“Whoever Looks at a Woman With Lust”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #1

bust of Plato

“Whoever Looks at a Woman With Lust”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #1

*If new to this series, please see the introduction.*

Matthew 5:27–28: Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· οὐ μοιχεύσεις. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ.

“You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Standard Interpretation(s)

The ordinary interpretation of this passage is that lust is equivalent to adultery; that is, if a man sexually desires a woman, he has already committed adultery with her in God’s eyes. This interpretation is reflected in the following translations:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NASB)

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NLT)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NRSV)

Many churches (especially within Evangelical circles), emphasize this verse to adolescent boys, warning them that if they so much as think of a woman in a sexual manner, they’ve already sinned, that they’ve already effectively done the deed with her. Such an interpretation often works hand-in-glove with the common idea that Jesus “intensified” the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, setting a higher standard in order to show that no person could actually live up to God’s standards, showing that a person could only be saved by recognizing the impossibility of righteousness and then receiving forgiveness (a subject that will soon be addressed on this blog). So the common teaching is that sexual lust is absolutely evil—equivalent, even, to the actual act of sexual sin.

Another very popular way of reading this verse is to understand “lust” as indicating misplaced or overly robust libido; that is, “lust” is seen as illicit sexual desire. For example, here’s a recent (and quite common) response to the question of what lust is from a message board conversation I had some time ago: “I take lust to mean wanting something more than you should in an unhealthy way.”

This conception of “lust” often overlaps with the prior interpretation, to the effect that the young man is told, “Of course you will recognize that a woman is beautiful—that’s natural and unavoidable—but the moment your thoughts become sexual in nature, you’ve lusted, and that’s as bad as actually committing adultery.” Despite its popularity, this interpretation is imprecise, even flat wrong, and leads to surprisingly harmful consequences, making it a great candidate to start this series.

Lust or Covet?

The first thing to understand in this passage is that Jesus is in no way intensifying the Law here, nor is he saying anything new. What’s that, you say? The Law doesn’t forbid lusting after a woman? Well, as it turns out, the Greek word usually translated “lust” in this passage (ἐπιθυμέω; epithumeô) happens to be the same word used to translate the Hebrew word for “covet” (‏חמד) in the Tenth Command in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), which says:

οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου. οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν. (Ex 20:17 LXX)

You will not covet your neighbor’s wife. You will not covet your neighbors house or his field or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or any animal which is your neighbor’s.”

Sounds an awful lot like what Jesus says in this passage, doesn’t it? They’re even more alike once one realizes that the Greek word for “woman” and “wife” happens to be the same. In this passage, Jesus reminds his audience that the Law not only prohibits adultery, it prohibits coveting. This is not so much an intensification of the Law as it is a reminder of what the Law already says. And just as the Law itself was intended to be fulfilled, Jesus intends his words here to be followed (and that following them is entirely possible).

Another important point is that the command does not forbid recognition of quality or even desire itself (such would be nonsense) but something else: it forbids the action of coveting (hence the verbal form). “Lust” or “desire,” even the sexual variety, is nowhere forbidden in Scripture, nor is it equated with sin, only with the potential to sin (cf. James 1, where lust leads to sin but is not itself sinful). It is also important to note the distinction between the verbal form and the nominal form: when the Hebrew חמד or Greek ἐπιθυμέω are used as verbs in the OT, it denotes desire directed at obtaining the specific object in question and not merely the existence of the desire itself. This fits well with the Tenth Command, which is perhaps best understood as forbidding fixing one’s desire upon obtaining something that is not rightfully one’s own. In order to explain this point more adequately, a fuller discussion of the meaning of “lust” (Gk. ἐπιθυμία; epithumia) in the New Testament and the culture of that period is necessary.

Drives and Desires

One misconception that should immediately be eliminated is that “lust” (ἐπιθυμία) is a specifically sexual term. In fact, the word simply refers to a strong, passionate desire, used either of sexual desire or of a strong desire for something non-sexual. Stepping back further, in Platonic thought, ἐπιθυμία (epithumia) is the lowest part of the human soul—representing the connection of the soul with the fleshy, bodily part of the person.

Background: The Platonic Soul


For those non-Platonists out there, this requires further explanation. Platonism explains human thought and action by dividing the “soul” (or life-force) into three bust of Platoparts, each of which is personified as a separate agent in itself.

The highest part is the “mind,” “intellect,” or “reason” (νοῦς, nous; sometimes λόγος, logos), which is the part associated with thinking, theorizing, believing, meditating, contemplating, etc. This part is concerned with things like truth and knowledge and the highest aspects of human life. This part is represented in the human body by the head, which is the highest part of the body, stretching towards the heavens. In the Republic, this part is identified with the philosopher/rulers who are the natural and proper leaders of the ideal city-state, while it is identified with the world creator “demiurge” in the Timaeus.

As mentioned above, the lowest part (ἐπιθυμία, epithumia; note that this is the same root as the word for “lust”) is the irrational seat of appetite, the source of human drives for pleasure, including desires for food, drink, sex, and pleasure. Socrates calls this part of the soul “money loving,” since money is typically required to satisfy all its primary appetites. This seat of the appetites was also referred to as the “flesh” in the ancient world (σάρξ; sarx). Because this part of the soul is non-rational, it is unlimited in terms of what it desires—necessary, frivolous, or even unlawful/illegal/sinful. Take food, for example. When a person is hungry, it makes no difference if the barbecue smell is coming from the neighbor’s house—it still stimulates the desire for that food. The desire for food is necessary inasmuch as the body will die without food, but the appetite does not simply restrict itself to what is necessary.wild stallion rearing up

Instead, a person may desire extremely expensive food (unnecessary) or, in extreme cases, may desire to eat something improper (i.e. a child may consume his feces or an adult may suddenly desire to eat a child). Since it is prone to run amok, the appetite part of the soul must be governed by the higher parts of the soul to keep it in check. This part is represented by the lower parts of the abdomen (including the genitals) on the human body, while it is identified with the merchant/craftsman (money-making) class in the Republic. In Parmenides’ charioteer analogy, this part is likened to a wild stallion, powerful but undisciplined.

The middle part of the soul is the “spirited” or “emotional” part of the soul (θύμος, thumos; a word often denoting “heart” in Greek), the mediator between the higher and lower parts of the soul. This part is the seat of the will and courage and can be shaped through education and training. It is represented by the chest/heart area on the body and the warrior/soldier class in the Republic.

These three parts operate in harmony (likened to a harmony of three musical notes, each necessary to the song),with the ideal scenario (following Parmenides’ analogy of the charioteer) being that the mind govern the other two as a charioteer, with the “spirited” will as the lead horse and the appetite as the second horse, being governed by the union of the higher two natures. On the other hand, the danger is always that the appetites will gain the “spirited” part as an accomplice and overpower the will, leading to reckless action. Plato thus sees it as critical that the mind retains the allegiance of the will, giving it direction and controlling the appetites.

Greek charioteer Parmenides

So to summarize: the presence of “lust” or “desire” is an assumed part of each human person—deriving from God-given bodily desires that are amoral in themselves, neither inherently sinful nor entirely depraved. As such the presence of such “lusts” is in no way sinful; it is simply a part of being an embodied person. But directing these desires towards taking, obtaining, or enjoying what is not lawful is forbidden—that action (itself an act of the will) is forbidden by the Tenth Command and is sin.

Back to Matthew 5:27–28

Now that we’ve established a bit of the history of the key term in question, we can return to Jesus’ saying in Matthew with a little better context. By now we should understand that, in contrast to the English term “lust,” which has come to be a pretty much entirely negative term—which is why it’s so amusing to say, “I’ve been lusting for this pastry all morning”—the Greek term (though having a somewhat negative tint) is not always negative in the same way, instead being indicative of strong urges or drives, which the New Testament does not condemn in themselves.

Jesus is even able to use the word of himself:

“And He said to them, ‘I have longed [ἐπιθυμέω] to eat this Passover with you before I suffer!'” (Luke 22:15)

Similarly, other non-negative uses of the word:

“For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men lusted [ἐπιθυμέω] to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matt 13:17)

“And [the prodigal] longed [ἐπιθυμέω] to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.” (Luke 15:16)

“… and longing [ἐπιθυμέω] to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.” (Luke 16:21)

Again, I am not to saying that there was never a negative connotation to ἐπιθυμέω/ἐπιθυμία. But it is critical that we make the distinction between a condemnation of desire and a prohibition against coveting forbidden things, including one’s neighbor’s wife. Now we’re finally ready to look at the verse itself.

The Grammar of Matthew 5:27–28

The other major mistake in the interpretation of this verse (and many translations, as shown above) involves misconstruing the grammar. The Greek does not say, “look at a woman with lust” or “look at a woman lustfully,” as though it were describing the manner of looking. On the contrary, Matthew uses a grammatical construction here that combines the preposition πρὸς (pros, pronounced “pross”) with an articular infinitive in the accusative. Matthew uses this construction four other times, and each time it denotes the purpose of the action:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men in order to be noticed by them.” (Matt 6:1)

“… First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles in order to burn them up ….” (Matt 13:30)

“But they do all their deeds in order to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.” (Matt 23:5)

“For when she poured this perfume on my body, she did it in order to prepare me for burial.” (Matt 26:12)

So it is clear that the grammar is reflecting purpose: “anyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her.” (“Covet” is preferable here in part because “covet” better reflects the intentionality reflected in the passage.) This is a critically important point; Jesus is not suggesting that any sexual thought or inclination towards a woman is sinful. Nor is he suggesting that such thoughts or attractions being triggered by a look are sinful. The look is not the problem (nor is the presence of a beautiful woman, which some of that day tended to blame as the real problem); no, these are assumed. What is remarkable (given the popular misinterpretation) is that Jesus likewise assumes the presence of sexual desire in the man as a given, and that sexual desire isn’t seen as the problem. Instead, Jesus addresses the matter of intent, of volition, the purpose of the look. The issue is not the appetite itself but how a man directs this natural appetite and inclination. (I’m reminded here of the old saying: If you’re a young man on a beach and a beautiful woman in a bikini walks past and you don’t feel any sort of excitement or attraction, it’s not because you’re spiritual, it’s because you’re dead.)

This fits well within the immediate context; throughout this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is pointing out the root causes of the sins enumerated in the Law. Yes, adultery is a sin, but the sin has entered the heart the moment one determines to seek it out. The moment a man even looks at a woman for that purpose, adultery has already polluted the heart. This is the line between natural sexual attraction and the “coveting” prohibited by the Law: the Law forbids directing one’s desire towards that which is not lawful. Jesus does not condemn the desire but the action taken on the desire.

In modern terms, it’s the difference between seeing a woman and being attracted to her—a natural part of the God-created appetite and a good indicator that one is alive—and actually considering or seeking an illicit activity. In fact, in modern terms, the saying could be taken like this: “Obviously, having extramarital sex is wrong, but the moment you decide to start down that path, adultery is already in your heart.”

Finally, Jesus does not say that the thought and the action are equivalent, as is often taught. The passage does not say, “Once you’ve thought it, it’s the same as actually having done it.” That very notion is absurd! Rather, Jesus says that adultery has been committed in the heart, that the will has already bent itself towards adultery. Again, the emphasis is on intent—that is, without the decision to move towards adultery, the act would never be committed. Therefore, Jesus says, deal with the primary problem of intention and adultery becomes a non-issue. As will be shown below, the suggestion that the thought and action are equivalent can cause much harm.

Why It Matters

The biggest problem with the way these verses are usually explained is that it misplaces the focus away from the will, from the commitment of the heart, towards a condemnation of the natural desires human beings are created having. Young men in many churches are effectively told that there is something inherently sinful in their sexual impulses. There are several results that typically follow from this:

  1. A great deal of self-defeat and guilt about sexual desire is a problem in much of the church. Young men are often entirely consumed with their efforts “not to lust,” as though focusing even more attention on the matter of sexual desire would actually help things!
  2. In the same vein, I have even had married men talk to me about how they try not to “lust” for their wives! This stems from the misguided idea that if their desire for sex is simply because they’re “horny,” there’s something inherently wrong with that, something to feel guilty about. (In contrast, look at the way Paul approaches marital sex in 1 Cor 7; he seems to present it as the necessary and acceptable cure for “being horny.”) Talk about a way to take some of the joy out of marriage and substitute defeat and guilt!
  3. Many young men simply give up the fight, reasoning that if they’re already guilty of sexual sin because of their thoughts, they might as well go ahead and enjoy the real thing. You’d probably be surprised how often this is the case. (Again, this result is quite related to the poor theology that suggests the Sermon on the Mount presents some impossible to achieve standard. The obvious conclusion is to ask why anyone should try to live up to it, since one’s salvation isn’t determined by doing this stuff anyway, only how one believes.)
  4. Some who understand this passage to be a condemnation of lust actually reason that they can have extramarital (or at least premarital) sex as long as they “don’t lust.” Following is an actual quote from a message board discussion on this subject:

    “The only reason to wait [for marriage for sex] is if you believe you have a soul mate out there. I don’t. I know the bible [sic] fairly well … and have yet to find where the bible [sic] says it is wrong to have sex with more than one person or have sex before marriage. Adultery is having sex with someone elses [sic] partner which is wrong and you can have sex without looking at someone lustfully. I don’t know anywhere in the bible [sic] where it says it is wrong for two people who care about each other to have sex.”

    As amazing as this interpretation is, this is certainly not the first time I have heard or seen that interpretation—that it’s okay to have extramarital sex as long as one doesn’t “lust.” As we’ve seen, this entirely misconstrues what “lust” is (having sex without the desire for it is generally called rape), but it is an excellent representative of how harmful the common teaching on this passage can be. (See this post for a discussion of the fallacy of searching for the soul mate in much of American Christian culture.)


So to sum it up, Matthew 5:27–28 is not a condemnation of lust or sexual desire, nor does it mean that every red-blooded male necessarily sins every time a beautiful woman walks into a room (or onto a movie screen or anywhere else she may appear). On the contrary, “lust” itself is not a sin but can lead to sin if it is not properly governed and put under the authority of the Spirit (cf. James 1). Instead of focusing on “lust,” if this passage is to be correctly taught, the emphasis should be placed squarely on the will: that is, “What is the proper response to sexual desire?” There are proper outlets for sexual desire, but it is the exercise of the sexual appetite outside these confines is the problem. Even prior to actually committing the act, once the will has turned towards illicit behavior, sin has already entered the heart and, once fully conceived, will bring forth death.

Part of the payoff for properly understanding these two verses is the understanding that the requirement they set forth is neither impossible nor unreasonable. There is no requirement to somehow lose the drives that we were born with, nor should there be any guilt for having them. On the contrary, it is a matter of the commitment of the will, the orientation of the heart, that Jesus is discussing. It is the covetous look that is forbidden, not lust or desire itself. That is, Jesus forbids fixing one’s desire upon a woman (or man) that is not rightfully one’s own. This requirement was not set forth to show how impossible it is to live up to God’s standard. The standards set forth here are intended to be lived.

  • Kyle Leaman
    Posted at 21:06h, 20 August Reply

    Great breakdown Jason. An important verse to get right, as it not only helps struggling Christian men but also doesn't set up unnecessary hurdles for non-Christians contemplating Christianity. Of course it has the advantage of also being accurate and truthful…and you know what they say about truth…

    • Douglas
      Posted at 06:38h, 17 September Reply

      Hi all! I am a child of God. And you know what? I knew a fair amount of the things that was said here on this post. But not all of it. Do thank you! But here is the thing? I find over and over again that there are many pastors and teachers and ministers in leadership positions and preach/teach to people who are off with various things they say and teach? And that’s simply because they don’t study the Greek and Hebrew in relation to the scriptures they talk about in front of people? And in turn they are not teaching correctly what the scriptures are actually saying? Now with me? I look at Greek and Hebrew quite often in relation to what pastors say? And even when I read the Bible myself. And you know? That is really sad! Because these people who stand in front of people every Sunday should know for certain what they are talking about? They are supposed to not be ignorant when it comes to scripture? But many are ignorant concerning certain aspects of what they are saying? Because of their lack of applying understanding of Greek and Hebrew into their teaching and preaching? When today in the digital age it’s so easy to go on a site like for example (blue letter Bible) and look at the Greek and hevrew with the click of a button! Its simple to do! And then when they teach or preach? They would be accurate in what they are saying. So all of you as you read the Bible? Or listen to preachers and teachers? Please take what I said into consideration? OK. Do may the Lord richly bless all of you!

  • Stephen C. Carlson
    Posted at 09:29h, 21 August Reply

    I've found it helpful to compare Matt 5:28 πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν to the Tenth Commandment (Exod 20:17 LXX): οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου. I don't really see Jesus going beyond what was already taught.

    So I would endorse your view: In this case, it would probably be appropriate even to translate this verse "in order to covet her," rather than "to lust after her," in part because "covet" reflects intentionality reflected in the passage.

  • Jason A. Staples
    Posted at 09:36h, 21 August Reply

    Good point, Stephen. The more I've looked at this passage over the years, the more I've connected it with that also. And the nice thing is that "covet" carries closer to the proper connotation in English than "lust," which is associated more with the drive than an intentional action.

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    Posted at 13:02h, 01 May Reply

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  • Alex Murray
    Posted at 15:01h, 22 May Reply

    It’s a real shame that Megan was dropped from Transformers 3. But I wish her the best with her next movie.

  • Bible Study
    Posted at 22:04h, 23 September Reply

    As long as Satan can have one to trust in their own works of righteousness in the flesh, he can defeat them. The only way to overcome the defeat Satan offers is to trust in Jesus alone for salvation. Romans 8: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

  • Yofi
    Posted at 08:04h, 25 July Reply

    Thank you soo much for this critical analysis and explanation of the Scripture. So many lies and untruths have been taught because of a failure to understand correctly. Thanks again and Shalom

  • Austin
    Posted at 11:48h, 10 November Reply

    Great and thorough article

  • Assegai
    Posted at 23:34h, 21 March Reply

    I came across Matthew 5:27-30, asked Google ‘how does one live up to it?’, and found this page and your site. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after about myself and my faith in God after reading your explanation. It is so well reasoned and clearly written too! I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much, Jason and God bless you.

