5.27 Ēkousate hoti errethē: ou moicheuseis. 5.28 egō de legō humīn hoti pās ho blepōn gunaika pros to epithumēsai autēn ēdē emoicheusen autēn en tēi kardiāi autou. 5.29 ei de ho ophthalmos sou ho dexios skandalizei se, exele auton kai bale apo sou; sumpherei gar soi hina apolētai hen tōn melōn sou kai mē holon to sōma sou blēthēi eis geennan. 5.30 kai ei hē dexia sou cheir skandalizei se, ekkopson autēn kai bale apo sou; sumpherei gar soi hina apolētai hen tōn melōn sou kai mē holon to sōma sou eis geennan apelthēi. 5.31 Errethē de: hos an apolusēi tēn gunaika autou, dotō autēi apostasion. 5.32 egō de legō humīn hoti pās ho apoluōn tēn gunaika autou parektos logou porneias poiei autēn moicheuthēnai, kai hos ean apolelumenēn gamēsēi, moichātai.
5.27 You heard that it was said: you shall not commit adultery. 5.28 But I say to you that each one looking at a woman in order to satisfy his lustful intentions toward her was already committing adultery with her in his heart. 5.29 So if your right eye is an impediment, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is beneficial to you in order that one of your members perish rather than your whole body be cast into gehenna. 5.30 And if your right hand is an impediment to you, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is beneficial to you in order that one of your members perish rather than your whole body go away into gehenna. 5.31 And it was said: whoever dismisses his wife, let him give to her a bill of divorce. 5.32 But I say to you that each one dismissing his wife, apart from a report of fornication, makes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a dismissed woman commits adultery.
In 5:28, pros to epithumēsai is a preposition governing an articular infinitive. The word epithumēsai basically means to set one’s desire upon something, to constantly put one’s attention to it, to lust after it. It can even have connotations of desire towards something that is forbidden. Taken with the previous phrase, it reads something like, “looking on a woman with a perpetual longing to desire her”. This is a depiction of the person who keeps finding new ways to look at a woman, letting his desire rule his mind. The woman is a drug, and he must take it regularly, as the “high” wears off, and he must fulfill his desire. The end of this behavior is spiritual death, humiliation, and the destruction of personal relationships and good standing before God and men.
As a male, I am deeply aware of how difficult this is. It is hard, both the responsibility to stay loyal to God, to respect what God has created while dealing with the perpetual bombardment of those who care little for God’s ways and even feel empowered to prey upon our weaknesses. I deeply desire to be faithful to both God and my wife, the one he has given me to care and protect, to love and serve. Thank you, Jesus, for my wife Kim. She is a blessing and joy to me in so many ways.
In verse 5:29 and 30, the mention of the “right” betrays a certain social preconditioning to favoring the right side of things, in this case the right eye or hand. But the implication is still clear, that even if the eye/hand most favored should be the problem, it is best that the problem be rooted out rather than allowed to fester. Of course, Christians throughout the generations have not taken these statements to be literal, and no grand calls for self-mutilation should be read in this. The word here translated “beneficial” bears this out, as it means to be helpful or expedient. It would be better to do something extreme than to allow oneself to face eternal punishment for lack of self-control. Better yet to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and learn and practice self-control!
In verses 5:31 and 32, Jesus challenges the common treatment of divorce. When seen as a merely human institution, it becomes petty – easily entered and easily dissolved. In a largely male empowered culture, women had few options once dismissed. Likely they would need to find another man to put their hopes in. This makes sense of the statement by Jesus that the one dismissing his wife will make her an adulterer. Jesus recognizes marriage as something that is more permanent (though not eternal, based on later teaching). In God’s eyes, the expectations of a marriage may be removed at divorce, but the bond is inviolable.
Something in my mind keeps coming to the idea that man’s heart is hard, to think that divorce would be something that would free us to go about our business, once we have become one with another in God’s eyes. That makes me think of the church. How silly it is to think that once we are a part of the church that we can divorce ourselves from it without bringing harm on ourselves. So many today are so self-involved that the church is not worth it. True, it often doesn’t live up to our expectations – but I often fail to live up to my own expectations. When we as believers lose sight of the church as the body of Christ, a source of encouragement, but also a place to serve, we end up as whiners and complainers, spectators and critics. God did not create the church to train men to be art critics or rhetorical nay-sayers. He created the church so that we might realize that our weakness is his strength, when we walk in step – um, keep walking in step.