The Seriousness of Sin
The Seriousness of Sin.
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away, for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
Matthew 5:27-32 is more than a passage warning of the dangers of lust and the issue of divorce; it is a passage that points to the nature of marriage and the seriousness of sin and the importance of radical response to the sins that we find ourselves struggling with.
The passage focuses on the sanctity of marriage and the threats that stand against it. Jesus, in these verses, addresses the two greatest threats to the sanctity and institution of marriage. The first is sexual perversion. In a sexualized world where sexual freedom is condoned and celebrated, the verse brings a stark warning. Any sexual activity outside the confines of a biblical marriage is prohibited. Throughout scripture, sex is not seen as an identity issue but a moral and spiritual issue. Sex was designed to reflect the unity within the marriage relationship, a unity that serves to illustrate the agreement within the Trinity. The physical joining of the two bodies serves to demonstrate that the two have become one entity (Genesis 2:24, see also 1 Corinthians 6:16). The word “one” is the same word that is used to describe the inherent unity of the Triune God, in which three distinct persons share in one unified essence (Dt. 6:4). Consequently any sexual activity outside of marriage is a violation of God’s design. Therefore, Christ points out the danger of lust, for in lusting after another, a person violates the devotion and unity one has within marriage.
The second threat to the sanctity of marriage is divorce. While there is much debate among scholars regarding the nature and scope of the “exception clause” in vs. 32, we cannot overlook the point that God both forbids and does not recognize any divorce apart from the exceptions that he establishes in scripture (e.g., adultery is verse 32 and abandonment and abuse as outlined in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16). In these verses, God clarifies that marriage is not a human/societal institution; it is a theological/spiritual institution established by God and is to be the foundation of society.
The importance of upholding the institution of marriage and radically dealing with sin in our life is then illustrated in verses 29-30. In these verses, Jesus reveals the seriousness of sin and the degree to which we are to address sin in our life. Jesus is not referring to literally cutting off our hand or gouging out our eye, for in the previous verse, he points out that lust is not an external issue of the eye but an internal issue of the heart. Instead, he uses the analogy to show that sin is serious and to be treated with radical action. We should never minimize sin or minimize the importance of dealing with sin in our life. Too often, in our struggle with sin, we minimize it by making it inconsequential. Instead of dealing with it, we rationalize it and make excuses. We condone it by redefining it to make it acceptable or justifying it under the guise of “well, everyone is doing it.” However, sin always brings devastating consequences in our life. Sin is always spiritually destructive. The ultimate result is Hell itself. Because of the severity of sin’s effects, the only appropriate response is radical action that addresses the problem. This does not involve physical mutilation and amputation but spiritual amputation through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9). This consists in acknowledging our sin before God and changing our attitude and behavior to conform to the commands of Christ. If you struggle with sin, the answer is not in excuses but in complete and inward transformation through confession and surrender to God’s word.