  • John
    Posted at 11:29h, 22 May Reply

    Hi Jason,

    I thought that article was fantastic. Would you say that masturbation was one of the proper outlets for sexual desire you mentioned, or would the accompanying fantasies with this act render it as adultery that Jesus speaks of above?
    Would be great to hear back from you on this.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 13:20h, 22 May Reply

      Good question, John. While I don’t think the Bible condemns masturbation (the usual interpretation of the Onan story doesn’t get it right), it also doesn’t seem that masturbation is “one of the proper outlets,” either. Actually, Matthew putting “and if your right hand causes you to stumble” immediately after this statement about coveting a woman may be seen as an indirect reference to masturbation. It’s not entirely clear, but it’s the closest thing in Scripture you’ll find to a statement about masturbation. Given the general outlook on sex in Scripture, though, I’d say masturbation would not be included among the “proper outlets,” which are limited to heterosexual marital relations whenever discussed.

      • John
        Posted at 23:08h, 22 May Reply

        That’s really interesting, I’d never thought of it that way before. In fact I don’t even think it struck me at all why Matthew said “and if your right hand causes you to stumble”..it’s like I’ve never read that bit! Thanks.

        I guess it was in another article that you wrote about your personal experience as a formerly single guy; would you say from your experience that nocturnal emissions were sufficient during that time to ‘satisfy’ the sex drive, and that maybe the sex drive is just a drive that pushes us towards intimacy with others & doesn’t really ‘need’ to be satisfied in a sexual way? I apologise for coming back with another question & maybe going off on a bit of a tangent!

        I really appreciate you taking the time to reply back by the way, that was much appreciated.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 20:26h, 23 May Reply

          On the one hand, no, nocturnal emissions are insufficient to “satisfy” the sex drive in the same way that getting nutrients through a tube “satisfies” the desire to eat. But on the other hand, yes, nocturnal emissions can be (and were for me) sufficient as a single person, although I think it’s much more difficult to stop masturbating once one starts than it is never to start. I do think we as a society place significantly too much emphasis on the need to be “sexually satisfied.” It’s good to have sexual satisfaction, but it’s not a necessary condition for a quality human life.

          • John
            Posted at 23:04h, 23 May

            Thanks again for your reply, and your honesty.
            Definitely food for thought.
            Take care.

          • george
            Posted at 04:15h, 08 May

            jason really mature answer.balanced ….

      • Randy Mitchell
        Posted at 19:25h, 17 December Reply

        Actually, the Bible says alot about masturbation, see Lev. 15:16, 32 and Dt. 23:10. I was told the same thing at a youth conference when I was a youth and it didn’t seem right when I heard it then. Do a search on thr Laws of Family Purity and then review what Paul says about not touching a woman and how Christ will come back for us when we have no “spot or wrinkle”.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 14:00h, 02 January Reply

          None of these passages pertain specifically to masturbation. But thanks for your comment.

      • Edward Perkins
        Posted at 00:02h, 05 January Reply

        I’ve thought about the idea that the scripture was referencing that, but I think that’s probably looking at it through 21st century eyes just the way the word lust is now seen as an exclusively sexual word when it wasn’t when the verse was translated. The right hand, or eye are meant to mean the strongest and best (left being second best), of the most necessary parts of your body that you rely on, but you could still lose without actually dying.

  • Zac
    Posted at 23:45h, 29 May Reply

    Finally, something about this passage that actually makes sense!

    I’d like to thank you for laying out what the original Greek says about this particular passage. Because I don’t know ancient Greek (and haven’t had much time to learn it) I could never look up much for myself. This interpretation actually makes sense though. I was beginning to wonder why God would condemn me for a feeling He created me with… This actually makes sense though. Thanks for clearing this headache up.

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  • Rafael Moreno
    Posted at 21:16h, 19 January Reply

    Since you proved that it means “in order to covet her”, and The Ten Commandments are Commands(not intentions or desires, etc), and since as this guy suggested command 10 covet could mean ‘Take’ – http://Goddidntsaythat.com/2011/03/02/the-ten-commandments-dont-forbid-coveting/

    and since the 10 Commandment which says, Thou Shall Not Steal in Hebrew can mean Kidnap.

    And since deuteromony has avah as desire and chamad again in other places has suggestions of take(steal) I have come to the logical conclusion that these are The True 10 Commandments:

    1, You shall have no other gods before Yahweh(The True God, The Trinity of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit)

    2, You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

    3, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy

    4, You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

    5, Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

    6, You shall not murder.

    7, You shall not commit adultery.

    8, You shall not Kidnap

    9, You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

    10, “You shall not take(steal) your neighbor’s house. You shall not take(steal) your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

  • Rafael Moreno
    Posted at 22:16h, 19 January Reply

    Wrote a post on my blog, check it out, Courtesy to you for helping me – http://savedbychrist94.blogspot.com/2013/01/true-ten-commandments-and-matthew-527-28.html

    This is my first day starting Koine Greek(Bought Basics of Biblical Greek ‘Grammar’ by Dr. William D. Mounce and I already know most of the alphabet, studying it you are correct, it means in order to.(because of πρὸς(pros) and THEN comes τὸ(to)

    Now I know what the True Ten Commandments are and an sure that looking at a woman isn’t a sin.

    God(The Father, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit) Bless you Jason Staples, you helped well.

  • Wade
    Posted at 11:34h, 25 January Reply

    Great article…I wish Christians like yourself who understand that English words often times horribly translates the Hebrew and Greek would look more into the passages that condemns “homosexuality” I’m a gay christian and I have found through my research that the bible does not condemn 2 men or 2 women in loving committed relations but rather was condemning the sex rituals done by pagans.

    • Tyler
      Posted at 23:03h, 31 January Reply

      But the Bible does clearly condemn homosexuality in this verse:

      Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, (I Corinthians 6:9 NKJV)

      The meaning is quiet clear. People who lead lives like those mentioned in a continuos fashion are people who have not experienced a transformation by the saving power of Christ. (Aka, they aren’t saved, and therefore are not headed to heaven) I am not here to condemn you, but to tell you the truth. Please search this following link and read the article carefully. I’m praying for you man.


      • Michael Eric Hund
        Posted at 15:29h, 22 December Reply

        Tyler, the text you quote is a dreadful English mistranslation of what the Bible actually says here in the original Greek. Just as a start, the word “homosexual” is a constructed word that didn’t even enter the English language until the late 1800’s. The word’s very existence in a biblical “translation” is not biblical. It is an error-filled addition to the Bible.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 14:04h, 02 January Reply

          While the term “homosexual” is indeed a later addition to the English word, that doesn’t mean it’s a mistranslation here. Translation must convey the ideas in the text into modern language, especially when those terms have fluctuated and are different today than they were in the past.

          The bigger difficulty here is what “homosexual” means, as in modern parlance it can refer to a person with certain sexual inclinations (i.e., an “orientation”) or to specific behaviors. If referring to the behaviors, the word can work as a translation of Paul’s concepts. If referring to the orientation, it doesn’t work to render Paul’s ideas in these passages.

    • Laura Turner
      Posted at 12:03h, 09 March Reply

      Hi Wade,
      Many Christian scholars and pastors have studied those “clobber” verses that condemn homosexuality. My husband and I were conservative evangelicals who left the church after many years as we were disillusioned with so much hypocrisy (the short story). Our son had gone through many years of depression and pain issues with no apparent cause. Once we left the church and acknowledged that some people, even evangelical Christians, are naturally gay, and began to deconstruct our brainwashing, our son came out to us. He is so healthy and whole and living successfully as a gay man now. I would encourage you to look for Pastor Danny Cortez online (former Southern Baptist), and here is a link to a discussion of those clobber verses: https://serendipitydodah.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/the-clobber-verses/

      Jason, I so appreciate your explanation of lust. Thank you.

  • Aja
    Posted at 03:32h, 31 January Reply

    Thanks for your thoughtful article! It really helps me understand this passage better, and relieve me from the guilt of feeling attracted to beautiful women. However, I have a question: the common belief is that porn is bad because it will cause lust, and lust will lead to sin. After reading this article, it seems like if one does not act on the lust (like masturbate, or go have sex with prostitute etc), it will not lead to sin. If this thinking is true, then does that mean it’s OK to watch porn? That doesn’t sound right to me. Am I misunderstand something? Thanks!

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 09:14h, 31 January Reply

      I don’t think this verse could be rightly interpreted as a license for pornography, as the important aspect here is the intention behind the look. Once a person has decided to look in order to gain some sexual gratification from that source, it would seem to me that coveting has begun.

      • Aja
        Posted at 02:49h, 02 February Reply

        Thanks for you reply Jason! I wouldn’t think watching porn is justified either – it’s debasing anyway. Could you share your thoughts about “lust of the eyes”, i.e. what is this lust referring to, and if I enjoy nude art (the intent is to appreciate the beauty of female, not to get sexual arousal), and I find the model to be beautiful/attractive, does it fall under lust of the eyes?

        • Melvin
          Posted at 08:21h, 31 October Reply

          Jesus was pretty clear why He used lust instead of covet. He was addressing our sinful nature. Lusting after someone is not the same as wanting to possess someone. It is merely for the sake of temporary pleasure. Paul said he beats his body into submission. We can only do this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

          Yet I believe that Jesus teaching was of a higher moral standard.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 09:02h, 31 October

            Actually, Jesus uses the word for covet, so that makes your case a bit difficult here.

      • John korondi
        Posted at 03:54h, 12 March Reply

        Hi Jason. I want to say this is a great article! I have always known this my whole life. It’s nice that I finally found people who noticed this too.

        I would just say that I do not think pornography Is sinful. After all, I think the verse in matthew and the commandment about coveting your neighbors wife is about INTENT. Meaning if you have the intent to commit fornication or adultery then it is like you have already committed the sin. I always use this example I thought of. If you shoot and kill your friend, but by accident. Then you committed no sin. However if you fire a gun and the bullet misses your friend, but you INTENDED to kill him, then you have already committed murder in your heart. So I believe this verse is not about pornography or masturbation. I think it is more about intent. I think fornication and adultery begin with physical contact. Skin to skin. Or through clothing even. But merely watching each other naked or masturbating in front of each other cannot be a sin. After all, it just does not appeal to reason. If this were the case then even combing your hair or dressing nice would be a sin since you do it to be appealing to the opposite sex.
        So what do you think about my conclusions? I realize they are not in line with mainstream christianity, but I feel like it is truly the only way to interpret this verse. Anyway. I’d really like your input on what I said. The mainstream Christian teaching that even sexual fantasies are a sin has pushed me away from christianity ever since I was a kid. I really don’t believe that sexual fantasies or even Porn is sinful. I like to be sexually attractive to women. I like for them to fantasize about me. Although I would not commit fornication or adultery. Am I still sinning?

        • Joy Martin
          Posted at 09:28h, 04 August Reply

          Hi John,

          I am just browsing through comments regarding Jason’s article above; I happen to stop at yours. Your response above clearly defines your need for relational connection. I need and enjoy relational connection as well. God designed us to be intimately connected with each other as sexual beings; however, God also defined perimeters and specific contexts for varying degrees of intimate connection as sexual beings. Our sexuality is to be freely expressed, so long as it does not ‘take from’ and/or defile or injure another human being. Our sexuality is to be expressed in the context of ‘love for one another’.

          In regard to pornography… John, do you have a daughter?

          Would it be OK with you, as a father, if other men sexually responded (masturbated) to your daughter’s body while viewing her from a distance, or in a magazine, or online? It would appear to me that you are not only defiling another man’s daughter, but you are also using that man’s daughter in a way that is unlawful. If this were to happen to you, John, I bet it would feel like someone took something precious from you, like the innocence of your daughter. I would hope that act would not be OK with you, as fathers are called to protect their daughters. I am guessing that most fathers would feel rage toward a man who used their daughters as a ‘tool’ for sexual pleasure and fulfillment.

          John, just remember that when you are viewing pornography, or masturbating with another woman (without touching her), you are doing so with another man’s daughter. I can guarantee you, John, that you will not like such illicit activity to take place with your own daughter.

          • uu
            Posted at 19:14h, 19 November

            I don’t agree at all with Joy. Every woman is a man’s daughter so does that mean I cannot take pleasure from looking at a woman? You are adding on to The Bible -John is correct.

      • Chris
        Posted at 00:01h, 22 November Reply

        Jason, I agree totally with your interpretation of Matthew 5:27-28 and understanding of lust. But in regards to porn, I think there is a lot to be considered. First of all, the church commonly gets the sin of porn wrong. The church says the sin is lust but as you stated, lust is not a sin until it conceives. I suppose you believe that masturbating to porn would mean the lust had conceived in the heart. Well, that may be the case but maybe not. Often times, people don’t watch porn because they actually desire to do something sexual with the porn star. Rather, the visuals and audio stimulates them sexually. You argue that it would be considered coveting once we decide to experience some sexual gratification from our desires. Thus, if we see an attractive women, that would not be a sin but if we undress her in our mind, it would be sinful because we are getting some sexual gratification out of it. But aren’t we getting gratification simply by looking at her fully clothed? What about romance novels? Watching romantic films that depict couples making out? Are those all sinful because they may arouse us? Also, the Bible does not forbid masturbation. In Leviticus 15:16-18 the LORD says, “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening. If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening.” It seems to me that this passage suggests two manners a man may have an emission of semen. Either by himself or with a women. Neither are considered sinful. Yes, they do make a person unclean but any bodily discharge does according to Leviticus 15:1-4 which says, “The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any man has a discharge from his body his discharge is unclean. And this is the law of his uncleanness for a discharge: whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is blocked up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness.” Now the LORD gave laws for the cleansing of ones body who has become unclean and never suggests its sinful. It certainly can’t be since God created us to for example, release our bladder and have bowel movements. Its important to note that the uncleanness laws in Exodus were ceremonial laws, which we aren’t under anymore. Yet, the concept of one having an emission of semen by himself, was assumed and not prohibited by God. In Leviticus 18, when the LORD gives Moses the sexual laws, masturbation and visual stimulation (ex: sexual fantasy) were not on the list. I understand masturbation and sexual fantasy as being imagination but when you decide in your heart to go out and do the act (like David did with Bathsheba) then you have sinned even before committing the act. Basically, in Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus was not saying lust is equal to adultery rather adultery stems from the heart. The Pharisees believed that the solution to sin is cleaning up the external but Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount corrects them by saying “No, its from out of the heart where evil thoughts arise.” The whole point, is that if you allow God to cleanse your heart, the external behaviour will follow and be a non-issue. That is, adultery will not be committed by someone with a pure heart but someone with a dirty heart, may very well end up committing adultery, even if he tries his hardest not too. The heart is what leads us to sin.

        Now, does this prove that watching porn is okay? Well, I’d say most porn is sinful not because of lust but because of the sin in the film itself. We find all sorts of sexual immorality in porn such as cheating, depictions of prostitution, rape, violence, incest, child exploitation etc. Its all in porn and those things are evil and anyone viewing them is in sin. But what about a film depicting a man and a women having bedroom sex? Well, you may argue its a form of prostitution because the actors are paid to have sex. Well, not according to law. The law states that porn is not prostitution because the actors are paid to “act” not “have sex” even though their role as an actor involves sex. But romantic films also feature sex scenes, many would be more along the lines of soft core porn, that is, making out fully clothed but still, its a sexual activity. There’s a popular tv series entitled “Secret life of the American Teenager.” In that series, there are a lot of short scenes of making out. The actors were later interviewed and one said that it was awkward having to make love to somebody you’re really not in love with, but because the purpose of the scene was to depict making out, they had to do it. So even actors simply kissing each other can feel in a sense that are filming a soft core porn scene. They may not call it soft core porn but thats what it is. Any kind of sexual contact appearing in a film or tv show is a type of porn. Its considered soft core if all the actors are fully clothed and hard core if they are naked. Its also noteworthy that all actors are paid, whether its soft core porn or hard core. Whether the film is all about sex or has a couples sex scenes in it. Now most Christians don’t prohibit watching films with kissing/making out but as soon as you remove the clothes, its somehow prostitution and evil, which makes no sense unless you say that any film depicting any kind of sexual activity, including kissing/making out, is wrong. Maybe you do but I don’t.

        It should also be mentioned that porn is not required for masturbation. One could simply read a romance novel and get aroused or fantasize in their mind while they masturbate. Thus, if your convicted porn is prostitution, you don’t have to use it. Now maybe your convicted masturbation is a sin. if so, you have no scripture to support it, but you must follow your convictions. But just don’t condemn others who disagree. Now, I’m not accusing you, Jason, but many Christians get very judgemental on this subject, which is totally wrong in my opinion.

        God Bless.

  • Will Pratney
    Posted at 01:27h, 12 February Reply

    This is the best article I’ve read on this subject. I would recommend it to others who, like myself, have had a difficult time gaining a realistic, working biblical perspective on distinguishing between sinful lust (the choice to sin by looking at someone IN ORDER to lust after or covet them) and mere amoral (intrinsically neither morally right nor morally wrong) sexual attraction.

    Thanks for taking the time to share this research with the rest of us!

  • Christopher
    Posted at 15:49h, 22 February Reply

    Thanks for posting on this issue. Currently, I’m REALLY wrestling with this verse. My unfortunate logic through growing up in the church in the South has pushed me towards the “even looking at a girl lustfully is adultery” POV, even though I know it’s not the right interpretation. I have such a hard time reconciling myself on the matter still. Years of shame and guilt and beating myself up have done a number on me. Even after reading this, I am still having a hard time reconciling this. My mind works inasmuch if i can think myself into something, i can think out of it.

    Jason, I’m going to read this again in hopes of garnishing more, but could you give me something that might help me have that “click” or “ah HA” connection with what I feel & what Jesus says? I almost feel spiritually paralyzed by the whole thought process 🙁

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 10:35h, 04 March Reply

      As far as the “ah-ha” kind of thing, I’d suggest the following: It is all about the intention, the purpose behind the look. Jesus does not forbid a look, nor the desire. But he declares that looking as the first step towards satisfying that desire to be sin.

