From murder, Jesus moves on to adultery. And in doing so, I think he really pushed a sensitive button in those who thought they were so religious.
As I’ve said, the Pharisees were very proud of how well they kept every minor detail of the law. But as I’ve also mentioned, by merely focusing on the letter of the law, they completely missed the spirit of it.
A perfect example is in the case of adultery. Even among the Pharisees, there were divisions. As a relevant example, there were the “bruised Pharisees.” These were people that were so worried about lust, that they would literally walk with their eyes closed if they were near a woman, and in doing so would actually walk into walls because they weren’t looking where they were going.
But you also had Pharisees that debated about divorce. Moses had written that a man could divorce his wife if he found any “indecency” in her. (Deuteronomy 24:1)
The argument was about what “indecency” meant. Some thought it was sexual immorality. Others thought you could divorce your wife if she was too loud or even just burned your dinner.
In my opinion, the main problem came, however, when a married Pharisee saw another woman he lusted after. He might bruise himself trying to avoid looking at her, but perhaps after dusting himself off, he caught a quick glance at her and then perhaps took another glance. Soon, he was thinking of her all the time.
But he was married. As a result, the thought would then come, “How can I get around this law against adultery? I know. I’ll divorce my wife and marry this other woman.” They literally did this. The frequency of divorce among Pharisees was an open scandal in Israel.
And so Jesus made it very clear. Just because you avoid the act of sleeping with someone besides the one you’re legally married to does not mean you’re innocent of adultery.
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (28)
That did not absolve any of the bruised Pharisees either, because they could go home, bruises and all, and still plot how to divorce their wife to marry this other woman.
So Jesus told them,
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (31-32)
Considering that he was comparing true righteousness with the “righteousness” of the Pharisees, I think it’s pretty clear what he was talking about. If you divorce someone because there’s someone else you want to marry, you are committing adultery. It may not technically be adultery by the letter of the law, but in God’s eyes, it is.
How about you? Are you committing adultery in your heart? Are you lusting after another to the point where you’re planning to get divorced? Or are you encouraging a married person to get divorced from their spouse so that you can marry them? That’s adultery, and God condemns it.
You may not be sleeping with another person, but are you joined to your spouse, heart, body, soul, and mind? Or is your heart being pulled to another person? That too is adultery in God’s eyes.
May we always have hearts faithful to the ones we have committed our lives to. Namely, to God, and to our spouse.