A Matter of the Heart

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Reading the Word

Matthew 5:27–32 (ESV)

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 lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. 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.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus pointed back to the Ten Commandments in yesterday’s reading, he does again when he speaks of adultery. He quotes from Exodus 20:14. However, he does not simply repeat what the people had been told through their traditions and other teachers. He tells them that not only is the actual act of adultery a violation of the law, but so is lust. Sin originates in our hearts. It is not only something we do outside of ourselves. Jesus goes on to say that we should treat sin very seriously. He uses the extreme examples of removing our eyes and cutting off our hands to keep from sinning. While Jesus was using hyperbole to make his case, it is clear how Jesus thought of sin.

In verses 31-32, we read about the issue of divorce. In these verses, Jesus addresses the “easy divorce” culture of the time. It was common for men to divorce their wives for any reason they wanted, even if it was trivial. Jesus swings the pendulum the other way and tells them that marriage is supposed to be lasting. It was designed to be life-long. Divorce should be rare and only in extreme circumstances.

In these verses, Jesus teaches us that sin is ultimately a matter of the heart. We do not please God simply by going through all of the external motions of religion. That is what the Pharisees did and Jesus told his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” God desires true righteousness and holiness from his people. He desires pure hearts.

If we are honest, we know that we do not measure up to the standard that Christ lays out in his sermon. However, he told us that he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He fulfilled it on our behalf. When we admit our need of a Savior and turn to Jesus, we receive his righteousness and he takes our sin upon himself. That is why he went to the cross. He went to pay for the sins of the world.

Praise the Lord for our righteous Savior whose righteousness belongs to those who trust in him. Now, as we walk in the forgiveness of Christ, let us set our hearts on holiness and righteousness as we show our love for him.

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