      • Cesie Goode
        Posted at 12:21h, 26 November Reply


  • Niix
    Posted at 01:33h, 10 March Reply

    Hi Jason, thanks for the article, I found it to be quite informative and should help greatly in eliminating the guilt/shame I feel when I notice someone and am immediately sexually attracted to them. I do have a couple of questions though. To provide some background info so you know where I am coming from, I am a 21 year old Christian male, single, unable to get married anytime soon due to various reasons, and I have been addicted to pornography and masturbation since age 10, and am struggling to overcome it and to determine what exactly is acceptable and unacceptable for a Christian single.

    What I understand you to have been saying is that seeing an attractive woman and experiencing feelings of sexual attraction and having thoughts pop up like “wow, she is attractive” is not itself a sin (please correct me if I am wrong).

    Do intentional thoughts constitute an illicit behavior? For example, ruminating on how attractive someone is for the sexual gratification such thoughts provide without having any intention to have sex with them or to pursue them in any way?

    What about if the someone in question is merely a fabrication of ones imagination and does not/has never actually existed in the real world?

    You stated in an earlier response to someone else that masturbation is not a proper outlet, but it isn’t directly condemned either, though it does appear to be warned against. Is it reasonable to then conclude that while masturbation can be dangerous and can possibly lead to one sinning, the action itself is morally “neutral”, so to speak?

    In another earlier response you stated that “Once a person has decided to look in order to gain some sexual gratification from that source, it would seem to me that coveting has begun”. What if the source in question is not another human being? For example, sexually explicit literature instead of visual pornography?

    I’m sure you are very busy and probably won’t have time to answer my questions but I thought it worth asking anyway.

    Thanks again for the article,

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 22:17h, 20 April Reply

      Niix, I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply to this. I’ve been mulling over the best way to respond since you posted this, as your question obviously involves more than just simple historical interpretation and I want to give as good a reply as possible.

      I think it’s fairly clear that Jesus wasn’t forbidding the experience of sexual attraction or suggesting that it is sinful.

      The other questions are a bit more difficult. First of all, I think sexual addiction is an example of sexual brokenness rather than wholeness. I also don’t think there’s much question that Jesus would have been very opposed to pornography, as it is the very embodiment of covetous sexual outlet. Pornography is fundamentally opposed to the self-restrained sexual ideal Jesus advocates. There are numerous other problems associated with the pornography industry on the social justice side; helping provide a market for it through consumption of it is indirectly to increase sexual immorality and injustice.

      As for imagination on the basis of literature, etc., such a thing is empty at best and again does not exemplify the sexual ethic Jesus advocates.

      With respect to far-reaching conclusions, I think the better approach is to pursue the ideal rather than aim for the low boundary. I understand that you have no immediate opportunity to get married, but I can say with some confidence that your addictions in this area will not be ideal baggage to bring into a marriage, nor are they examples of the free and whole life of which Jesus promised. As such, your best bet is to do everything you can to break these addictions, seeking whatever help you can in order to do so.

      I hope this answer helps somewhat; I’d be happy to respond more thoroughly (and more quickly) if anything is less than clear.

      • Niix
        Posted at 01:44h, 20 May Reply

        Thanks for the response Jason, I appreciate you taking the time to think about my questions. I have to agree with everything that you said. I’d come to similar conclusions myself, I suppose I was hoping that I was wrong, that there was some “wiggle room”, so to speak. No such luck. Anyway, thanks again for the response.

  • melanie
    Posted at 19:27h, 20 April Reply

    Jesus said not to lust after a woman- think sexual thoughts about. This is not complicated, and people like you try to twist it. your way of thinking is wordly and carnal, and very male. lust may be a part of human nature, but human nature is fallen. why must people try to find excuses? you seem to suggets that lust is ok as long as you dont intend to act on it. so a man could fantasize about a woman, another man or a child, and its fine if he does not act on it. jesus is just as concerned with the heart as well as our actions. by the way there happen to be Asexual people, who do not have such desires. they are no more abnormal than anyone else. you are not a christian.

    • Stefany
      Posted at 15:35h, 24 May Reply

      Melanie i agree 100% with your comment and couldn’t have said It any better myself. People should stop trying to make excuses for the behaviors that go against God’s teachings and start trying to actually change and follow the right path, against temptations.

      • Jason A. Staples
        Posted at 16:09h, 24 May Reply

        Do you think it is important to properly understand what Jesus says in this verse in order to know “the behaviors that go against God’s teachings”? If so, how might one go about properly understanding the verse?

        • Alfred Sturges
          Posted at 03:04h, 09 June Reply

          What this is saying is that if you look upon a woman with a desire to perform a sexual act with her then you have committed adultery in your heart. Does that fit your use of the word covet? In english we call looking at a woman with a desire to perform a sexual act lust. So the translators are right to use the word lust. In the context of adultery we should not assume that someone is looking to covet another man’s wife because of her domestic skills.

          The question your article raises is can we look but not touch. Well, if you are looking and thinking you would like to have sex with her then you are looking with a desire to commit adultery. Jesus calls that committing adultery in your heart. Just because you place a line between looking and touching doesn’t mean you don’t have a desire to touch, it just means you have restraint. And unfortunately just because you only play the fantasy out in your mind that doesn’t excuse you from having committed adultery in your heart.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 23:47h, 09 June

            That’s a very interesting interpretation, but it doesn’t seem to be what the Greek actually says, which is a bit of a problem, don’t you think?

          • Alfred Sturges
            Posted at 05:26h, 07 July

            There is someone who might be able to settle this for us: St. Chrysostom. As an early doctor of the church and lover of the greek language we should expect him to know the meaning of this verse.

            From his commentary (http://www.one-fold.com/Resources/Chrysostom/npnf110.pdf page 213):
            For beginning from those passions, which most belong to our whole race, anger, I mean, and desire (for it is these chiefly that bear absolute sway within us, and are more natural than the rest); He with great authority, even such as became a legislator, both corrected them, and reduced them to order with all strictness. For He said not that the adulterer merely is punished; but what He had done with respect to the murderer, this He doth here also, punishing even the unchaste look: to teach thee wherein lies what He had more than the scribes. Accordingly, He saith, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her:” that is, he who makes it his business to be curious about bright forms, and to hunt for elegant features, and to feast his soul with the sight, and to fasten his eyes on fair countenances. For He came to set free from all evil deeds not the body only, but the soul too before the body. Thus, because in the heart we receive the grace of the Spirit, He cleanses it out first.

            In comparison with his interpretation I find my interpretation to be too weak. Those who “hunt for elegant features” are the ones who stand accused of committing adultery in their heart, not only those who look with sexual desire.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:02h, 06 September

            Apologies for taking so long to respond to this comment; I somehow missed it. Chrysostom was an excellent Greek scholar (trained by the great Libanius), but let’s also recall that you’re reading a translation of Chrysostom—he again references “coveting” here and uses his usual flowery language to illustrate what covetousness looks like. His larger point is basically the same as what we’re saying here. It’s not the desire for sex that is condemned but the seeking after (hunting for) ways to “feast” upon an inappropriate outlet for that desire.

    • Lucy
      Posted at 02:13h, 13 August Reply

      I cannot believe how many guys are agreeing with this article…. Lusting after another woman is adultery. Period. Do not look with sexually impure thoughts on any woman (besides your wife which in this case is not impure…) How can you misread this? It’s so clear…. Thank you Melanie and Stefany for replying…. You should look at all women like sisters and mothers not as sexual bait…. Please look closely at Jesus teaching…. You are to be one with your wife and only your wife. In what world would Jesus accept a man cheating on his wife either with his imagination or in real life? What a joke. You boys need to stop looking for loopholes to sin…. Stay out of the grey if there is any question. Don’t swim in it. Can you honestly pray about it and feel at peace that God allows you to look at women this way? Especially if you are married or the lady is? And what woman would want a husband who ogled at anything and everything with breasts? I honestly don’t think God would want women to put up with that. It’s disgusting. Grow boys and be the men God has called you to be and you will have a sexually fullfilling marriage.

      • David
        Posted at 18:12h, 13 August Reply

        Hi Lucy. Your response bothered me and, to be honest, I felt it was a little foolish. May I ask what you were hoping to accomplish? If the tides were turned, would you have found your response helpful or constructive?

        Think about this…What was Adam’s reaction when he saw Eve? God made men to notice when women are beautiful. I am married now, and before I was married, I often noticed how beautiful and attractive my future wife was. I also looked forward to having relations with her….it’s not like something magical happened when we got married and all of a sudden she became beautiful to me. She was beautiful all along. This is why I honestly believe it’s okay for single men and single women to find one another attractive.

        Additionally, I don’t judge my wife when she struggles during certain hormonal changes every month or when her emotions were changing throughout her pregnancy. Some of her thoughts and actions were very difficult to deal with. I am patient with her and pray for her. The men reading and responding to this article need that same consideration. At least they are speaking up about this topic and walking in the light.

        Your response is judgmental and not encouraging at all. It’s surely not spoken out of love. I don’t think men are looking for a loophole. I think we are openly discussing the difference between noticing a woman is beautiful and coveting that beauty for ourselves. Many men, including myself, live in shame for thoughts we can’t control because of how the church typically presents this topic. I would agree that it’s a fine line, but I would ask you to think about how you addressed these men. Are the “boys” you refer to in more sin than you being judgmental towards them? God called men to be leaders, so i’ll take the high ground on this one and pray for you along with everyone else included in this post. I pray that God helps you grow in your love for His people. We are all sinners and are on a road to healing and sanctification.

      • qinhan
        Posted at 18:48h, 28 March Reply

        Lucy, would I be too far off base if I assumed, based on your comment, that you’re an extremely jealous person who gets really angry, really quickly, when you even think your husband notices another woman?

        I ask that because my wife is not that way, and she doesn’t care if I notice another woman is beautiful (because I’m married, not dead.) She knows I’m not plotting on how to sleep with her or going to go out and try to.

        I believe the word I’m looking for here is “insecurity.”

        • Matt
          Posted at 09:42h, 17 September Reply

          Thank you David for your reply, it put it in the right way, and non-judgementally, which is what is needed. Lucy, I may have misinterpreted what this article is saying, but I think the difference between coveting and noticing is important. When you see a good looking male actor on TV and appreciate, notice, that he is good looking, without going any further than that, without having some sexual fantasy about him, is that a sin? Is that wrong? In the same way, when a woman walks past a man and he notices and appreciates that she is beautiful, to frame it in the words of the author, he is attracted to her (I don’t think he was intending any more than that, please correct me if I’m wrong). He notices that she has a beautiful face, or even a beautiful body, without any further coveting. Without taking a second look. Just an appreciation of beauty. Is that any worse than you appreciating a man’s looks? Noticing that he is good looking? No man would condemn you for saying (for instance) “Brad Pitt’s a good looking guy”. Please don’t read into our actions or words any more than that. And please don’t judge people, even when they are wrong.

      • Chris
        Posted at 00:08h, 22 November Reply

        I find it interesting that Jason Staples provides a ton of educated research to base his beliefs off of, and you provide none. You just ramble on about your own convictions and judge others accordingly. What a shame 🙁

  • Lust and the Problem of Thought-Policing | unchained faith
    Posted at 09:11h, 09 May Reply

    […] more on this topic, I suggest reading “Whoever Looks at a Woman With Lust”: Misinterpreted Bible Passages #1.  It’s pretty straight cis male-centric, though, so keep that in mind as you read–not […]

  • David
    Posted at 17:53h, 24 July Reply

    What a great article. I understand some people might not agree with it, but I actually do. It’s of utmost importance that we understand scripture correctly. It looks like a couple of women posted about how a man’s natural desire to look at a woman should be considered sinful. Well, I would have to ask them this….are you married? If not, wouldn’t you like your future husband to (in some way) desire you, or be attracted to you? If you are married, was it sinful for your husband to desire to marry you so he could eventually enjoy the benefits of being married? Telling a man that his natural reaction to a beautiful woman is sinful is like telling a woman her feelings during that time of the month are sinful even if she never acts out in anger. It’s all hormones.

    I’m glad in the comments Jason rightly called out the sinful behaviors that tend to follow wrongly desiring women, but desiring in itself is not a sin….especially for single men to desire single women….it’s one thing to walk up to a house for sale and think ” I would really desire to live here”. It’s a totally different thing to look at your neighbor’s house that isn’t for sale and be pissed off that you can’t live in there house.

    I believe the ultimate point of this passage is that many people thought they were righteous because they did not participate in certain sins. Jesus was simply trying to communicate that even the moral cream of the crop still need a Savior (and even more so because they are blind to their own pride).

    Be careful not to judge, or you’ll bring judgement on yourself. Instead pray that we may all strive for holiness and trust that our only hope, despite how “good” we live, is in Jesus. We all need Him every day so that we may live our lives and finish well.

    The God tells us through his word to be free from concern, not to worry, and that nothing can separate us from His love.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:41h, 27 July Reply

      Thanks for the response.

      One thing I think is worth pointing out, however, is that the verse you’re referencing when you say “nothing can separate us from his love” does not actually say that. It actually says, “No creature (or created thing) can separate us from his love.” That is not quite the same thing as “nothing,” and the distinction is worth noting, as it is very clear throughout scripture that sin both can and does separate a person from God’s love. Sin is neither a creature nor a created thing—it’s more of a non-thing—so Paul’s language there is careful for a reason.

      • John Buta
        Posted at 18:37h, 05 October Reply

        Hi Jason,

        Id have to disagree there. While you’re reading of that verse is correct, you’re belief that sin can separate us from Gods love is way off point. God is love, and he loved us even while we were his enemies. Now he lives in us, how much more should we rejoice that sin cannot separate us from his love (Hebrews 9:28) To say that sin can separate a person (i believe we are referring here to a christian), from Gods love, is like saying we can sin the Holy Spirit out of us.

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 17:03h, 11 October Reply

          Don’t forget the rest of Hebrews (most notably Heb 6 and 10:26–31), which addresses that very question with quite strong warnings. Likewise, Paul warns Gentile believers that they can be cut out of the tree if they are disobedient/unfaithful (Rom 11), while Ephesians warns against grieving the holy spirit for this very reason. There’s no question that the New Testament regularly warns that disobedience or unfaithfulness can separate even the elect from God.

          • John Buta
            Posted at 18:15h, 13 October

            Thank you for the reply Jason. Sorry to go off topic on your blog!

            Id have to say that Romans 11 is more a warning to the Gentiles about becoming too proud (11:18-20), than a warning to be obedient & faithful or else. They were becoming arrogant toward the Jews (11:18), because now they were saved by God, and the Jews weren’t (11:20). They were being self righteous, and Jesus has never condoned self-righteousness (Luke 18: 9-14), not now, and not then.
            That’s why Paul likewise has such strong words for the Gentiles (Romans 11:22). Its easy to read into that verse a strong, personal, warning for ourselves though, that we need to do something to continue in Gods kindness or we’re getting the cut. But we shouldn’t. We should be reminded that the only requirement to stay a branch in Jesus’s tree, is that we believe (11:20). Nothing more, nothing less.
            And that’s the problem with self-righteousness, its unbelief; its self focused, not Jesus focused, and its leaves room for boasting, and no room for a Savior. Hopefully those gentiles got the message in Paul’s 3rd Chapter (v.27) where he writes, “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.”
            If we go around swallowing every pill Jesus or Paul intended for the self-righteous, we’ll end up feeling insecure in our Father’s love, and working out of fear that we might get pruned next time the Gardener comes round to check on our performance.
            Perfect love casts out fear though (1John 4:18), and in the words of Paul to the Corinthians:

            “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Cor 1:8-9)

            I would really really love to discuss this further, and get back to you on the passages from Hebrews.
            If its better though, i can email you personally & we can continue to talk that way instead of going into it via the post you have written? I’m happy to have this reply not shown in the comments section & continued via email.

            Warm regards


            p.s. hopefully my email address should be given to you through this comment, if not its: john.buta@yahoo.co.uk

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:09h, 06 September

            My apologies for missing this comment, John. It was just after our house fire, so I missed a lot in that timeframe.

            With respect to Rom 11, there’s no doubt that it serves as a warning against becoming proud, but the exact danger of such pride would be disobedience/unfaithfulness that would wind up getting them cut off in the same way as the cut-off Jews they were glorying over.

            The warning is not against self-righteousness but unrighteousness and disobedience. The message is that the branches who had been cut off had been removed for unfaithfulness, so if those presently grafted in would be unfaithful, they would have the same result.

            Rom 11:20 doesn’t say the only requirement is to “believe,” but to be faithful. (Paul uses the nominal form, “You stand by your faithfulness.”) There’s a fairly significant difference between the two concepts.

            I may not have much time to email about this at present, but I’ll drop you a line and we can go through some of this down the line.

          • uu
            Posted at 19:28h, 19 November

            totally false… Paul would have disagreed. Losing your salvation means you do something to keep it. You are now under the curse sadly when you try and earn your salvation or keep it. Free gift. The Scriptures you are talking about do not refer to salvation…sorry. Read Galations.

  • Jake
    Posted at 01:35h, 25 July Reply

    Maybe I’m thinking about this too much, but in Isaiah 53 it says that their will be nothing in Jesus that we should “desire” him. If we use your definition, that would mean that (if he wasn’t ugly) we would “desire to possess” him (whatever that means). Am I getting something wrong here?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:38h, 27 July Reply

      Good question. This is a good example of the fuzzy nature of language, where individual words can have different nuances depending on their context. In that context, the Hebrew word is best understood as “desire” or “take delight in.”

      • SammyD
        Posted at 00:52h, 29 July Reply

        Imteresrting article. so why do you think Jesus uses the word adultery? the word implies one or both people are married.. If it was all encompassing, I wonder why Jesus didnt say commits fornication or sexual immorality? Anyone?

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 01:09h, 29 July Reply

          Technically, the word “woman” here (Greek γυναῖκα) implies a married woman; it’s also the standard Greek word for “wife.” So “adultery” makes sense in that context.

