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Matthew 5:28 is notorious on setting standards for committing adultery in our hearts:

Mat 5:27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' Mat 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mat 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Mat 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

It wasn't until recently that I became bothered by this passage because it seems so contradicting to my understanding of Christ. Here is my logic:

  1. Jesus lived without committing a sin.
  2. Jesus said, "If you look upon a woman lustfully than you have committed adultery in your heart".
  3. Therefore, Jesus never looked upon a woman with lust.
  4. Objection: Didn't G-d come into the flesh to experience the struggles of being man which includes lust?

The only alternative explanation I can think of is that it means to entertain sexual thoughts. To have a sexual thought or feeling does not make it a sin itself, but entertaining it does. My objection to this interpretation is that it sounds pretty straight forward by what Jesus meant.

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Your alternative explanation seems to be in plain agreement with this passage. Nearly all versions of verse 28 emphasize intention, with the version quoted in the question explicitly using the word intent.

We suppose Jesus occupied a body which grew, hurt, bled, suffered, ached, died and perhaps longed for companionship, and so was exposed to a whole range of human suffering and experience. But, as he was without sin, he never gave expression to his bodily passions (either in thought or deed) in such a way that violated God's will. In short, although his body may have experienced sexual arousal (or lust), he never willfully entertained lustful thoughts that would have displeased God.

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Strong's translates the lust verb (ἐπιθυμέω) as "to set the heart upon". Had Jesus stopped with βλέπων (to look upon) or combined it with a form of the verb πειράζω (to be tempted), indicating that the simple act of looking upon a woman or being tempted to keep looking was sin, then you have a dilemma. Yet, James says in chapter 1, verse 15 of his epistle that it is not temptation that gives birth to sin, but lust (ἐπιθυμία). This is why Jesus also said attitudes of anger or hate toward a brother were the equivalent of murder under the Law (Matthew 5:22). The Scripture seems to keep coming back to heart matters.

John 2:24 says that Jesus did not entrust Himself (ἐπίστευεν) to man. A broader explanation of that word is to have faith in or commit to. It is the verb action by which followers of Christ are identified. If Jesus didn't entrust Himself to man or commit Himself to man, it is unlikely He would have set His heart on a woman in a relational or sexual sense. Instead Jesus is described as setting his face (ἐστήρισεν) like flint toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) and His crucifixion. That sounds like a strong equivalent of setting your heart or mind on a thing.

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  • 1
    The Temptation is there(Note: God doesn't tempt-See James 1:13). It's when temptation is 'succumbed to' that sin enters in. It's not in itself wrong to 'look' upon a beautiful woman, it is wrong to look with 'lust'(epithumeo'-to desire, set our heart upon). The emotion in and of itself is not sin, it's when the emotion is directed contrary to the will of God is when it becomes sin. We are to "hate" evil, "lust" after righteousness, be "jealous" for the things of God, "drink deep(gluttony)" from the wells of salvation, and "rest"(sloth?) in the Lord. – Tau Jun 8 '16 at 23:47
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    @Tau I agree. I hope that my answer didn't present that the emotion was itself is sin. I appreciate the clarification (in case it did). My goal was simply to point to the act of setting our hearts on something other than God's will as the birth place of sin, not the temptation itself. – Jeremy Jun 9 '16 at 0:04
  • My Point....Precisely! ;>) – Tau Jun 9 '16 at 21:22
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To look at a woman with lustful intent means not understanding the spiritual necessity or sacredness of marriage. It is not understood sex outside of marriage leads to no good and that sex within marriage is what women particularly desire.

Although in the modern world many women are sexually promiscuous, this is generally because they are desperately looking for a partner or husband but have lost their natural harmony & strength.

Jesus said:

"...in the beginning, at the time of creation, ‘God made them male and female,’ as the scripture says. ‘And for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one. No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together.” Mark 10.6

~~~

"But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also." Matthew 5:32

The later is because in the old times (when women had little social mobility), and even today (with a faithful woman), a woman that has spent most of her adult life with husband & children does not want to marry another man when she is divorced by her husband. Such a woman identifies herself with her family. But because of her loneliness or because of economic need, she may force herself to marry another man (which, in the depths of her heart, to her, is like committing adultery).

These teachings are particularly about having compassion & love for women. If we stop thinking about ourself (as a man) and think about: "What is best for the welfare of women?", we may understand the purpose of these teachings better.

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There's a big difference between seeing someone as attractive and lusting after them.

Jesus was a human male, so of course he would see women as attractive.

But he also knew enough to suppress any lusting after them.

Experiencing pleasant feeling when looking at someone isn't the same as contemplating having a physical interaction with them.

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How do I interpret Matthew 5:28?

Matthew 5:27-29 NASB

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you [b]stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you [c]to lose one of the parts of your body, [d]than for your whole body to be thrown into [e]hell."

ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 5:28 1881 (WHNU)

28 εγω δε λεγω υμιν οτι πας ο βλεπων γυναικα προς το επιθυμησαι [αυτην] ηδη εμοιχευσεν αυτην εν τη καρδια αυτου

NAS Exhaustive Concordance on the word

βλεπω- blepo

Word Origin

a prim. verb

Definition

to look (at)

NASB Translation

beware (5), careful (1), careful* (1), consider (1), facing (1), guard (1), keep on seeing (2), look (7), looking (5), looks (1), partial* (2), saw (12), see (54), seeing (8), seen (8), sees (8), sight (2), take care (5), take heed (5), watch (1).

In context of the verses 5:28-29 the Greek verb "βλεπων" (blepo) should be translated "keep on seeing" or "keep on looking" rather than "looks at"

Jesus is not just simply talking at having a passing immoral look, but is referring to one who "keeps on seeing" and so by the dwelling on such immoral thoughts arouses passionate and sexual desires.

This is so because Jesus continues and stresses the need , that drastic action must be taken, even if it is hard as taking your eye out.It is better to exercise self control rather than suffer everlasting death. Jesus said: 29" If your right eye makes you [b]stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into [e]hell." If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.( e-gehenna)

Paul wrote that temptation is common to all men 1 Corinthians 10:13, however the outcome is determined by what one does , either quickly disregard the evil thought or dwell on it and allow it to grow, to the reach the point that acting on it becomes inevitable .Like Jesus, James also warned his fellow Christians that if they allow illicit desires -lust ,passion to "become fertile", it gives birth to sin.

James 1:14-15 (NASB)

14 "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin [a]is accomplished, it brings forth death."

Cain allowed his fleshy desires to dominate him.

Cain fumed with anger against his brother, God however did not count it as sin against him, but warned him : "It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it." Sin was knocking at the door,but he ignored the instructions, he did not resist, his desire to kill his brother Abel overcame him and when alone killed him.

4 "But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock—even the fattest of them. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, 5 but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased.[d] So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? "

7 "Is it not true[g] that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching[i] at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.” 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[k] While they were in the field, Cain attacked[l] his brother[m] Abel and killed him."

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