he had to master. But other temptation are different.
In Job 31.1 “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” Job knew that lust did not come from his eyes, and the problem was not that the girls were too pretty, it came from his own desire. His solution was to avoid gazing at them.
Finally, 2Tim. 2.22 “Flee the evil desires of youth….” Sometimes the best thing to do is to leave when you are tempted. If it is something you haven’t been able to master, and you can’t just look away, leave as quickly as possible.
Jesus understands what it is like to be tempted, because he suffered that way too. The idea that Jesus was tempted is a strange concept; he was perfect and sinless. But to be the perfect high priest he had to know what it was like to suffer and to be tempted.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. Think about a time when you sinned. Did you have to do it? Was there no way out? Could you have made a different choice? It wasn't the fault of your hands, or your eyes. We sinned because we wanted to sin.
Jesus was not teaching that we are to pull our eyes out or that we are to cut off our hands to keep from sinning. What he was doing was pointing out the logical conclusion of the belief that the cause of sin is our bodies. The idea that sin is built into our bodies has some comfort; there is nothing we can do about it, so we can go on living the way we are. But that is not what the bible teaches. Sin comes from us acting on our own desires. There is a way out of sin, run from it and run to God. God assures us that we will never be tempted more than we can resist, and Jesus is always there to intercede and to help us.