“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28)
Jesus is obviously trying to get a point across in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount. In the previous blog, it was discussed how Jesus said that having anger in your heart toward someone is comparable to actually killing them (Matthew 5:21-22). In the verses above, He continues on this theme of sinning in your heart by saying that sexual lusting can be referred to as committing adultery in your heart and is therefore comparable to actual adultery.
What’s happening is Jesus is holding His followers to a higher standard than what people were taught in the “old time” from the Law of Moses. The former teaching was that actions were all that mattered. Just avoid doing anything on the bad list and you’re a servant of God.
But is this really accurate? Would we describe someone as a servant of God who has murderous intentions in their heart toward others but just holds back to avoid going to jail? How about someone who has a strong desire to have sex with someone (other than their spouse) and perhaps speaks suggestively to them or even imagines what it would be like? How is this consistent with serving God?
When we gave our lives to the Lord, we received the Holy Ghost so Jesus should now be dwelling in our hearts. As a result, the very desires of our heart should be to do what is pleasing to God. If the desire of our heart is to commit sin but we are just holding back to avoid consequences, then we still have work to do to be where God wants us to be.
OK, if you went to the doctor and said you were concerned with the health of your heart, what advice might you receive? Well, I suspect you might be advised to consider adopting what is referred to as a heart-healthy diet. Now, I’m hardly one to advise anyone on eating healthy but if you look up “heart-healthy diet”, you will find lists of foods that you should cut out of your diet in order to keep your heart healthy.
The process of keeping our hearts healthy spiritually is similar. We need to consider things that invade our hearts — introducing attitudes, thoughts and feelings that will encourage a desire to sin — and cut those things out of our lives.
In order to make this point, Jesus gives an extreme example of the choice one might be faced with if their own body parts were introducing sinful conditions into their heart:
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
Lest any of us are tempted to start hacking off body parts, keep in mind that the purpose of this extreme example is to illustrate that if a person is at risk of being cast into hell, giving up anything in this life is a better choice. Jesus phrased it a little less graphically when he taught the same thing to the Nephites in America:
“Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things (anger, lust, sinful desires) to enter into your heart; For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, than that ye should be cast into hell” (3 Nephi 12:29-30)
So, Jesus is saying that we need to protect our heart by cutting things out of our lives that might otherwise infect our heart. What types of things might this be? What can we cut out of our lives that would help keep our spiritual heart healthy? Here are a few general examples:
- Entertainment that makes it seem cool or exciting or even normal to sin
- People who are extremely negative or angry (it can be very contagious)
- Activities that eat up huge amounts of our time and attention, leaving little or none to focus on serving God
If any of us thinks about our own personal diet, whether from the above categories or others, we should be able to easily think of things that can be cut out or reduced that will improve the health of our spiritual heart. This is not to say that these things are necessarily going to cause us to be cast into hell but keeping our spiritual hearts healthy can only help our service to God.
When God looks at us, He looks at the heart. Jesus made it a point to say that sinning in our heart is comparable to sinning with our body. Clearly, it is in our best interest to maintain a spiritually heart-healthy diet as we live our lives, such that we can be the best servant of God that we can be.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.