          In addition, fornication and other sexual immorality is not mentioned in the Decalogue, which Jesus seems to be operating within here. Other forms of sexual immorality are addressed elsewhere in the Torah (and in early Christian ethics) but those don’t really seem to be addressed here.

          • Lee Weaver
            Posted at 17:54h, 09 January

            The reason for the use of adultery and not fornication is because fornication infers all acts of sexual improprieties, i.e., homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy… Adultery is the only act of fornication that can occur between a male and female. Therefore, to use the word fornication itself would not, in its rightful definition, ever be applicable.

  • april mccullohs
    Posted at 21:17h, 06 August Reply

    Jason, your article is really interesting and enlightening for many reasons, but I’m just going to throw in a woman’s perspective here, one who grew up in the same Christian culture that seemed to teach young men that there sexual drives were entirely sinful.

    And, it’s this: we, the girls growing up in that culture, were strongly encouraged in the ways of modesty because we were taught that we had *so much* responsibility when it came to our brothers’ struggles with lust. It’s like the burden of their visual, highly sexual, drives were placed right on top of our closets and wardrobes. And, for girls who are still getting used to their transitioning bodies, surrounded by oppressive messages from the world about body image, having to own the burden of our struggling Christian brothers was just… a lot, too much. Whether from the world (because no fourteen year old measures up to the standards in the magazines), or from the church, the message we received, albeit in different packaging, was that we had much to be ashamed of.

    While I still believe, and practice, the principles of modesty, I’m so much more aware of the burden that was placed on us, and I refuse to carry it any longer. Yes, I don’t want to “make my brother stumble,” but I also now know that he’ll “stumble” if I’m wearing a parka and is intent on “stumbling” (to use the language that was tossed around so much). His struggle is his, and I don’t have to own that burden. My reasons for modesty, now, are motivated by what makes me feel good about myself, and how I carry myself with dignity– and the end results (the clothes I choose) are pretty much the same. But the shame and the fear of inciting someone to lust? I’ve let that go.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 23:00h, 06 August Reply

      April, thanks so much for this comment, as it brings in a whole other side to this discussion. It’s really unfortunate the way well-meaning teaching can really paralyze both sexes with shame and guilt. I really appreciate the perspective you’ve added here.

    • ericfree_free
      Posted at 06:03h, 14 August Reply

      dressing modest produces a greater chance to not be proud and arrogant with looks…after all we all have poop lingering in our bodies throughout the day…modesty isn’t just helpful for lusting men…but also for yourself so u wont be proud…either way none of us are god and we cant get around our conscience…god know your desires…we cant outsmart him…please don’t try to bend the topic of how dangerous sin is…lusting greatly is still horrible…it says renew your minds…that way u wont lust as much and commit fornication as much hopefully not at all.marriage is the cure for lust as paul says if im not mistaken

    • Friend
      Posted at 23:32h, 18 June Reply

      Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

      I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

      Just as a man should not look to gaze lustfully at a woman (which I struggle with oftentimes), a woman should dress modestly in order to help limit others from such actions. We should not seek to justify the desires of our flesh and if we have any doubt that our actions or thoughts glorify God, we should refrain from them. Thankfully we have Jesus and he provides us with power over sin and the ability to put the flesh under subjection. If we look upon a woman and become aware that she is fair to look upon, no that itself is not sin. However when we start to look with the intent of lusting on her features this I believe would constitute “covet”. Basically if you are married you should be avoiding those little glances because they encourage one to act out on flesh desires. If you continually look though that is showing a heart desire to commit adultery which is obviously not appropriate and I think that is the message Jesus was trying to convey. The desire itself can exist but choosing to think about it and ENCOURAGING it with the look is the beginning of the manifestation of the desire and therefore becomes sin.

  • thrifty jim
    Posted at 19:42h, 21 November Reply

    Why would jesus condemn man for doing what GOD wired him to do?man was created to desire woman for the sake of breeding.otherwise a man would not give a woman the time of day.something has to bring him back home.modern day”Christian women”have taken on a worldly feminist view wich is rebelious.

    • qinhan
      Posted at 18:52h, 28 March Reply

      “Otherwise a man would not give a woman the time of day…”


      Filing this one in “the kind of men to warn my daughter against” file.

      • theasdgamer
        Posted at 15:43h, 27 April Reply

        “…and the two shall become one flesh….” Reproduction is implied. Hence, breeding is implied. Marriage has sex as a primary mission. You are delusional if you think that your daughter won’t want sex.

        You are passive-aggressive. Very unmanly

  • Tom H
    Posted at 14:03h, 27 November Reply

    It’s also important to note that single women often (though not always) dress and wear makeup in order to attract men’s attention, so if that causes men to lust, then single women must bear a greater share of guilt for attracting men’s attention. I think that the author has clearly shown that sexual attraction is not sin, at least from the Sermon on the Mount. Attraction by women towards men is generally sexual and is really part of God’s plan. Wives are supposed to attract their husbands sexually and vice-versa. It isn’t something that happens suddenly once the preacher says, “I do,” but begins from some earlier time. Even during arranged marriages, the prospective spouses saw one another and were allowed to determine if there was sufficient sexual attraction for a marriage or else the whole thing would be called off.

    Wives generally want to be seen as attractive while in the bedroom and it is quite appropriate for husbands to desire their wives and for wives to attract/arouse their husbands by being seen naked. That is God’s plan for the bedroom.

  • Lightning Round – 2013/12/04 | Free Northerner
    Posted at 01:05h, 04 December Reply

    […] The misinterpretation of Matthew 5:27-28. […]

  • John DelHousaye
    Posted at 10:17h, 12 December Reply

    Jason, thanks for your insight. Have you considered this reading: “But I say to you: anyone who looks at a wife so that she lusts already committed adultery with her in his heart”?

    πᾶς ὁ βλέπων may be the understood subject, but the explicit subject of an infinitive clause is in the accusative case—αὐτὴν. Wallace calls this the Accusative Subject of the Infinitive (1996, 192). This reading presumes it takes two to tango: another man’s wife responds to the lustful gaze with a similar desire.

    I was curious if you had an opinion. Preparing to teach a course on this.



    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 11:57h, 18 December Reply

      It’s an interesting thought, but I don’t think the reading can work. Accusative-Infinitive construction is used for paraphrase or indirect quotation, which is not the case here. Instead, we have an articular infinitive followed by the object in accusative. The translation is thus a fairly straightforward, “Everyone who looks at a wife/woman in order to covet her…”

      Thanks for the comment, and I hope your course goes well.

  • Edwin
    Posted at 07:55h, 26 January Reply

    Hey Jason, thank you for the very clear explanation of this passage. I will have to think very often of it, because me myself have been haunted many many times by the wrong interpretation of it in my daily life.
    Am I allowed to print a copy for my self?
    Again, thank you very much !



  • The Top 22 Bible Verses that I Hate (And I’m a Christian!) | David M Schell
    Posted at 13:14h, 06 February Reply

    […] of natural, God-given automatic reactions.  Jason Staples has a wonderful (if a bit technical) article explaining how this has been […]

  • Mary Ann Bullard
    Posted at 16:14h, 14 March Reply

    I’ve read some garbage before. And as it may, I am continuing to read more garbage.
    The way humans twist the word of God to benefit them, is quite disgusting and very unfortunate.
    To the males who agree with this untruth, please pray to the Lord about it and see His guidance in this area. Men will write articles like this to mislead you and cause you to fall further away from God. I find this “interpretation” if that is what you call it, so hard to believe. Especially when a prominent character in the bible, Job, stated: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” Job 31: 1
    We’re talking about a man so well promoted by God. A man who was considered righteous. I just can’t imagine the Lord agreeing with this article.

    If you have a hard time keeping your eyes off of women, here’s a good solution.
    The answer is Jesus.
    He preached so much about sex and money. Because He knew people would twist His words to make their sin seem less apparent. He knew someone would disagree with Him and try to use his ministry to promote their immoral behavior. But I want to warn you all….don’t make excuses and agree with people are misunderstood to continue in your sinful behavior.
    God does not reward the ungodly.
    Adultery is a matter of the heart. You can “reinvent” the meaning all you want, but Jesus knows your heart. And each of you should honor him with your heart, as well as your eyes.
    FLEE from the devil and his schemes. Flee from the idea that it is okay to “lust” after another woman (outside of your marriage of course! LOL)

    My prayers are with all of you.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 21:30h, 14 March Reply

      Hi Mary Ann, thanks for the comments. How would you define ἐπιθυμέω then, and on what grounds? The post does its best to explain what Jesus said and what it means in context. If you are to disagree, you may want to explain what Jesus said and what it would mean in context. Simply stating something does not make it so; do you have a basis for your comments?

      Also, for what it’s worth, you didn’t cite Job 31:1 precisely. A more precise translation of that verse says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I gaze upon a virgin?”

      You also seem to have badly misunderstood the post. Nowhere does it say what you suggest it says.

      • Tom Hogan
        Posted at 22:54h, 14 March Reply

        Jason, thanks for such an elegant reply to Mary Ann. It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to to defend an inaccurate translation/understanding of a passage. They think that they are defending the Word of God when really they are undermining it. The originals were inspired; the translations, not necessarily.

        “I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I gaze upon a virgin?” The implicit understanding is that a virgin has been betrothed to another man already. Were women who went in public veiled in Job’s time? Is there an implication that gazing on a virgin would mean that he has somehow sinned, maybe by removing her veil? From a quick glace at the context, I don’t see any clues.

        I’ve seen similar gyrations to defend the traditional translation of “eikn” in 1 Cor. 15:2 as “in vain” when it clearly should be translated “carelessly” or “recklessly” or “without due diligence.”

        Isn’t it interesting that a woman arrogates to teach men when Paul clearly says that women are not to do that? Isn’t it also interesting that a woman, who has no _empathetic_ understanding of how men find women attractive, deigns to lecture us about sinning with our eyes?

      • mel
        Posted at 14:42h, 22 March Reply

        Hi Jason! Man, thank you so much for this! All this has got me to want to learn Hebrew and Greek – because people don’t have a clue how languages work. If you look at the context – it seems to me that christ was referring more to people that are married – if you look at the context. I am a single man. So if I see a beautiful woman – and I have a desire or want for her, then I have committed adultery in my heart? If that is the case, and everyone followed that law – then no one would be on this earth after those times because you must have some type of “desire” or “want” even before getting married and having children.

        Adultery (definition) – voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.

        Key word “ADULTERY”. How can I commit adultery if I am not married? Some of these people need to go look up the meaning of ADULTERY – then comeback and put it into context of what Jesus was saying. If a man is with his wife and then desires and take steps to see another woman – he is already guilty within his heart.

        Just like the show on MSNBC when undercover cops were catching older men going to 15 year old girls homes. Even if the men just walked by the house and never went in – they still got arrested because the INTENT to be with her was there.

        What are your thoughts on this Jason?

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 14:19h, 27 April Reply

          Mel, good questions. You’re right that Jesus is primarily addressing married people in this statement. Even the words for “man” and “woman” are the same words used for “husband” and “wife” in Greek. That said, it does seem to apply by extension to coveting in general, which involves the attempt to commit an illicit act. In that sense, even a single man could conceivably covet, though this would inherently involve acting upon that desire in some way.

          • Heather
            Posted at 01:35h, 02 May

            I have explained the word “covet” to my little boy as “wanting to take something that does not belong to you”. If applied here, this would translate to those who are single as well as to those who are married. A single woman does not yet belong to a single man who finds her attractive and vice versa. Seeing something/someone and appreciating their beauty is not the problem. Continuing to look to the point where imagination grows and thoughts of, “What would I do if that thing/person were mine?” is how temptation to commit sin enters the picture. I think most people, if they are honest with themselves, know the difference between sincerely pure appreciation and “lust” (as Americans know the term to imply). Once promises have been made where the two DO belong to one another, as long as harm is not intended, they are safe in thinking about one another in this way – it is no longer covetous.

      • Zach
        Posted at 16:47h, 06 August Reply

        James 1:14-15: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Jason, doesn’t this Bible verse refer to lust as sin?


        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 14:29h, 08 August Reply

          No more than it refers to sin as death. Lust/desire is the step preceding and leading up to sin, which by definition means it is not the same thing as sin. Likewise, sin is not death, but it leads to it.

          • Zach
            Posted at 14:34h, 08 August

            Would that mean that we would have to avoid lust so we don’t sin?

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:58h, 08 August

            No, that human beings have desires is presumed. The point of the passage is that the origin of sin is not outside a person but in a person’s own desires. The answer in James is not to eliminate desire but to have it be transformed and directed toward good purpose.

          • Zach
            Posted at 18:27h, 08 August

            And also, how do we know that sexual desire is not in itself sinful?
            (Sorry if this is a obvious question…)


          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 19:45h, 08 August

            “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). There is no law against sexual desire.

            Secondly, all human beings are born with the biological drive for sex in the same way they’re born with the desire for food. One is no different from the other, and each can lead to sin if misdirected. But it is the misdirection that is sinful, not the desire. Again, desire leads to sin (sin results from desire) but is not to be equated with sin.

          • Zach
            Posted at 20:34h, 08 August



    • Matheus Moraes
      Posted at 04:42h, 07 December Reply

      Mary, your argument does not make sense. You said that people twist God’s word to diverge people from their faith, right? If the “Scripture twisters” are demons that make the faithful stumble on their faith, Jason Staples is an angel! He brought the original, greek and inspired-by-the-Holy-Spirit Matthew 5:27-28 and brought the ACTUAL MEANING of it. He is “untwisting” it. Stop talking what you are not talking (It sounds funny!).

  • qinhan
    Posted at 18:55h, 28 March Reply

    Jason, I think it’s safe to say that if our fathers hadn’t lusted after our mothers, none of us would be here today!! I agree with what you’ve written here, and I remain amazed that so may evangelicals want to constantly make things harder than they ought to be. (That last phrase might be more than a little Freudian.) God bless.

  • Earl
    Posted at 23:30h, 15 April Reply

    Thank you brother for your insight.I am actually

  • James Williamson
    Posted at 06:37h, 24 April Reply

    There are so many translations of the Bible now of days and so many opinions but just a thought, have you ever shared this blog of yours that I have just read with Benny Hinn for, he is one who knows the Bible inside and out and studys the Bible diligently and is very knowledgeable. what is his reply to the views you shared in this? Please be humble enough to get his view and options and let us know.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:25h, 27 April Reply

      Hi James, I am not personally acquainted with and thus have not shared my blog with Mr. Hinn, though I would certainly not object to his reading it.

  • Malachi
    Posted at 13:53h, 27 April Reply

    It’s funny how all the nasty criticism of this article is being spouted by WOMEN – who have no idea what it feels like to be a man, and deal with the thoughts and feelings that a man has to handle.

    This article confirms other teachings I’ve heard in churches, and it makes sense. I have a hunch that those flying off the handle here haven’t bothered to read the article properly, but rather are just looking for an excuse to vent their pent-up hate and frustrations. Nowhere does Jason encourage lusting after women. Instead, the message I get is that – contrary to what some self-righteous legalists try to impose on kids – that God doesn’t break your legs then expect you to run a marathon.

    “My yolk is easy and My burden is light.” — Lord Jesus

    • Heather
      Posted at 01:51h, 02 May Reply

      Unfortunately, some women struggle with sexual lust just as much as any man. I have known quite a few.
      I can’t speak for the other women who have posted here, but my concern would be that some men might take away from this the idea that sexual lust is okay as long as it is not acted upon.
      Certainly everyone (yes, even women!) has preferences when it comes to attraction and notices when they see someone who fits the bill. And, of course, men sometimes lack control of their physical response to such a sight. But noticing is one thing. Continuing thoughts, giving way to fantasy, is another – one which I am certain the Lord does not condone.
      As sexual and “instant gratification”-minded as our Western culture has become, it seems like taking that extra mental step doesn’t take long. I wonder how many Christian men struggle to train their minds to be like Jesus and the Apostle Paul, who looked on “older women as mothers and younger women as sisters”?

      • Anonymous
        Posted at 19:02h, 19 October Reply

        I agree with Heather, it’s annoying how men and women take things and say that because the other is the opposite sex they wouldn’t understand. Since when is the sexual desire of a man different from a woman? Women look at men and say he’s looks good just as a man would. So I really think men need to stop saying that we don’t know what it feels like to be a man when it comes to sex, when the same pressure of desires men feel, women are under the pressure as well. Just as TV is showing beautiful women they show beautiful men( lets not forget that for years women have had a thing for Danzel Washington, for most of them it was sexual). Let’s not ignore the fact that a lot of women go to strip clubs as well as men. As a woman I struggled with porn addiction(specifically homosexual due to the fact that I desired the men and their bodies) from a young age. While we might approach our desires a bit different. A women doesn’t need to be a man to understand how hard it is to control the desires we feel in our world today because I struggle with it being single myself. It’s hard, and the mind wanders fast. So when I see guys who fit my preference, you can bet that I start feeling sexual desire for him but due to my past I have to redirect my thoughts or it can be triggering. I just don’t see a mans sexual desire different from a womans in terms of society or the fact of having it. We are not as different as we may think we are. And I feel that verse is good for women too. We both are under the pressure of having to practice discipline in a world where sex is becoming harder to escape on Television, music, books, and other things. And as far as I am concerned I don’t see myself less of a woman or or more like a man for struggling with my desire when I see an attractive man. I see it as human.

      • Rebecca Martin
        Posted at 16:33h, 01 November Reply

        When I first read this article I thought I had understood well what Jason was saying without going to the extremes of either end of the topic but as I continued to read the comments I became confused and didn’t find any real solution until I reached Heathers comment. First comment I can say I actually felt the Holy Spirit speaking. Acknowledging beauty is one thing lingering thoughts turn into fantasy which lead to sin and are both in the same. Desires lead to fornication as well as adultery. That is why the verse says that looking lustfully is already adultery not because you acknowledge beauty but because you keep thinking about it (lusting). Lust is sin and sin is death. Only the Lord can take that lusting desire away until He sets your wife or husband before you. 1 Corinthians 10:13
        There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
        Let us not go on justifying sin or trying to reason with it but allowing God who has much power to remove it. Sex is not needed to live, Food and water are. Let us not lose sight of the things of God. One flesh does not mean only to bear children it meant we wouldn’t be alone anymore. Some women can’t even have children. Sex is something to be enjoyed with your husband or wife and that is the positive outlet you must wait for while focusing on Advancing Gods Kindgom. In God all things are possible even for men. Love you all brothers and sisters and God bless.

