Let’s read Matthew 5:27-30, “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. 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 if 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.”

In verses 27-28, the Lord Jesus was setting a standard for holy living that was higher than the Ten Commandments. The Law had said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but the Lord Jesus said that A LOOK, WITH LUST IN THE HEART, was equivalent to SPIRITUAL ADULTERY. The Law condemned “the act”; the Lord Jesus condemned “the desire.” Throughout Matthew 5-7, which we have labeled “The Sermon on the Mount,” the Lord Jesus was setting before men the holiness He required from His disciples, and it was a “standard” that the natural man, the one who has never been born-again, could never attain to.

Are Jesus’ words in verses 29-30 to be taken literally? Are men to literally pluck out their eye or cut off their hand if they are being used to satisfy sinful desires? I don’t believe so, for the removing of one’s eye or hand would NOT solve the problem in the heart; men can still go on lusting without an eye or a hand. If an unbeliever reads these words he should be convicted by them and realize that he is indeed in danger of being “cast into hell,” which in turn should lead him to see that he is unable to live up to God’s holy standards. He should come to own the truth of Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In doing so, he will see his need of a Savior and is then in position to turn to the Savior of sinners for salvation. If you, dear friend, are in this position, we would plead with you to act on Acts 16:31, which reads, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

Once we are saved, God gives us the power to overcome lust by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16 assures us, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” The passage we are considering has an application to the believer, for if we find lust is working in our hearts we need to judge it and deal with it. We learn in Colossians 3:5 that we are to “Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The word “mortify” means to “put to death.” We don’t literally put to death our eyes or hands or other members of our body by cutting them off; rather we judge the sin that our eyes, hands, or other members may be used for and then yield to the Holy Spirit Who can deliver us from the sin. If we yield our lives to Him, we will, as we have seen, gain the victory over lust. We’ll experience the blessed truth of Romans 6:12-13, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (159.5) (DO)