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Adultery In The Mind

Adultery In The Mind - Date Written: 6/1/2007

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Title: "Adultery In The Mind"  Author: Unknown

Porn is a good example of a potential "sin of the mind". In many Christian churches today, women are taught they are justified in divorcing their husband if he looks at porn. This theology originates from the idea that it is "adultery in the mind" for a man to look at porn.

Looking Is Adultery

This idea, of "looking" at a woman being "adultery", comes from one verse in the Bible. The verse is a statement Jesus made in the "Sermon On The Mount". in Matthew 5:28, where Jesus said, "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Cheating Heart?

Distinguishing between a man's curiosity to admire female beauty and a man lusting and coveting to have sex with another woman is important when thinking of accusing someone of "adultery in the mind".

When a man has a cheating heart and is seeking to find someone to have sex with, he is more likely to be looking for a real person to have sex with, not naked pictures. If he has a coveting heart he is looking for a way to cheat on his wife.

I believe Jesus was referring to a coveting heart, an adulterous heart when he said, "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Lusting Is Coveting

Jesus was actually combining the seventh and the tenth commandments when he pointed out that "lusting" or "coveting" a woman is actually committing adultery.

The 7th commandment (Exodus 20:14) says "You shall not commit adultery." And the 10th commandment, Exodus 20:17 says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Jesus was pointing out that "coveting" a woman is a form of adultery.

The Hebrew word for covet in Exodus 20:17 is the transliterated word chamad which can mean, to desire, covet, take pleasure in, delight in.

The Greek word for "lust" in Matthew 5:28 is the transliterated word, epithumeo which can mean, to covet things forbidden, to desire earnestly; to have a longing desire for.

Please note that the Greek word epithumeo (which we interpret as lust) has a more narrow definition (to covet things forbidden, to desire earnestly) and is more like our English word for "covet" and the Hebrew word chamad (which we interpret as covet) has a broader definition (to desire, covet, take pleasure in) and is more like our English word "lust". Even so the two words are almost identical.

And so we see that the Hebrew word chamad, in the tenth commandment which we translate as "covet", is very similar to the Greek word "epithumeo", which we translate as "lust".

In Biblical usage, "lusting" and "coveting" are the same. If Jesus had been speaking in Hebrew it appears He would have used the Hebrew word for "covet" since it appears he was referring to the Tenth Commandment.

For all practical purposes "lusting" and "coveting" are the same. They are both wanting something that is not yours. And so the test for determining if someone is lusting after a woman is actually the same test for determining if someone is lusting after anything else, such as a new car, new dress or new home.

Coveting Material Possessions

And the sin of "lusting" or "coveting" material possessions such as a new car or new home is actually just as bad as the sin of "coveting" a woman. Coveting material possessions is idolatry (Colossians 3:5) which is spiritual adultery (James 4:4-5 ). And yet we do not divorce our spouse if they want a new car or a new home or new clothes.

Judging Thoughts

And yet if a man looks at a picture of a woman we call him an adulterer, even though we do not know if he "lusted" or "coveted" after her in his mind or heart. We judge his thoughts and call him an adulterer. Jesus did not say that "looking" was adultery. Jesus said that when a man looks at a woman "to lust after her" then he has committed adultery. Looking is not the sin, "lusting" or "coveting" is the sin.

The Sermon On The Mount

But even if we concede that Matthew 5:28 does teach that when a man looks at a woman and thinks she is beautiful he is committing adultery, it still does not make sense that we should be so sure of our interpretation that we would use it as a basis for encouraging divorces. And it doesn't make sense that we would be so sure and zealous of our interpretation that we would promote our interpretation so much that it now defines a major part of the personality of Christianity from the world's point of view. Especially when we as Christians ignore many of the other verses in that same "Sermon On The Mount".

Equal Treatment Of Verses

Again Matthew 5:28 is the only verse in the Bible that might indicate that looking at a picture is adultery and as we study the "Sermon On The Mount" we see there are several other key verses in the "Sermon On The Mount" that we as Christians totally ignore and that if we did enforce them on each other, we would have no right eyes (Matthew 5:28), we would have no right hands (Matthew 5:30), we would have no money (because we gave it all away or lent it without expecting it back) (Matthew 5:42), we would never make pledges and promises (Matthew 5:30), and we would all be in prison for murder (Matthew 5:22).

Why? Because in the "Sermon On The Mount" Jesus also said that "if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away" (Matthew 5:28), and Jesus said, "if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away" (Matthew 5:30) and Jesus said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (Matthew 5:30), and Jesus said, "Do not swear (make a promise) at all ... Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:30), and Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment" (Matthew 5:22).

Be Perfect As God Is Perfect

But just in case someone could keep all those commands, Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Jesus Introduces Grace

So what was Jesus saying with all these commands that seem impossible to keep? Jesus was showing the people they can't get to heaven by keeping laws. In the same sermon Jesus explains that He came to fulfill the law and that the law would "disappear" once "everything is accomplished". In Matthew 5: 17 and 18 Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." It was "accomplished" at the cross.

Jesus was preaching to an audience before the cross. Jesus had not died on the cross. So Jesus was explaining that there is no way you can work your way into heaven, but that He would fulfill the law.


So many Christian marriages end in divorce because the wife discovers her husband looks at porn. I have been told that 80 percent of Christian men struggle with looking at porn. Since Christian women are taught that looking at porn is adultery, and since adultery is grounds for divorce, many women divorce their husbands for looking at porn. But this is a mistake.

Jesus never intended his statement on "lust" in Matthew 5:28, to cause a Christian divorce any more than he intended his statement on "murder" in Matthew 5: 21-22 to be used to send a Christian to the electric chair for being angry.

Rules Do Not Work

In Colossians Paul explains that man made rules are not the preferred method to change behavior under God's Grace. Chapter 2 verses 20 to 23 says:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world (the law), why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?

These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Paul explains that rules do not restrain sensual indulgence. God doesn't want Christians to keep a set of rules. God wants to change the attitudes of Christians. God wants Christians to love Him and show it by loving others.

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