  • sd
    Posted at 15:06h, 09 May Reply

    As a female, and a wife of someone who has tried to hide and overcome his secret Internet addictions for years, it was difficult at first to read this article. Very emotional subject that hits home and very recently at that. I too thought you were possibly trying to justify pornography or a man’s mental infidelity, but in reading the article, post replies and also looking up the Greek myself, I do understand the distinction that you’re making. My husband has used the same argument/scriptural analysis to tell me that pornography is not a sin and he’s not crossing the line into coveting or lusting for sexual relations, I believe he has finally realized that is a lie and wants to be free of it. Your article coincides with what I believe the Lord has revealed to me for personal purity too, one example that comes to mind is driving by a male jogger (we seem to have an abundance of shirtless ones in our community). If I look at/notice him and have immediate notice things like: great abs, tan, handsome… and look away, no problem, but if I have those thoughts and purposefully look again to view those things, to me that is crossing a line. He said “No second looks” because that leads to temptation for me, and I appreciate having a boundary. We are all going to be exposed to initial reactions, I know my husband is going to notice beautiful women and that’s ok, we all notice the opposite sex and can’t help that. It’s always a battle but I also think we can live without guilt/shame and live victoriously and govern our thoughts. I regularly think of the men in my church as brothers like the word says to and that helps me see them in a different light and keep my heart right. To the men who got offended at my sisters who posted comments please have grace, we are hurting, deeply at times, and need men to be proactive in their purity, as many of you are. Thank you Jason, I do believe you have rightly divided he word and are sincerely trying to bring freedom in this complicated issue.

  • Hollie Smith
    Posted at 12:01h, 16 May Reply

    Hi Jason, I read your article and I am going to show it to my husband because we have been in churches like this much of our marriage. We are finally free of that nonsense but for me the scars are huge. Thus far it has ruined a part of me. It not only hurts men but also women. I battle fear of losing my husband in some way to some other woman. It isn’t that I am afraid he will have an affair but that he isn’t happy with me. I am afraid of what his thoughts are and if I am enough to keep him satusfied. I am an attractive woman. I am told often by others and him and I am not overweight. I take care of myself and stay in good shape. So, I shouldn’t fear. But I have heard sooo many times that women should love their brother enough to dress “modestly” and not CAUSE a man to stumble or sin. Those words made me feel dirty and made my husband feel defeated. Our marriage has suffered greatly. For years I only wore skirts or dresses and would not look another man in the eyes (at the store or anywhere) since I was told that my eyes are too pretty and could cause a man to lust for me. I took all of this very seriously and tried my hardest to be a good woman. All of this occurred in my 20’s and 30’s. I am now 41. I feel like I lost my youth and am angry about that. I don’t choose these feelings of fear and anger but they just happen. I feel like I suffer from PTSD like what soldiers suffer from after war. Well I just wanted to point out that yes, my husband suffers from being raised like this and it is a shame but he claims to be living in freedom now. It is me that is hurt more and struggling. So, women suffer from this as much as men. I wasn’t raised like him. I didn’t even go to church growing up. We spent the early part of our marriage in those churches. It really hurts!! I used to think if a woman is so dangerous then we must be bad and why do we exist? After being married for a few years I began to feel worthless. It was only the other woman that had any “value”. She was the one so powerful that she could destroy a man with one glance. I saw myself and still do sometimes as worthless. I know I am a daughter of the king and loved by God but I have to constantly remind myself of my value in Gods eyes and my husbands. My husband has always been faithful and I am thankful for that. Thanks for the article we are going to read and study this together and continue to claim the freedom God has given us. I don’t mean freedom to sin.

    • Crystal Marie
      Posted at 12:03h, 03 June Reply

      Hollie, firstly, stay encouraged and KNOW that you are NOT worthless! I’m sure you’re beautiful, smart, kind, loving..all the things your husband deeply appreciates about you.

      Secondly, I wanna challenge you to do something new, liberating, and adventurous…

      Go to Victoria Secrets or Fredericks Hollywood, and purchase a beautiful & sexy lingerie set. Add some perfume, and do your hair differently. Add some nice makeup. Plan a lovely evening with your husband to his surprise, however you like, and HAVE FUN!!! I have faith that this will revitalize your confidence, bring some spice into your marriage, and drive your husband wild! He’s yours so you don’t have to feel dirty or worthless about anything! Sometimes we have to venture out into simple yet rejuvenating experiences. If this all sounds like too much for you or even comical, alright. But it’s time you get your confidence and esteem back. Doesn’t hurt to try. Even if you don’t, pray for God to restore your confidence and peace through the Lord Jesus Christ. You will heal. Live your life and enjoy it!! 🙂

  • Gary
    Posted at 00:56h, 22 May Reply

    So if it is not a sin to lust, then the sexual attraction I feel when I look at women is okay with God even though I am married? So what should I tell my wife when she feels upset that I am attracted to other women? I can’t help it, can I? God made me to be attracted to women who are attractive, right?

    When I look at an attractive woman, I pretty much immediately feel sexually attracted to her. But as long as I don’t allow that natural sexual attraction to go anywhere then I’m good, right?

  • PART IV: The Modest Christian Woman | The Pink Flamingo
    Posted at 06:35h, 22 May Reply

    […] “…So it is clear that the grammar is reflecting purpose: “anyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her.” (“Covet” is preferable here in part because “covet” better reflects the intentionality reflected in the passage.) This is a critically important point; Jesus is not suggesting that any sexual thought or inclination towards a woman is sinful. Nor is he suggesting that such thoughts or attractions being triggered by a look are sinful. The look is not the problem (nor is the presence of a beautiful woman, which some of that day tended to blame as the real problem); no, these are assumed. What is remarkable (given the popular misinterpretation) is that Jesus likewise assumes the presence of sexual desire in the man as a given, and that sexual desire isn’t seen as the problem. Instead, Jesus addresses the matter of intent, of volition, the purpose of the look. The issue is not the appetite itself but how a man directs this natural appetite and inclination. (I’m reminded here of the old saying: If you’re a young man on a beach and a beautiful woman in a bikini walks past and you don’t feel any sort of excitement or attraction, it’s not because you’re spiritual, it’s because you’re dead.)…” […]

  • Mark
    Posted at 23:06h, 21 July Reply

    As a new believer back in the day, I asked an older man in his eighties, ” How old we’re you when you stopped wrestling with sexual desires?” He said, “I don”t know. I’m not that old yet.” lol. Jason, thank you for dealing with the misunderstanding and guilt many have with healthy sexual desire. The sin is, as I believe was your main point, is when it becomes inordinate desire that says, ‘I would if I could and/or I will no matter what anyone else says.’ James 4:1-6 gives a good picture of desire that has run amuck. To close, as I get older I see the sexual relationship between a man and his wife not as an end in and of itself. I believe it is the strongest echo we have of something that is deeper than sex. The intimacy we can have with our spouse and the intimacy that beckons to us from our Savior. When asked whether the relationship between the man and woman in the Song of Solomon is literal or figurative my answer is yes. I don’t think it is either/or. I believe it is both and God is right in the middle of our sexual relations whether we use them rightly or wrongly. I really appreciate what the young women say to the bride and bride groom in the last part of chapter 5 verse 1. “Oh, lover and beloved, eat and drink! Yes, drink deeply of your love!”. Oh, the beauty of one of the most powerful gifts we have been given and yet the destruction this power can work when we lose sight of and taste for the One Who has so freely given to us.

  • Zach
    Posted at 19:18h, 03 August Reply

    Hi Jason, i see that the word translated here in Matt. 5:28 is “ἐπιθυμῆσαι”, or “epithymēsai”. This means “to lust after”. I know that the whole word epithumeo means; long for, covet, lust after, and set the heart upon. However my question is, since epithymēsai means “to lust after” do we then have to use the modern definition for “lust” in this passage, as in sexual desire? Or do we refer back to the word in greek for epithumeo?
    I also noticed that the term for covet in greek is epithymēseis, so how did you connect that “lust”, (epithymēsai), is synonymous with”covet” “, (epithymēseis), in Matthew 5:28?
    One more question, and this is the easiest one of them; what does “covet” mean in greek?

    Please reply back to my questions..
    ~~ ZG

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:28h, 08 August Reply

      Always go back to the Greek word to understand what is happening in a Greek text. English translations are always only approximations of what the Greek says.

      As for Matthew 5:28’s relationship to the concept of “coveting,” it uses the same term that the Greek Old Testament uses for “covet” in the tenth command. That’s the connection.

      As far as the definition of covet, that’s a bit more complicated, but I understand it as a step beyond innate desire to the point of attempting/intending to fulfill a legitimate desire through illegitimate means. I typically teach it by analogy of “attempted sin,” (e.g. “attempted murder,” or “attempted adultery”), which every legal code has provision for.

      • Zach
        Posted at 23:16h, 08 August Reply

        But shouldn’t we not change the words that Jesus said?

        • Jason A. Staples
          Posted at 00:24h, 09 August Reply

          Of course not, but Jesus didn’t speak English, so that makes it all the more important to go back to the Greek.

          • Zach
            Posted at 10:47h, 01 September

            I’m confused it seems like we are changing the Bible to say what we want it to say, am i missing something here?

            -However, could sexual desire be called not sinful on the bases that it desires sex, (which is by definition good since Lord God created it)?

            -However would this also mean that sexual desire would be wrong if I am not married?

            -Col. 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (KJV)
            Does this refer to sexual thoughts as sinful?

            – Phill. 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

            Deuter. 23:10 “If one of your men is unclean because of a nocturnal emission,
            he is to go outside the camp and stay there.”

            Leviticus. 15:18 “When a man has sexual relations with a woman and there is an emission of semen,both of them must bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.

            Leviticus 15:16 “When a man has an emission of semen, he must bathe his whole body with water, and he will be unclean till evening.”

            Jason, these three versus refer to any emission of semen as unclean or impure, however Phill. 4:8 tells us to think about pure things, wouldn’t that mean that sexual thoughts are sinful to think about?
            I’m sorry if this is a big comment.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 13:43h, 06 September

            Yes, you’re missing something here. Nobody is changing the Bible here; we’re discussing the best way to understand what the Bible says. Perhaps you are mistaken in thinking that “the Bible” is a particular English translation; we’re starting from the Greek here, and any discussion of how best to understand it also involves discussing the best way to translate it into English.

            Col 3:2 does not refer to sexual thoughts as sinful any more than it forbids hunger for food.

            Likewise Phil 4:8. Sex and the desire for it is not impure or unlovely or of bad repute; rather, the marriage bed is pure and undefiled (Heb 13:4).

            Deut 23:10, Lev 15:18, Lev 15:16 all refer to ritual impurity, which has to do with whether or not an Israelite could approach the sanctuary. Nothing having to do with mortality, reproduction, or the impermanence of human life was permitted to enter the sanctuary; specific instructions to purify oneself had to be followed before entering the sanctuary. But this had nothing to do with sin, which is a different kind of impurity in the Torah. Phil 4:8 refers to the latter kind of purity/impurity.

          • Zach
            Posted at 22:35h, 03 September

            I still do not understand how lust can be converted to covet in this passage.
            Also what about all the other verses about lust being sin?

            3. Job 31:11-12
            4. Romans 6:19
            5. Romans 12:1-2
            6. 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30
            7. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
            8. Ephesians 1:4
            9. Ephesians 4:24
            10. Colossians 3:12
            11. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
            12. 1Thessalonians 5:23
            13. 2 Timothy 1:9
            14. Hebrews 12:14
            15. 1 Peter 1:15-16
            16. Thessalonians 4:7-8
            17. Matthew 5:28

            I am getting really frustrated with this subject and almost had a mental breakdown over it to determine which side is the right one.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 13:35h, 06 September

            Zach, there are numerous problems here. Not one of these passages says lust is sin.

            Job 31:11–12 doesn’t mention “lust.” It says זמה, which means something like “wickedness” and certainly does not mean “lust.”

            1 Thess 4:3–8 doesn’t say lust is sin; it says following “covetous passions” or “lustful passions” is sin. Again, we’re talking behavior here. The passage is clear on that.

            The rest have nothing to do with this discussion, as they assume what we’ve already been talking about: following fleshly desires in an improper manner is sin:

            Rom 6:19
            Rom 12:1–2
            1 Cor 1:2, 30
            1 Cor 6:19-20
            Eph 1:4
            Eph 4:24
            Col 3:12
            1 Thess 5:23
            2 Tim 1:9
            Heb 12:14
            1 Pet 1:15–16
            1 Thess 4:8

            Many of these verses reference “impurity” and similar concepts; it appears you’re conflating these things with lust, which is again mistaken.

          • Zach
            Posted at 12:46h, 06 September

            I’m sorry Jason, however i think the major problem i have with the “lust” and “covet” thing is that you didn’t provide a reason for why we should change it to that.

          • Zach
            Posted at 16:29h, 06 September

            I’m sorry Jason, but i am still not convinced, i am going to ask a bunch of loaded questions about this soon, however i would like to know if there is any easier and faster way to contact you about this?

          • Zach
            Posted at 17:12h, 09 September

            Hi Jason, i had a kind of “eureka” moment earlier when i woke up today.
            The word is epithumeo, and it has four definitions, I long for, covet, lust after, set the heart upon. The word here for epithumeo is a verb, however lust by itself is a noun, “lust” is a strong desire used either sexually or non-sexually, lust is a thing, it is not a verb. “Ran” is a verb. So we cannot use lust (noun) by itself as a translation (verb) of the passage, that would be grammatically incorrect.

            Covet on the other hand is a verb, “covet” is described as taking action towards a certain act. This fits well within the word, epithumeo (verb) should be translated as covet (verb), not lust (noun).

            Thank you for helping me like this.
            However like other new things i find out there are new objections to this.
            -“Lust” by itself is a noun, however, lust after is a verb, so can this be used for the verse?
            – Isn’t the original greek word in this verse “epithumia”, which means lust after, and therefore we can’t use the root word to change it to covet?


            – What determines that the greek word is a verb?
            – English and Greek are two different languages, however how do we know that English grammar is relevant to, or the same, as the Greek gramar in the Bible?
            Now here are three objections that sound very extreme, but however has been in my mind for a while now.
            – How do we know that sexual desire is not part of the sin nature we inherited from Adam?
            – How do we know that sexual pleasure was not the result of sin? (this is very extreme i know)
            – How do we know that it is not sinful for us to have sex for pleasure?
            – Is fiction condemned by the Bible, (1 Timothy 1:3)? (this is also very extreme)
            – What are the versus that refer to the emissions mentioned in Leviticus as ritually impure?
            – Isn’t having sexual thoughts selfish and self-centered since you are only doing it for yourself?
            – How can sexual thoughts glorify God?
            I am probably the only one on this comment form that has this many (and possibly more) questions, however, the reason why is because i want to make sure that sexual fantasies are not a sin.
            Please refute all of these in point-by-point form.

            Thank you.

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:02h, 12 September

            First of all, I’m not sure how you are making the leap from what is discussed in this passage to “sexual fantasies,” which is not what is being discussed above.

            Secondly, in English, “lust” can be ether a noun or a verb. That isn’t really relevant to the question of translation here, however.

            Thirdly, the Greek word in this passage is an inflected form of epithumeo. The form of the word determines that it is a verb; it’s simple grammar, just like any other language.

            Fourthly, English and Greek grammar are not the same. No one would suggest that they are. The process of translation involves doing one’s best to convey the idea expressed in one language, which has its own grammar, to another.

            In terms of your “objections”:

            1) Your question assumes a framework of Augustinian concupiscence, a conception of “original sin” foreign to the Bible. With respect to sexual desire, Adam’s blessing of the sexual union between man and woman (Gen 2:23–25) comes before the fall narrative. Similarly, God instructs human beings to “be fruitful and multiply” in Gen 1 (pre-fall), which presumes and blesses sexual desire and behavior.
            2) See above. Sexual reproduction is one of the things called “very good” in Gen 1.
            3) Is there any reason to think it would be?
            4) Seriously? Jesus tells fictional stories as teaching devices. Teaching false doctrine is not the same as writing or telling fiction.
            5) You already cited those verses yourself in a previous comment; a good portion of Leviticus addresses ritual purity and impurity.
            6) Isn’t hunger for food then also selfish and self-centered?
            7) Marriage.

            I have so far gone against my better judgment in addressing such questions, many of which are fairly far afield from the question addressed in this post, which simply concerns how best to understand Matt 5:28 and is not a treatise on proper sexual behavior. I don’t think it will be fruitful (or in keeping with the purpose of this blog, which addresses things more from an scholarly/academic perspective) to continue along these lines.

            I’m afraid most of your questions have reflected the sort of biblicism that will make sound interpretation very difficult, since you seem to be asking for specific proof-texts for any question that might be asked. That approach, however, is quite different from the approach taken throughout the Bible itself, and can easily lead to problems due to not understanding or accounting for context. I would suggest reading something like Fee and Stewart’s How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth, which should help you better understand how to approach and interpret the Bible.

          • Zach
            Posted at 21:15h, 09 September

            Is having sex for pleasure sinful,ie. (horny)? (please provide Scriptural support and justification for this).
            Is any form of birth control (BEFORE IT IS CONCEIVED), sinful, ie. using “condoms” (Again, please provide support for your answer)
            Also, what is a good site for the full definition of “epithumeo”?

          • Jason A. Staples
            Posted at 14:07h, 12 September

            In 1 Cor 7, Paul says essentially that men/women who are horny ought to marry to prevent against sexual sin. So Paul either believes that marriage will ultimately eliminate sexual desire or that it provides the proper outlet for the desire for sexual pleasure.

