“You have heard that it was said to the people in the old days, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her—in his heart.
“Yes, if your right eye leads you astray pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body should be thrown on to the rubbish-heap. “Yes, if your right hand leads you astray cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body should go to the rubbish-heap. (JBP)
Jesus always tries to get to the heart of God’s commands. He attacks superficiality or hypocrisy. Here, he attacks the idea that as long as we refrain from going to bed with someone else’s partner we can avoid breaking the adultery commandment.
Jesus wants to show us that such outward acts have their source in the heart. The act of adultery does not spring out of a vacuum. First comes the desire. Just as anger can give rise to murder, lust can give rise to adultery. And in fact is a type of adultery.
And yet we need to be careful not to misunderstand what lust is and is not. It is no sin to regard someone as sexually attractive. We can’t avoid such conclusions unless we go around in life with a paper bag over our heads! Lust is not the first look, but the second and third look. Lust is the lingering look that creates fantasies and possibilities of an illicit sexual relationship.
One remedy for such a problem in our over sexualised society is to pray to see others as God sees them. Not as objects that potentially or actually give us what we want, but as individuals with their own identity and dignity.
And of course the other remedy suggested by Jesus, though not to be taken literally. If you have a problem take decisive action to deal with it. We may have to avoid certain situations and certain people. Radical action may have to be taken to prevent radical wrongdoing.