The Seventh Commandment
Text: Matthew 5 : 21 - 48
The seventh commandment in the Decalogue was just as clearly stated.
“You shall not commit adultery.”
Jesus knew that the Jews also managed to find ways and means to get around this commandment. Thus He cited the law as the Jews taught.
“You have heard that it was said to those
of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery'”
It would appear at first reading that Jesus was merely quoting from the Decalogue. Perhaps the better way to understand Jesus would be to accentuate the word “adultery”. In other words, if a person did not actually commit adultery, then he had not broken this law.
THE SPIRIT OF THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
Jesus must have stunned His audience as He explained the spirit of this seventh law.
“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman
to lust for her has already committed adultery
with her in his heart.”
How was the seventh commandment to be interpreted? Jesus adopted the same approach He took in the exegesis of the sixth commandment. He did not just consider the literal meaning, which was obvious. He focused on the spirit of the law.
The seventh commandment included prohibition of the sin of lust! The Jews may have taught that one did not actually break the seventh commandment if one merely lusted after another person in the heart! The teaching that Jesus offered destroyed any attempt to manipulate this divine law.
A PRACTICAL SOLUTION
Many must have been stunned by what Jesus taught! How can a person be truly righteous before God then? How can he hope to keep the laws of God, and not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of it especially! What practical advice would Jesus give to help people keep the laws of God?
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out
and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for
you that one of your members perish, than for your
whole body to be cast into hell. and if your right
hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from
you; for it is more profitable for you that one of
your members perish, than for your whole body
to be cast into hell.”
Jesus’ seemingly harsh approach may be understood better if we can fathom His reasoning.
1. Unworthy approaches rejected
Finding loopholes in God’s laws is an unworthy approach! This approach must be rejected at all costs!
2. Understand God’s laws
The laws of God were intrinsically good! They brought dignity to human life. They protected the innocent. They preserved society and the idea of the human family! Thus all His laws must be fully understood first and then upheld!
3. The only effective way to deal with sin
The laws of God were given to help men defeat the problem of sin in the heart. Lust was a sin of the heart. Given half a chance it would manifest itself. Lustful looks would soon appear. This was what Jesus meant when He made reference to the eye causing a person to sin.
There is only one way to deal with sin effectively. It has to be resisted and rejected forthrightly, even if it appears to be harsh. To pluck off one’s eye was not to be taken literally, for even if one were to be physically blinded, the heart could still lust!
Whatever the cause of sin, be that as precious as the “right eye” or the “right hand”, the problem must be dealt with severely! Any other approach to deal with the menace of sin would be totally inadequate!
4. Fear dire consequences
Jesus had to read the riot act to His audience! They had to understand that when a person tried to manipulate the laws of God by trying to find loopholes so that he can break divine laws with impunity was no true believer at all! For such law-breakers, there was only one penalty. He would one day be judged by God and be cast into hell.
THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO WOULD REJECT SUCH AN APPROACH
Only one group of people would fear this approach that Jesus had taken. Only those who did not fear God, but who took liberties with God’s laws would reject Jesus’ interpretation of the law. They would not be prepared to accept that one couldn’t and shouldn’t find loopholes in the law! To these people, every law had loopholes and if they were to find them, they would be well acclaimed by others!
To true followers of Jesus, His interpretation of the Scriptures would be received with a humble prayer for forgiveness, and for strength to keep the spirit of the law.