            The second question has long been debated among Christians, and I am not in a position to declare a definitive ruling on such a matter.

            As for the third question, I’ve already given that definition here. If you want more detail, you should consult the standard reference work in the field, BDAG.

  • Eugene
    Posted at 04:30h, 12 August Reply

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you for your helpful article. If you have the time, could you please help me understand 1 Col 3:5 in light of what you are saying about lust here. I don’t know any Greek, but Biblegateway tells me that Paul uses the word “επιθυμιαν” here, and I’m not sure how it’s different from the words for lust you use above.

    My question is, how do we know what form of lust Paul is condemning here?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 09:13h, 12 August Reply

      Col 3:5 uses the term in its sense of “desire,” and modifies it with the word for “evil,” so it says to regard the members of one’s body as dead to “evil desires,” meaning don’t act on said desires and thereby sin.

  • Costa Fotopoulos
    Posted at 09:56h, 13 August Reply

    Hi Jason,
    I really like your explanation of Matthew 5:27-28 about coveting and lust. Therefore, if one has no intention to act on the desire but experiences pleasurable desire upon seeing a naked woman is not committing adultery. My question is: if one sees a naked woman and experiences physical pleasure upon touching her (but not experiencing orgasm) and has no intention of committing a sex act with her– is this coveting her to commit adultery or not? Thanks.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 10:51h, 16 August Reply

      Hi Costa, I think it’s fairly evident that Jesus would have considered such activity far out of bounds. It’s one thing to have the desire, which Jesus doesn’t condemn, but he condemns taking even the first step toward adultery (coveting), which certainly would include such activity. His entire point in this passage is that stopping short of sex doesn’t mean it’s okay.

  • TastyWallet
    Posted at 10:37h, 29 August Reply

    I think before we even enter the discussion about weather or not the use of the word “lust” is correctly or incorrectly misinterpreted, we need to define what lust actually is. I believe that the author adequately pointed out that the word “lust” is a ” strong, passionate desire, used either of sexual desire or of a strong desire for something non-sexual.” This is a good definition because, as the author pointed out, lust is not necessarily sexual in nature!

    I have always looked at the word “lust” in this passage as a deliberate, conscious, strong sexual desire for another person. This seems obvious when Jesus makes the connection between lust and adultery by stating that lust is adultery of the heart. In my talks with other people, I state that lust, in this context, is basically sexual coveting. What I did not know is that the Greek suggested this also! That is good to know for the future when discussing this passage with others.

    As a minor comment, I would have liked to see the definition of “lust” before the author uses it. This, however, is just me being nit-picky.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 13:56h, 06 September Reply

      The problem is that any discussion of the word “lust” must include both the denotative meaning and the word’s connotation, which at this point tends to associate fairly strongly with sinful sexual desire. That’s part of why it is a less suitable term for many translations these days.

  • Zach
    Posted at 21:03h, 05 September Reply

    Jason, you didn’t seem to refute Alfred Sturges point below.

  • Zach
    Posted at 21:41h, 10 September Reply

    I think this is a reasonable question: Is there any Bible verse that says that God wants us to enjoy his creation?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:09h, 12 September Reply

      This is precisely the wrong kind of question to ask. There is no Bible verse that says chocolate cake is tasty, but that should not preclude coming to that conclusion. Again, this sort of question reflects the wrong kind of approach to the Bible.

  • Chris Dagostino
    Posted at 10:13h, 12 September Reply

    I C&P this from another site to offer what I feel is the true purpose of Christ’s words here:

    Jesus was, in this passage, describing the futility of trying to live a perfect life according to the law, and thus the universal need for forgiveness and grace. Love your enemies, don’t call people fools, divorce is bad, etc.. No one but no one has ever lived perfectly according to the law — WHICH WAS THE POINT!

    So, He said to a bunch of guys that the law says don’t commit adultery, but that if you really want to be perfectly pure, then you can’t even look lustfully. Unsaid, but understood by any guy, was “and you know you do that pretty much constantly, don’t you? In fact, Mark, would you please stop looking at Martha’s chest long enough for me to finish my point?”

    This was an illustration of a point, not the creation of a new law. It’s weird how people don’t get that Jesus didn’t rebuke the Pharisees for legalism just to come in and make stricter, more-impossible laws.

    The Bible is clear on sexual boundaries – simply put, ‘thou shall not have nookie with anyone than your spouse.’ And even secular psychologists are agreeing that pornography has detrimental effects on its users. But when you interpret, or teach, Jesus’s words on lust or anything else in such a way that it makes people associate guilt and shame with every sexual tingle, sensation, urge, dream, etc. it can have an extremely damaging effect on a person’s mind and walk with God. I speak from experience.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 14:20h, 12 September Reply

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment.

      I’m afraid, however, that the interpretation that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount only to describe the futility of trying to live according to his instructions is not only wrong but outrageously, catastrophically wrong. There is nothing in the passage or in the Gospel of Matthew that would suggest such a thing.

      Secondly, please find me one place where Jesus nowhere rebukes the Pharisees for legalism. You’ll be looking for awhile, because it doesn’t happen. Jesus doesn’t rebuke the Pharisees for legalism. Ever. He rebukes them for hypocrisy but not for legalism. Jesus’ criticism is not that they’re too legalistic but that they have inadequately kept the Law. He then gives instructions for how to actually fulfill the Law.

      You are correct that the Sermon on the Mount highlights the universal need for grace, but it appears your definition of grace may differ from that of the New Testament. I suggest reading “Getting Grace Backwards” as a preliminary primer on the problem in that regard. The bottom line is that Jesus and the earliest Christians did not believe grace was a free pass not to have to keep the Law but the only way through which one could be empowered to keep the Law. That’s a pretty big difference, and it matters a great deal for understanding the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus in fact expects people to live according to everything he is saying.

  • Zach
    Posted at 16:25h, 12 September Reply

    “This is a critically important point; Jesus is not suggesting that any sexual thought or inclination towards a woman is sinful. Nor is he suggesting that such thoughts or attractions being triggered by a look are sinful.” That is how i drew this connection, sexual thoughts about a woman is essentially the same as sexual fantasies.

  • Zach
    Posted at 19:52h, 12 September Reply

    Ok, so why should we translate it as “covet”?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 12:21h, 07 October Reply

      Because that’s the best translation of the Greek word in this passage, which is made evident because of the connection to the Greek translation of the tenth command.

  • Daniel Cartwright
    Posted at 15:45h, 17 September Reply

    Jason, I like the way you break this down, but it still leaves me with some questions. When some other users asked you about pornography, you said that if the intent of the look was sexual gratification, it is wrong. I mostly agree, except I can’t help but ask the question: isn’t there a hint of sexual gratification any time we look? If I see a beautiful woman out of the corner of my eye, and I turn my head to look, it’s because I know (whether consciously or subconsciously) that when I look, there will be a certain amount of excitement/arousal/attraction gained from the look. We don’t tend to think it through that way, but isn’t that what we’re doing?

    Secondly, when it comes to sexual thoughts, obviously you condemn sexual fantasies, but again, how do we draw the line between a fantasy, and a naturally occurring sexual thought, due to the fact that we have a sex drive?

    I’m not asking these questions because I want to get as close to sinning as possible without sinning. I’m asking because it would just be nice to have a baseline/reference point rather than just some grey area.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 12:27h, 07 October Reply

      These are good questions and perhaps above my pay grade. I do think the dividing line for Jesus in this passage seems to be the intent of the person. That’s different from a person’s desire, which is not condemned. The question is how one responds to the natural desire at the point of decision. I don’t know that there is a hard baseline in such circumstances, but intent appears to be the real driver here.

  • Zach
    Posted at 19:50h, 17 September Reply

    Ok, now i know what our problem is, we have conflicting view points Jason

    You condemn sexual fantasy
    You also condemn looking at a women for sexual gratification.

    Please reply if i am right or wrong on this.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 12:20h, 07 October Reply

      Hi, Zach. I’m more addressing the way this passage should be interpreted than I am condemning anything. As I understand this passage, it prohibits coveting, which probably captures what you’re referring to as ‘sexual fantasy’ and almost certainly includes looking at women specifically for ‘sexual gratification.’

      • Zach
        Posted at 17:10h, 17 October Reply

        So you do then…

      • Zach
        Posted at 17:15h, 17 October Reply

        How is looking at a women for sexual gratification coveting?
        I am referring to sexual fantasy as sexual thoughts, which you addressed in your article as this verse does not condemn, it.
        So you say that sexual thoughts are okay but sexual fantasies are not? They are the same by definition.

  • Jay
    Posted at 01:56h, 22 September Reply

    If the lust for sex is like hunger for food, then what does a man do to sustain himself outside of marriage, or is marriage the only choice? Also homosexuals clearly have a desire for the same sex, is this also a lust made in their biology, or is this constructed from their choices? If it is a choice then wouldn’t our heterosexual desires also be choices outside of our biology?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 12:12h, 07 October Reply

      Christian theology has always limited sex to marriage as the only choice. Unlike food, a person can live without sex. That does not mean the desire or drive for it disappears, but rather that if licit options are not available, abstinence is the only sanctioned option.

      In terms of your question about homosexuality, the traditional Christian understanding would be to treat such desires as equivalent to desires for any sort of illicit heterosexual sex. The urges are biological (fleshly), but the choice of how to respond to those desires rests with the individual. Again, traditional Christian theology has long forbidden sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, but it has never denied the reality of sexual desires that may be directed toward such ends.

      • Jim
        Posted at 18:04h, 20 December Reply

        Stop focusing on the flesh giving glory to Satan and follow the greatest commandment given by the Lord our God, which is to Love the Lord our God with all your heart, soul, strength, and the mind, and stop belittling the ways of God. You’re giving more glory to the flesh then you are to the Lord our God, He is Holy, Righteous and True, so stop focusing on the flesh and start focusing on Christ. Your personal mission for the righteousness of your own freshly desires is unholy before the Lord our God and you should focus on winning others to Christ instead of making excuses for gratifying the lust of the flesh, you should be ashamed! Get right with the Lord your God, and earnestly do so because, you will give an account on the day of judgment for provoking ideas you put into the hearts and minds of those who are weak, who are looking to you for answers instead of looking to the Lord our God and being guided by the Holy Spirit for the answers, for this is the main focus of what should be, to focus on the Lord our God for guidance and for the Holy Spirit to lead guide and convict within us so, stop focusing on your fleshly desires and focus on winning souls to Christ.

  • emery
    Posted at 11:17h, 23 September Reply

    I think of God like a candy store lol. Know really I read some of these posts I think I need a drink and some of you need meds. I was raised in a Christian home. It ruined my live all the fear and negative self talk. I believe most Christians have no business talking about sex or giving advice. So much damage has been done. The attraction a man has for a woman is a natural part of being human and this same desire is the same with Gay people they just prefer being with there same sex. It`s so sad how some people make then feel it`s sick. I say if God wanted a perfect world he should have made one because he`s God. makes no sense to think a God that maid all this would stop and set his little humans up to fail and knowing most would. Expecting them to ace a test or ask them to believe in him or burn forever because you don`t know if he`s even real. Makes no sense at all. I see lots of human logic in the bible it`s inherent for humans to control.

    • Anonymous
      Posted at 17:23h, 25 November Reply

      Actually, I find that just as you feel there are faults in Christians on Sex the world isn’t any different. Non Christians do things sexually without having been raised in a Christian homes in regards to Sex that is damaging. So not even non Christians are reliable. I went a while living according to societies belief on Sex and was damamged in that. I now struggle to trust people from it. I don’t blame the church nor the bible for that. Since it wasn’t those things that caused it. So I don’t see society to be any better according to your conclusion. I feel you are in no better position to tell anyone about sex either if you are going according to what the media and other things outside of the Bible teach.

      As I see it, you are going according to non Christian beliefs and are practicing freedom of speech. Well teaching about Sex is a freedom that Christians have just as much as unreliable non Christians do. I wasn’t raised by a church that taught negative ideals on Sex. So your environment sounds like more of the issue than the Bible itself. But let’s not forget that even without the Bible, man desires to exact control even to the point of self destruction. It’s not a religious thing but a humanity issue. You are free to believe as you wish, just as religious people are free tonight as well. You feel you can teach, well religious people can too. Just as it’s my freedom to teach Sex from a spiritual perspective because I am a spiritual person. Not religious but in respect others because no group or culture is perfect or better when it comes to knowing everything.

  • Jennifer Schmidt
    Posted at 00:26h, 28 October Reply

    Just a few observations…first of all, regarding “Jesus didn’t speak English”…Gentile Jesus did not speak Greek, either. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Yehudah, and He spoke Hebrew/Aramaic. Secondly, I’m so happy that someone actually made the point that sex is a biological urge, but it is not a biological need. We need air, water and food and sleep to survive, but we will not die if we don’t have sex. If we are truly to “bring every thought into captivity to the mind of Messiah”, then how can we justify lust or coveting. True, the sexual urge, as someone stated, may be part of the fallen nature. Our Messiah Savior was celibate, as was Sha’ul, aka St Paul, Jeremiah, and probably many others. We weren’t born “married”, so St Paul’s admonition for those who are single to “remain in the state where the Master found us”, which for many people, would be single, so that they could be single minded in their devotion to the Savior. It makes sense. And last, but not least, we have been delivered, through the power of the risen Messiah Savior, and His indwelling Holy Spirit, from the “law of sin and death”, not from the Law of YHVH. If we understand that, then we can walk in newness of life. We have been set free FROM the world, the flesh, the devil and false “religion”, and free TO love, honor, obey, worship and serve the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the God of redeemed, believing remnant Israe, through Messiah Yeshual. We are, in fact Saints, who mayfail, on occasion, but who do not cultivate and/or practice sin. As a matter of fact, we GET to obey, we don’t HAVE to obey. . We obey the commandments, NOT for justification, we are justified by faith in the finished work of Messiah’s death and resurrection, but for sanctification. (for being set apart, holy) Part of the New Covenant is that God intended to, Jeremiah 31:31-34, and in fact did, Hebrews 8:8-10, write His Law on our hearts and put it in our minds. That is what He did for us, to enable, empower us to do His Will. How He did/does that is when we meditate upon His Law as the Psalmist did. It becomes our new nature. “Two natures beat within my breast. One is foul, the other blessed. One I love, one I hate, the one I feed, will dominate”. There is a God and He is not silent. We don’t have to let our minds dwell on the flesh, we get to let our minds dwell on the things of the Spirit. Sex is part of the fleshly nature. That business about “continuing the species” is a stretch…because God destroyed the multitude of mankind before with a flood, and He will again, but with fire. His will and desire is having new creations, spiritual beings, not just numbers of humans. So, for those males, making these “male centric” comments, excusing themselves, and condemning some women for giving a woman’s perspective…women are also sexual beings in the flesh, which has to be overcome…in Him we are victorious over comers, and no longer victims of our fallen natures…I am praying for all of you. When men excuse themselves saying “I may be married, but I’m not dead”…that’s just a cop out. You are supposed to have crucified the flesh with it’s lusts. St Paul also said, “if you marry, you will have trouble in the flesh”…so it is better not to marry, he said. No, none of us have perfect knowledge, and none of us are perfect in obedience. But if we are in Him, we are “more than conquerors”, as we trust Him to bring us to Himself, and when He appears, we shall be like Him. And I don’t need to know all of the various multilingual language “laws” and nuances. Blessing and Peace, Jen

    • theasdgamer
      Posted at 10:06h, 15 November Reply

      True, the sexual urge, as someone stated, may be part of the fallen nature.

      God gave sex and marriage before the Fall. Hence, your statement is in error.

      …we have been delivered, through the power of the risen Messiah Savior, and His indwelling Holy Spirit, from the “law of sin and death”, not from the Law of YHVH.

      I assume that you are not referring to the Law of Moses. That Law was only for Jews under a theocracy, which state obtains nowhere today.

      So, for those males, making these “male centric” comments, excusing themselves, and condemning some women for giving a woman’s perspective…

      Ok, now you’re into passive-aggressive feminist shaming tactics. Shame on you. Very unattractive. You’ll get no pussy pass from me.

      And I don’t need to know all of the various multilingual language “laws” and nuances.

      Yeah, because the truth is so inconvenient for you.

  • Anna
    Posted at 23:55h, 14 November Reply

    I am amazed at so many women leaving condemning comments about men who are clearly trying to follow the Scriptures and define sin and see if they need to address it. Of course, that is not an excuse to try and indulge in inappropriate behaviors, but considering the world we live in in America it is hardly surprising men struggle with this. And I hardly think if a man is going to the trouble of analyzing the Greek in the Bible he is not, at least, striving for Godly behavior even if he stumbles some along the way.

    I truly appreciate the author’s efforts in analyzing this passage. In particular, the reminder to emphasize Scripture’s focus on the intent of the heart and choosing to act on impulses as this can be applied in so many areas.

    • Michael Kitchens
      Posted at 23:11h, 03 May Reply

      Well said, Anna.

      I think I can speak for all (genuine) Christian men when I say that when we look at women and have sexual thoughts about them, it doesn’t mean that we see them as property to be used and thrown away. We are just admiring their beauty without making plans in our hearts to take them for ourselves (unless we’re looking for a future wife).

      Another thing to consider, and a lot of people miss this, is the tense(s) which Jesus used to describe adultery of the heart. He didn’t say “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her COMMITS adultery with her in his heart”, but rather, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has ALREADY COMMITTED adultery with her in his heart”. Jesus is saying that, in the context in which His listeners would understand, is that once a man looks at a woman in that manner, he has already decided in his heart to take her for himself, even if the opportunity never presents itself. Many people make the (apparent) mistake that the adultery part lies in the act of looking itself, but Jesus shows that the heart of the person doing the looking has already determined to go down that road.

      In the case of David and Bathsheba, David didn’t commit adultery when he saw her bathing. The adultery occurred when he decided that he wanted to take her. Of course, an argument can be made that David never should have put himself in the position to see Bathsheba bathing, and that would be valid. However, the point that Jesus was driving home is the reason behind the looking, not the looking in and of itself.

