Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:27-30, Exodus 20:14,17, Psalm 19:12-14, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 9:43-48
I became a Pharisee the day I dropped my phone in the toilet.
I didn’t mean to, of course. Months prior, I’d signed my life away with paperwork acknowledging that water damage would not, under any circumstances, be covered by a protection plan. I happily checked the box, certain I would not, under any circumstances, be one of those people—the careless kind.
But I was. Suddenly, I wasn’t just dipping my toes in the idea of being that kind of person, I was nose-diving into full-fledged, card-carrying membership. To make matters worse, I kept it all a secret, appearing at the mobile phone help desk and looking like a victimized puppy. “What? Water? Never!” I gasped.
And then they brought out the lie detector. Well, it was technically a test for water damage, but in this case, it was a ruthless, truth-gauging machine and I was forced to plead guilty.
I didn’t ever think I’d be guilty of adultery, either. After all, I’m just a single twenty-something girl who blushed the whole way through this passage. I grew up in the church, envisioning this commandment from Jesus as the free space on my Salvation Bingo card.
But, like the Pharisees, I’m prone to forget that the thing God cares about most is our hearts. We don’t have to cheat on a romantic relationship to prove ourselves unfaithful to a faithful God. Sin is just another name for adultery of the heart, which means that most of the bad things we thought we’d never do, we’ve already done. We’re guilty. We’re those people.
Matthew Henry points out that this passage not only forbids the act of adultery, but also the appetite for it and approach to it. He says “convenient opportunity” is the only difference between thinking about eating the forbidden fruit and actually eating it.
So, what are we supposed to do? Do we hide away from the world? How do we just stop sinning?
The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable—who can understand it?
- Jeremiah 17:9
At first glance, the answer we find in God’s Word may seem pretty disturbing. Mark 9 instructs us to cut off our hands and feet and gouge out our eyes when we even begin to think about sin. While it’s gross and painful to think about, Jesus uses this illustration not to punish us, but to show us the depth of sin we’ve been rescued from. He wants us to see that the life He calls us to live is actually impossible to achieve solely by our flesh. His rescue is not a convenience; it is a necessity. Saving our souls should have lost us everything else, but instead, we gain Him.
With this as Jesus’ standard, we can look to His covenant bride, the Church, with awe and admiration, knowing it has never even crossed His mind to leave her—to leave us. He loves us. He truly loves us.
All of the good things we knew we could not do, He’s already done. Praise the Lord.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
- Psalm 19:14