One of the most powerful forces that we can experience is our sexuality. When God told us to be fruitful and multiply across the face of the earth, He certainly gave us the capability to do that and the desire to take the sexual actions required to make that work!
But like many things, we are good at going too far, pushing the gift that God gave us beyond the bounds that God intended. His desire was that we would use the gifts that we have to love and give good gifts, spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God wherever we go. Through the temptations that we have, though, we twist those gifts into things that harm us and harm others.
Jesus knows this. He has seen it, having witnessed it for centuries. He knows that we might be able to follow the letter of the law that God gave, but certainly not its spirit. And that is what we see happening as Jesus tells the people that, while they may keep the law to not commit adultery by having sex with another person while married, they don’t keep the spirit of the law which is to completely love your spouse with your whole self, with everything that we are, not having any desire for another woman or another man because you have found your fulfillment in the person that you have married, that God has given to you.
And so I think that is why Jesus tells the people that, even if they look lustfully at someone who is not their spouse (in this specific case, speaking directly to men since he says “another woman”), we commit adultery in our hearts and minds, even if we don’t commit adultery with our bodies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Jesus’s remedy for this type of lust certainly seems pretty extreme, but I suppose that if you understand how bad hell is, which I presume Jesus would, then I think that it becomes easier to tell someone to lose a part of their body instead of sending all of it to hell.
May we become people that follow Jesus in a way that will please God, not only obeying the letter of the law, but its spirit as well, following God with both our bodies as well as our hearts and minds.