  • justin
    Posted at 22:06h, 19 December Reply

    Pornography and even looking at naked women who are not having sex is condemned clearly in Galatians 5:19.

    Galatians 5:19New King James Version (NKJV)

    19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[a] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

    Focus is on lewdness here is the greek translation.

    Lewdness or ἀσέλγεια
    ä-se’l-gā-ä (Key)
    Part of Speech
    feminine noun
    Root Word (Etymology)
    From a compound of ἄλφα (G1) (as a negative particle) and a presumed selges (of uncertain derivation, but apparently meaning continent)
    Dictionary Aids
    Vine’s Expository Dictionary: View Entry

    TDNT Reference: 1:490,83

    Trench’s Synonyms: xvi. ἀσωτία, ἀσέλγεια.

    Outline of Biblical Usage
    unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence

    KJV Translation Count — Total: 9x
    The KJV translates Strongs G766 in the following manner: lasciviousness (6x), wantonness (2x), filthy (1x).

    So the outline uses lasciviousness well What is ‘lasciviousness,’ as mentioned in Galatians 5:19?”

    The Greek word behind the English term “lascivious” is aselgeia. It occurs nine times in the New Testament. Twice it is rendered as “wantonness” (Romans 13:13; 2 Peter 2:18), and once it appears as “filthy” (2 Peter 2:7). The other six times it is translated as “lascivious” (cf. Mark 7:22; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3; Jude 4).

    Lasciviousness is a gross form of wickedness that has sexual overtones in many cases. It starts in a sinful heart (Mark 7:21-22), and manifests itself in fleshly (carnal) actions (Galatians 5:19), and can lead to a state of being “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19).

    The word can connote several attitudes or actions. With reference to sexual matters it embraces the concepts of excess, unbridled lust, debauchery, and sensuality. It suggests a disregard for public decency.

    William Barclay says the word conveys the idea of a person “who is so far gone in lust and desire” that he or she ceases “to care what people say or think” (p. 52). Josephus, the Jewish historian, once used the word to describe a man who indecently exposed himself to a crowd (Antiquities 20.5.3).

    Right here is what we’re looking for VVV

    J.H. Thayer connected the term with such things as “wanton (acts or) manners, filthy words, indecent bodily movements,” and “unchaste handling of males and females” (pp. 79-80). It is a comprehensive term for evil and perversion (Balz, p. 169). For example, it describes the moral environment of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 2:7), and one hardly needs to be reminded of the shameless practices characteristic of those communities.

    The definition of wanton is (especially of a woman) sexually immodest or promiscuous.

    The term aselgeia, however, can go beyond sexual sins and connote any form of excess,i.e., one who “knows no boundaries” in whatever form of evil he indulges (Trench, pp. 56-58).

    In this discussion, however, we will limit ourselves to some applications in issues of sexuality — which seems to be a rather pressing matter in this age of sensuality and apparent insensitivity.

    (1) The use of sexually explicit media materials is a form of lasciviousness. This would include pornographic visuals, such as live productions, books or magazines, movies or videos, audio tapes, etc. This is a growing problem in American society — even among some who profess Christianity. Counselors affirm that porn material is highly addictive, and numerous marriages have been ruined by people who have indulged in sexually explicit filth.

    Too, statistical evidence indicates that sexual predators, child molesters, and even some murderers (e.g., Ted Bundy) have begun their careers of crime by ingesting a diet of salacious materials.

    (2) Lasciviousness occurs frequently in work places where men and women are constantly thrown together in close contact. Flirting, suggestive touching, language containing sexual innuendo, sex humor, provocative dress (skin tight apparel, the display of cleavage, thigh-revealing skirts, etc.) are forms of lascivious conduct that very often lead to fornication and adultery.

    (3) Lascivious communications are common on some web sites. One of the more prominent used by youngsters is known as “My Space.” It is prolifically punctuated with the vilest forms of language and salacious photographs. Amazingly, these frequently are employed by those who identify themselves as “Christians,” though they obviously have no understanding of the significance of that term. Some teens use the site innocently, but they are in a “mine field” of danger and evil influence. Christian parents should supervise carefully what their youngsters are viewing, as they spend hours of their leisure time on the “net.”

    It is incomprehensible that many parents allow their sons and daughters to engage in various forms of lascivious conduct (be it dress, visual entertainment, language, etc.); such actions are sweeping their youngsters down a road to destruction.

    Those who take the Scriptures seriously will personally abstain from such practices, and train their children in morally pure, respectable behavior.

    The lascivious person will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-21). To ignore the biblical warnings is the epitome of folly.

  • justin
    Posted at 00:10h, 20 December Reply

    Is looking at girls in bikinis wrong? Here are the verses that made me think this is so.

    Genesis 3:21New International Version (NIV)

    21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

    What God made was tunics. The Hebrew word kathoneth refers to a long shirt, one that reaches from the shoulders to the knees.

    1 Timothy 2:9New International Version (NIV)

    9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,

    1 Corinthians 12:23-25New International Version (NIV)

    23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,

    Exodus 28:42-43, “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.

    Isaiah 20:4 4so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

    Ezekiel 23:18 18 When she carried on her prostitution openly and exposed her naked body, I turned away from her in disgust, just as I had turned away from her sister.

    Isaiah 47:1-3, “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.”

    Micah 1:11, “Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.”

    2 Corinthians 5:2-4, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”

    Habakkuk 2:15-16, “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD’S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.”

    Revelation 3:18, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

  • justin
    Posted at 16:59h, 23 December Reply

    Jason I have a question. Why do the Bible translators translate it wrongly then? Why do they translate it as lust?

  • January 6, 2014 – Genesis Chapter 15 – 17, Matthew Chapter 5: 27-48 | Reading the Bible in a Year (Really)
    Posted at 14:02h, 06 January Reply

    […] Chapters 27 – 48 explain the ethics of the Kingdom of God. The first section is about adultry and it explicity says that if a man sexually desires a woman, he has already committed adultry with her in God’s eyes. I did a lot of reading on this and found the following interpretation: […]

  • bruno
    Posted at 22:18h, 26 January Reply

    This is more important than one would think. You see, if being attracted to the opposite sex is the same as having physical sex, then most everyone is already over the sin fence and might as well have sex with everyone they see. Why not? They have already been having sex with them and sinning just “the same” in their hearts. So having real sex would not be anymore sinful then what they are already doing.

    But, in fact, we are not hopping over the sin fence when our mind says WOW to a hot babe walking by. We stand there and are amazed, not wanting or planning to find out where she lives, or wanting a date. We don’t ask for her number. We don’t care what her name is because we really don’t want to pursue such a thing in our lives. We are only EXCITED by the sight of a women — not by the thought of chasing her or obtaining her. We don’t even want to talk to her. But, if it is no more sinful to have sex with her, then what is the difference? Just have at it! This is the perverse conclusion we arrive at by saying “sin is sin.” But the bible says there are different sins.

    And I guess it is perfectly fine for women and young teens to read “trashy novels” full of highly detailed sex. This turns women on in ways that women experience life – “verbally”. But, Christian cultures don’t seem to think this is an issue because it is not pictures (not porn). WHAT? Circular logic here. It is very much pornographic with graphic detail explained more precisely than any still picture. What bigotry when we have no problem with 13 year-old girls reading this stuff, while Christian women protest Playboy being purchased by grown discerning men. It is an attack on men more than an attack on sin. By the way, porno is also viewed by women and girls in very large numbers. And women have more of a tendency to act out what they read and see in film—because they want to live out “the stories.” Whereas typical men just enjoy the temporary unattached visual thrill and are astute enough to know the difference between simple pictures or sights and don’t carry them forward into real life fantasies (this would be the coveting).

    Okay, this is where the men bashing begins. Men are rapists and abusers and should be castrated. Women don’t commit these crimes. Oh really. They are usually just as responsible, if not more responsible, for luring men into adultery – but, adultery is not really a crime any more is it? Wonder why. Could it be that women are involved in this crime? As Christians, “the intention of acting in a way to promote sinful acts” is a sin. Dressing seductively to seduce a man, is this good? No, it is a sin. But, women can do no wrong in our feminized society. So they can dress as they want, and if a man looks, then he is the bad guy, a CREEPER. What political baloney.

    • Anonymous
      Posted at 19:48h, 19 October Reply

      I think your comment is more of an issue of feminism than than some of the women on here. You point out that it’s fair that when a woman looks it’s OK, but when a man looks he’s a creeper. You fail to look at the fact that the reason feminism exists in the first place is because unfair treat rules made by men.

      My older brother recently told me that a woman can’t do what a man can do. Since woman has a womb therefore has to care for a baby, she can’t sleep because if she contracts something it will contaminate the womb, and what shut him up was when I countered that statemtn by saying and a man shouldn’t sleep around and contract anything either since it’s takes a mans seed to contaminate the womb of a woman(excluding the exceptions of other sexual activities), there are sexist rules that exist for both sides, and you have completely came at one side without considering the years of sexism many woman are still facing today.

      Women are sexual pressured just as men are, but according to a lot of men, the rule is “People like a key that can open many boxes, but not a box that can be opened by many keys.” So the women are pressured to control our urges, while we hear and watch men chase after potential sex partners so that they can have sex without much judgement and also receive validation from their friends for it. But let a women have just as many sex partners as a man, she is slut. Men don’t think about the fact that women have needs as well and it takes a women with needs to give these men what they want. A wise woman who I believe is from India said, “If a woman is dirty after you’ve touched her, you should look at your hands.”

      Women and Men are too caught up in the battle of sexes that neither are seeing how similar we are to their other(I’m sure you’ve heard Men are from Mars and women are from Venus). What needs to happen is that people need to abolish the rules that hold men and women to different standards on things that are equally human for both to do. In this case, sex is one of the biggest things that needs to be equalized. Men and women need to be understood as both having needs and desires and both struggling with said needs and desires. In fact it’s said to have been found that it’s more likely for women to cheat, and that most women cheat when their hormones are all over the place. So we are not all that different. We all have similar weaknesses(This is why I disagree with women who say men are bigger cheaters).

      I feel that we need to get a point of No more men being excused for having a high amount of sexual partners and no more women being considered having superiority over a man when it comes to Children. Let us hold each other equal as Christ does and be understanding that sometimes women freak out about things like this because apart of a lot of women, with the society we live in, there is a fear we are never enough for men. This is why many women are threatened by the idea of a man looking at another woman. It scares us because many women have been in or related to women who have tried to do their best to keep a man pleased but it wasn’t enough. So we become terrified at the idea of a man looking at another woman and many women will question over time as our bodies change if the man will continue to want us(after all the media never fails to show real life stories of older men leaving their families for younger womenn or older women going by the name cougars). These things affect the way men and women see each other and it causes these sexist rules and mentalities. But here’s the question, am I right to say that there is apart of many that is terrified his beautiful wife or woman will no longer want him. If I am right than how are we different in terms or societal pressures on sex desires and how we view the idea of a man or woman looking at someone of the opposite sex.

      Because I will tell you, according to the same study that says woman are more likely to cheat, it also says women are more likely to get caught because men struggle with insecurity, and it this insecurity that causes a man to question what the woman is doing and this is how many men catch their girlfriends or wives cheating. While some may say this study is worldly and does not apply to God, there is truth to it, and by knowing this study it shows, when it comes to men and women we are not so different from the other and that need God more than many of us may think we do. For our humanity tends to get the run of us a lot.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 16:37h, 19 October Reply

    I have a question, I was never taught that sexyal desire was a sin according to this verse, however I was taught that a man should be careful not to gaze too long on a woman for it may cause him to fall.

    Yes, he will see a woman whom he’s attracted to however if he stands there’s staring at her body for a long time thinking about what he would do if she was his or simply just thinking what he likes about those parts. These actions can lead to him caving in even though he may not have intended to in the beginning. So I wasn’t taught that sexual desire itself is bad but was taught that men and women should redirect our thoughts as to not let ourselves go too far in thoughts. Once you see it, and acknowledge you like it, look away don’t dwell on it. I was also taught that the word of God says that man is allowed to be sexual attracted to his wife and therefore desire her.

    But my question is, is it appropriate for men to sit around staring and having conversations about a woman’s body part? A lot of men I see do that(and some women). They sit, stare, and talk about how big or nice that part is and start comparing them to other women. Some men even live that rule “I can look but cannot touch” so they look withview the intent of enjoying the view and to dwell on it.

    I personally will not pretend that I don’t have sexual desires. I see attractive men and will look at their bodies but I don’t sit and dwell on the parts because I have found the imagination kicks in when you look too long. I will see a guy and say he has a nice body maybe nice abs or something but then I will redirect my thoughts to something else after that instead of continuing to stare at him. But I notice guys don’t just see it and say she has nice body or she’s beautiful and then move on they stare and really get into the details of a woman’s body, they may not intend to pursue her in anyway, but they do stare and get into studying a woman’s body.

    To me I see it as it’s fine if a man see’s woman and notices she beautiful, that’s natural but I do feel a man should not allow himself to stare and study her. Look but don’t study, and don’t touch. It’s the same with woman, some will talk about a mans body and discuss the every detail of it. They sit and study him, not thinking if he’s married or not. To me this is starting to progress into the coveting stages at that point.

    But then what about magazines with men and/or women wearing certain types of outfits. Does this mean that it is OK for men and women to look at these magazines and stare at their bodies as long as there’s no imagination involved but just admiring the body itself(like musculature, chest, hips)? Because this also brings nude art into question as well. I know some people get into admiring the human figure as art form which I don’t really see a problem, but it does incorporate a lot of studying the body and not really be for everyone.

  • Tunde Abiola
    Posted at 14:27h, 25 October Reply

    I think john buta is right Jason, for saying ” nothing can separate us from God’s love “but he would have complete the statement if he says Sin thus separate us from God not from His love because while we are yet a sinner Christ died for us. If sin had separate us from God’s love John 3:16 would not have been relevant.

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 21:24h, 07 November Reply

    To those of you who are name calling and accusing and saying how “unattractive” and/or “passive aggressive” others are because they don’t agree with your excuses and your assessment of things….remember, when you are pointing your finger at another, you have 3 pointing back at yourself. So, you are what you say, in spades. Especially those of you who had to use filthy, abusive comments.. Pre-fall humankind’s eyes were not open, so they did not see each others nakedness. If you read the Genesis account, after the fall, “their eyes were opened, and they saw that they were naked and were afraid”, and took fig leaves to cover themselves. And God said, “who told you that you were naked?” The pure sex drive was pre-fall. Just think about it.

  • Adam
    Posted at 22:53h, 07 November Reply

    I’m sorry but I find this to be confusing (correct me if I misinterpreted your motives Jason, but….) How can we know for sure when a woman we think of sexually is married or not? For example, me looking in a magazine of one in a bikini… what if she’s married? You never know. How could God say it’s okay to look at a woman sexually, just make sure she’s married first? That seems even worse, so I think this is a better idea: 1. it is already acknowledged that the word “lust” can still mean “lust” and NOT covet. 2. It’s OBVIOUSLY natural for guys to find women attractive, but to oogle them is wrong. When I first meet an un-married woman, I may think “she has a well-proportioned face.” but if I start checking her out her out and have sexual thoughts, well It’s OBVIOUS that if my future spouse knew about that, then she would feel kind of betrayed, as I should have waited to save those sacred thoughts for her. Christ said stuff I believe about a husband and wife becoming one, in a sacred union, with love and sexual pleasures a part of that one-ness, and I believe other things too like that. Look those verses up I recommend. You’ll find how sacred sexual desires are in a marriage. No no, you didn’t convince me to go watch porn and read a pornographic magazine. I choose to wait for marriage, and that waiting for marriage seems to be the basis more many love stories and songs that the religious and non-religious admire.

  • Bill
    Posted at 23:05h, 07 November Reply

    I’m sorry but I find this to be confusing (correct me if I misinterpreted your motives Jason, but….) How can we know for sure when a woman we think of sexually is married or not? For example, me looking in a magazine of one in a bikini… what if she’s married? You never know. How could God say it’s okay to look at a woman sexually, just make sure she’s married first? That seems even worse, so I think this is a better idea: 1. it is already acknowledged that the word “lust” can still mean “lust” and NOT covet. 2. It’s OBVIOUSLY natural for guys to find women attractive, but to oogle them is wrong. When I first meet an un-married woman, I may think “she has a well-proportioned face.” but if I start checking her out her out and have sexual thoughts, well It’s OBVIOUS that if my future spouse knew about that, then she would feel kind of betrayed, as I should have waited to save those sacred thoughts for her. Christ said stuff I believe about a husband and wife becoming one, in a sacred union, with love and sexual pleasures a part of that one-ness, and I believe other things too like that. Look those verses up I recommend. You’ll find how sacred sexual desires are in a marriage. No no, you didn’t convince me to go watch porn and read a pornographic magazine. I choose to wait for marriage, and that waiting for marriage seems to be the basis more many love stories and songs that the religious and non-religious admire. Also, then what’s your opinions of modesty? So single girls wearing world’y clothes is not a sin? There’s already enough evidence to suggest that it is.

  • Mrs. Rosalyn Hickman
    Posted at 07:43h, 06 March Reply

    Its very interesting to me that where sin starts is the very place we have to return to for healing and deliverance!

    What do I mean? A lustful look upon a woman whether covetous or not plays a very active role in leading men (mankind) into all kinds of ungodly and unacceptable sexual behavior. As soon as they become comfortable with gratifying the flesh with a look, the flesh seeks more because it is never satisfied. To look upon a woman or to be sexually attracted to a woman creates or stirs up sexual feelings that does not necessarily mean you want that woman or that man, but you want what that person suggest to your flesh would be good to experience. The look is just one pathway that leads to sexual immorality and addictions. (There are many but since the conversation is about looking and not being a sin or an act of covetousness, I only address that,

    Let me encourage all you men to think in terms of the whole of scripture before we settle in on it not being a sin to look..

