This can be a more loaded question than it seems on the surface. The first thing we need to do is get a handle on what adultery is. In a literal sense, adultery is when there is unlawful sexual relations between a married and unmarried person. That is pretty straight forward. It does deeper than this though. Let’s look at what Jesus says about this.
Matthew 5:27-29 (NIV)
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
So Jesus is saying that if we even look at a person with lust, who is not our mate, we are committing adultery, even if it is only with our minds. You do not have to physically engage in the act to commit adultery.
The outward act of adultery begins on the inside with an uncontrollable lust for someone whom we know we should not have. As with every inward/outward issue that Jesus raises in this sermon, lust left uncontained can follow a predictable progression to a regrettable end. If we sow a lustful thought, we reap a lustful action. If we sow a lustful action, we reap a lustful lifestyle. If we sow a lustful lifestyle, we reap the regrettable destruction of a relationship, marriage, family, or career. These disasterous results all began with a seemingly innocent thought.
Jesus is using hyperbole in this passage. he is using a purposeful exaggeration to make His point, to underscore the seriousness of this issue. Obviously, Jesus does not intend for us to maim ourselves by gouging out our eyes in our battles with lust. Jesus did, however, use this vivid imagery to convey to us the seriousness of lust left unchecked. While we ought to not gouge out our eyes to deal with our lust, perhaps we should turn off our computers, disconnect our satellite dishes, or cancel our subscriptions to certain magazines. We need to do whatever it takes to flee from our misplaced lusts.
There are two major reason that adultery is wrong.
First it violates God’s holy standard. We see this when we look into the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.
Exodus 20:14 (NIV)
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
I don’t think God can get any more clear than this.
Secondly, its consequences are devastating. Proverbs focuses on the consequences, stressing the practical reasons that adultery should be avoided at all costs.
Proverbs 5:3-10 (NIV)
3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
7 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
8 Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you lose your honor to others
and your dignity to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich the house of another.
Let me be the first one to acknowledge the powerful and tantalizing appeal of adultery. Adultery pretends to offer pleasure and sexual release with few risks. The secrecy, intrigue, and forbidden nature of the act only seem to add to its relentless appeal.
Yet appearances are deceiving. What begins as sweet desire quickly turns bitter. Adultery destroys reputations, character, and marriages. The permanent costs immeasurable outweigh the momentary rewards.
The Bible is filled with passages warning about the eternal consequences of committing adultery. Here are some of those:
Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:3-5 (NIV)
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Revelation 22:14-15 (NIV)
14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Even adultery done and kept in secret to every person you know is fully exposed to a God who judges each of us righteously. There are no secrets we can ever hope to keep from God. In the end, the temporary rewards could never justify the eternal cost.