    Sex is a gift from God and is an extremely powerful urge that can not be contained or controlled without the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in us. Even when we are not looking, its powerful. Just the thoughts without a person is powerful. But images do come to mind when sexual thoughts show up. So you can image how our looking intensifies our battle over sexual desires. Don’t tempt God by exercising your liberties.. Temptations pull on our heart, soul, mind, and strength!. And that is what God commands that we love him with. Don’t give the devil a foothold. The three enemies of God: the flesh, the world, and the devil just loves those believers and unbelievers who are are rejoicing over the fact that being sexually attracted to women or men and “looking” is not guilty of adultery.

    How much would you give for that look young man? A lifestyle of pornography? masturbation? etc. (“from 10 years old until now at age 21)”? Really?

    As a Biblical Marriage,and Pre-marital counselor, and a women’s mentor for over 40 years now, I can tell you that the first step after those who are addicted or struggling with immoral behavior express their desire to be delivered is to examine what influences fed their sinful nature and led to those struggles. So we go back most of the time to the desire that was created or stirred up through looking because you were sexually attracted to a woman or man. How the looking led to more and more.. So we are back to the beginning.

    If you are a believer the Holy Spirit is always screaming at you and you know it. He’s telling you that all things are lawful for me but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me but all things edify not.. I Cor 10:23. God is calling for men who want to be true worshipers of him, That will not be brought under the power of anything or anybody that would cause another to stumble, even ourselves to stumble.

    The pathway to a godly lifestyle is to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is our reasonable service. Deny ourselves! stop taking advantage of liberties just because you can. Examine ourselves, judge all things, deny ourselves. Believe that He is and that he is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek him!.

    The greater question is not whether it is a sin to look but rather is it expedient?, is it beneficial? is it profitable? does it offend the attractive woman, or will it cause me or my brother to stumble if I look? What about believers who see you looking? God cares about using your liberty will cause others to think of you and of His Word which is really of Him. Paul admonished us that our love for our brother or sister is far more important than gratifying our flesh. That includes all of our Christian walk.

    Try looking at women like this:
    .” . . The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters with all purity.” I Tim 5:2
    I believe this is the greater call upon our lives.

    If your mother, sister, or daughter is attractive would you have a sexually attraction towards them or would you want other men or boys to have a sexual attraction towards them? I pray not although I know incest is alive and well too.

    Trust me you won’t be ashamed at his coming!

    Mrs. “H”

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 17:49h, 31 March Reply

    Kudos Mrs. “H”! I agree that we should strive to edify, and not cause others to stumble. This is good to think upon when considering the act of observing members of the opposite sex you find attractive. If your wife or husband is uncomfortable with or insecure with your “innocent, strictly human nature admiration” of the opposite sex, then allow for some behavior changes to bring them comfort. The Golden Rule also applies well here, “Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” We are to put our self-serving ways behind us. While I can’t affirm this study is accurate and I disagree with a lot of the visitor comments, I do believe it’s good that the author Jason has presented this scriptural exegesis of this verse. It is very important to know and understand the teachings of Jesus as accurately as we can strive to be.

  • jim
    Posted at 18:10h, 11 April Reply

    Posted at 02:49h, 02 February REPLY
    Thanks for you reply Jason! I wouldn’t think watching porn is justified either – it’s debasing anyway. Could you share your thoughts about “lust of the eyes”, i.e. what is this lust referring to, and if I enjoy nude art (the intent is to appreciate the beauty of female, not to get sexual arousal), and I find the model to be beautiful/attractive, does it fall under lust of the eyes?

    Please answer this, I want to know too…
    Sorry Aja i wanted to repost you comment

  • Max Kennedy
    Posted at 17:35h, 24 April Reply

    A better translation is probably: Whosoever looketh at a married woman to take her has committed adultery in his heart.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 00:10h, 04 May Reply

      No, that’s not a better translation. I’m guessing you’re parroting what you’ve been told about the Hebrew underlying the tenth command, but “take” is not a viable translation of the Greek ἐπιθυμέω.

  • Nick@MarriedHeat
    Posted at 03:53h, 13 June Reply

    Knowing the correct context of the language in the Bible is so important. As a 55+ male married for nearly 32 years, I always knew in my heart that I was being taught wrong principles with regard to sexual thoughts and actions. God made men as sexual beings, to look upon and admire the beauty of the female body. Unlike the animals, which mate by instinct, He gave men the power of reason. He did so to create the strong bond of love between a husband and wife.

    I met Heather, my wife-to-be, in 1978. I immediately lusted her fantastic body. It was that lust, coupled with respect for a lady and my willingness to control it, that led me to get to know her, go out with her, date her, court her, and, after 6 and half years, marry her. It was that lust and my willingness to control it that has kept us married and in love with each other. I wrote about meeting Heather here: http://www.marriedheat.com/met-mother-best-day-life/

    I have lusted after many women over the years. Is that wrong? NO! It’s the nature of man. My lust always leads me back to Heather for its release.

    Thanks for a very insightful and educational post.

  • P Cottle
    Posted at 01:44h, 16 June Reply

    Jason, Are you a born again, God-fearing follower of Jesus Christ as the incarnate God, the crucified and risen Savior of the world? I do not see that as one of your credentials.

  • Chris Waugh
    Posted at 22:41h, 21 June Reply

    Thank you Jason for your article and sharing your biblical knowledge. I was wandering if the following type of example would be sinful: someone watches womens gymnastics stretching videos and swimsuit modeling videos and magazines, because these sexually arouse the person watching. However, the person doesn’t imagine having sexual acts with the women and doesn’t masterbait. Instead, they appreaciate and thank God for creating them and their beauty. They also don’t pursue relationships with gymnastists or models, they just like watching them. Would a similar example be considered sinful, except the person imagines having sexual acts with them? Basically, since the person becomes sexually satisified after doing these things, would that be considered disobeying Matthew 5:27-28?

  • leana h
    Posted at 11:09h, 10 July Reply

    ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    This is very obvious to understand but men always try to avoid it. To commit this crime you must first be with someone either dating or married, which is why it is so important to wait till you find the right person because it is easily broken.

    When you are with your lover, say in a store getting groceries, and when you get inside you immediately forget you are already someone’s and being looking at other women or men with sexual intent, your partner can always tell and is offended and hurt. It is easy to tell when you have broken a law because you know inside it is wrong and there is always a victim or (victims) that feels violated. The person that you are looking at with lust in front of your lover can see that you are betraying your lover through the eye and is also offended that you looked at them purely for lustful reason because you are clearly taken.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 20:44h, 12 July Reply

      Jesus does not limit his statement to men who are dating or married. If anything, the Greek word γυνή limits the coveted individual in question to married women (as opposed to all women in general), but there is no such limitation on the person doing the coveting in this verse.

      This passage has nothing to do with a partner feeling jealous at her partner’s wandering eye or another’s recognition of being “checked out.”

  • tom tully
    Posted at 20:08h, 21 July Reply

    Seems to me that “not coveting” is about as hard as “not lusting”. And though “not coveting” is one of the Ten Commandments, it’s as hard to follow as any of Jesus radical commands.

  • E E
    Posted at 07:08h, 23 July Reply

    I do think that Matthew 5:27-28 is basically if anyone looking at a wife (married woman) with the desire to take her for himself ( ) has committed adultery (sinned) in his heart already. But in terms of single men looking at single women there is still the issue with possible obsession (blatant googling, stalking, creeping) to the point of it being idolatry.

    Proverbs 6:20-7:27, Matthew 5:27-28 & James 1:14-15, Colossians 3:5,6, 1 Corinthians 10:7-22

    Read all these passages. There is a connection between desires, and the connection to relating to bread, the body, lust, and all that. Even to the point of it being demonic. Anything that you allow to oppress you to the point of focusing your time and your heart for God being distracted in the amount that puts Him NOT as #1 is bad. It just breeds a world of hurt. God gets jealous, and for good reason. Some guys just look intently with no plans to form relationships with women. Realistically there is no point to it, it just makes some guys not appreciate who they are with one day, being so used to constantly viewing every woman in site just for “fun.” Many men of the Bible have put their focus more on finding one or more women, even ahead of everything else in their life. It is really your motives that are the issue that tell you if things are sinful really, or that can at some point potentially lead to sin. If women rule your mind then you should wonder if they have become your god. Don’t copy the antics of David. I know guys want to think they are ok looking at a woman and feel overly attracted to them, but it is another thing to let it rule their lives and distract them from living a godly life. Especially when lots of these women put themselves together in the intent to only use themselves as objects of attention with no intent on forming meaningful loving relationships. Sometimes it is strictly for carnal actions or motives and nothing more. Be smart guys. Be discerning. May God bless you and strengthen your heart/mind.

  • Nick
    Posted at 09:22h, 05 August Reply

    Here’s how I see it. I think we cross the line when the first look goes from accidental/unintentional to intentional. As a man I will notice an attractive woman, and the same is true for women. When our first look becomes prolonged or we keep looking back, we have crossed the line. If we deliberately seek out attractive women (whether from the internet, catalogs, magazines, real life, etc.) just to look at them, I believe we have crossed the line. We should all be in prayer asking God for the strength to control our eyes. And women are called to dress modestly, women should be prayer asking what it means for them to dress modestly. We all need to be seeking the Holy Spirit and his guidance, not just trust our own logic and reasoning. “Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

  • Perry Pierce
    Posted at 17:53h, 20 August Reply

    Jason, good job. I’ve been waiting for this truth to make it out of the gate. I see the usual group jumping in to preserve that thousand year old error.
    In essence, Whosoever looks at a married woman to covet her had already committed adultery in his heart.

  • Andrew
    Posted at 09:52h, 07 September Reply

    Thank You ! you will also notice Jesus say her in his heart.”— While still a sin, there is a huge difference even by Jesus’ standard between that and actual adultery ! – How many of us have turned away last minute from continuing in a sinful thought just before we acted on it – adultery, hate, murder, theft- even though we wanted to do it in our hearts.– By the false belief that has been perpetuated for years –why not go ahead and commit the sin anyway if they are both the same– absolute stupidity! — A desire to look at a sexy woman is a built in desire for a man, controlling it is the key- Is Jesus trying to tell us every time someone has a momentary hateful thought that their sin is exactly the same as stabbing their neighbor to death? Of course not! acting on a sinful thought or rejecting it is the key.- Or else, why not commit the deed and at least get the reward if your just as guilty of the crime– see the stupidity?

  • Andrew
    Posted at 10:01h, 07 September Reply

    and… those that divorce their spouse because they struggle with pornography or similar but never actually committed physical adultery are actually committing real physical adultery—-Just an additional thought have you ever heard of a church asking an obese gluttonous eater pastor to step down? but one who struggles with pornography happens all the time- I have heard of churches condone a woman divorcing her husband for pornography but NEVER for refusing to have sex on regular basis with her husband- or reading a sexual novel (i.e. Danielle Steele) – quite a contradiction

  • john
    Posted at 14:20h, 20 September Reply

    Dear brothers from another mother….you spend so much study on interpretations and ignore the teaching….will you not listen to that teacher the Lord you serve has left you?….or will you continue to teach yourselves and lead each other to all end….do not push away..contradict or confuse the only teacher you will ever need that is within you….false teachings are common in this day but your conscience will bear witness to your study and struggle….to think that you will enter the kingdom of Heaven filled with carnal desires for those Holiest of sisters is absurd…come back to the struggle of all life…which wars against all members of your body….I know the agony and turmoil…the impure thoughts that assail you daily…especially you…those thoughts have been exposed and brought to light by the Holy Spirit…its alright to feel evil..that which we are….suffer awhile…deny these demons and they will leave you ..maybe not soon but they will….this is not you…never accept that lie…if you do not want something or think these things but continue to do so…. it is not you who do it!……do not be deceived….me myself since a child I have been afflicted with “lust”…after much study…trail and error …. i can honestly describe this lust as an “evil spirit”…..same as the ego…same as greed…same as envy…same as pride…it separates you from that holy Spirit of God…if the eye is polluted then how long till the whole body becomes engulfed and lead to destruction….die daily…deny yourself…be born again ….and one day you will be able to look at ANY woman and will never notice that which you desire but will look upon her soul …with a great compassion and concern …like your FATHER.

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 18:32h, 27 October Reply

      So you’re suggesting we should ignore what Jesus said and how he said it?

  • T D Carter
    Posted at 13:19h, 14 November Reply

    Hello Jason,Thank you for opening my understanding on this topic. I hope God will continue to bless you with interpeting his word.

    I read some comments asking you how can the use of the word adultery apply to singles since they are not married. My understanding of these comments are that they do not think lust/covet includes them. The word PORNEIA may help along with the fact singles can and do illicit sex from a married person in our culture today.


  • Jimmy Chitwood
    Posted at 07:42h, 19 November Reply

    Question: Why is it wrong for one desirously to view pictures of a naked person, to view videos of a couple having sex, or to masturbate while doing so? Let’s assume that the one doing the viewing is experiencing simple mental-physical stimulation or is fantasizing, but is not wanting or planning physically to possess the source of the stimulation. To simplify things, let’s further assume the couple being viewed is heterosexual and married to each other and has provided the video voluntarily,

  • Cesie Goode
    Posted at 12:23h, 26 November Reply

    Thank you Jason for your labor of love to share your knowledge of the Word of God with others.

  • Edward Perkins
    Posted at 02:46h, 04 January Reply

    If wife and woman are the same word in the Greek (it looks like they are from some cross checking on biblehub.com) does that mean woman could be translated wife here? Could this verse be talking only about coveting/desiring another man’s wife being adultery of the heart; not at all about single women? The connection from thought to action would much clearer then. Is this the case as you see it?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 20:26h, 07 January Reply

      Yes, I mentioned in the post that the term is probably best translated wife here.

  • Robert
    Posted at 16:41h, 04 January Reply


    Great article…a few thoughts….the passage goes from “Adultery in the Heart” to dealing drastically with sin (if your right eye causes you to sin…) to divorce is permissible only in the case of adultery. My question is that if if a spouse commits blatant “Adultery of the Heart” (i.e. pornography, sexual fantasy, masturbation) does this give the betrayed spouse a Biblical right to divorce according to this passage? If lust involves masturbation does this cross over to a physical act that now becomes adultery in the flesh so to speak because the act of masturbation is a physical act. Does the Greek make a distinction between adultery of the heart and adultery as a Biblical reason for divorce?

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 20:37h, 07 January Reply

      This is a complicated question, as Jesus is quite opposed to divorce, asserting that the other partner having broken the marriage contract is the only acceptable reason for divorce. Given the qualifier “in his heart” here, the look does not qualify as grounds for divorce, as the contract would not have been violated. However, there are conceivable cases in which addiction to pornography and/or masturbation might compromise a person’s fulfillment of the marriage contract, at which point divorce could potentially be defensible. So the short answer seems to be “no,” but there are conceivable exceptions to that answer.

    Posted at 02:59h, 15 January Reply

    An amorous thought instinctively made to covet a woman, is Perse not impermissible and in such situations the moral warning ” conscience is a watchdog that barks at sin” must awaken you from your depredations, otherwise a reasonable inference may be drawn that you are suffering from the vice of indiscretion SR. SANKU

  • Rodney
    Posted at 17:19h, 17 January Reply

    Is watching porn a sin

  • Dave B
    Posted at 00:04h, 21 January Reply

    If I may add a few thoughts on Matt 5:28. It is badly translated from a dualist perspective with other historical influences including courtly love, Mariolatry and mysticism. It would more accurately reflect Jesus’ words and harmonize with the Old Testament translated as: “But I say to you that whoever looks at another man’s wife to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    My reasoning:

    – “Gune” can only be another man’s wife to correspond to the use of “moicheuo”. It should not be a reference to all women, only those who are married. Jesus uses “pornao” in v 32 which would extend to all women, so he knows the difference and chooses His words carefully. Adultery in the OT and the NT (“moicheuo”) always refers to a married woman having sex with someone other than her husband. Porneo is used for fornication and related sexual sins.

    -epithumeo wich is translated “lust” is used elsewhere by Christ to mean “longed” Matt 13:7, Lk 15:16, desired Lk 16:21, Lk 17:22, and Lk 22:15. None of these uses have a sexual connotation – in fact, they are used as a positive desire. Thus the insertion of a word with a highly charged sexual connotation is the result of prejudice on the part of the translators.

    The amplification of the law that Jesus is highlighting is not expanding the object of desire from married woman to all women but to expand the understanding of coveting another man’s wife.

    Some examples: One way this coveting commonly happens is when a pastor desires the honor from the wives in the congregation that belong to their husbands. Some will belittle men, much to the pleasure of the women, or defend the sins of women and in the end, they receive not sex, but what belongs to another man none the less. This is coveting another man’s wife and is adultery of the heart. Same for counselors who assume headship of the family and authority over the husband and the wife. They have also taken authority (that belongs to the husband) over another man’s wife and coveted her submission which belongs to her husband; this is nothing short of treachery for God gave the command that she is to submit to her own husband and that the husband is the head of the home and he answers to God. But men covet the admiration of women, even another man’s woman.

    For too long Matt 5:28 has been used as a club to bludgeon male sexuality, it is time to fight against the mistranslation and not add to the law. In Matt 5:28, Jesus was protecting husbands and marriage, by condemning the non-sexual coveters with the same law that condemns the sexual- adulterer. it is time to stop using it to cut men off at the knees and enabling the destruction of marriage. Many shamefully use this verse as a basis for divorce – “my husband looked at a sexy woman, he committed heart adultery and adultery is justification to break my vows”, others to condemn the male sex drive. Both abuses weaken marriage and eviscerate the leadership role of the husband.

    • Michael Kitchens
      Posted at 14:51h, 06 February Reply

      Very well said!

  • Joe Pipkorn
    Posted at 00:19h, 17 February Reply

    Hi Jason,

    If sinful lust has to do with the will or with intent, does that mean that sexual fantasies are not examples of sinful lust if not accompanied by a willful intent to act on them?

  • Jerry Roland
    Posted at 11:40h, 20 February Reply

    OK, I have a little more complexity to add to my marriage and wife. My wife has implants which cause them to lose their natural motion. This in turn is a turn off and makes it difficult to stay aroused during sex. Is fantasizing about more natural breasts the same as lusting? I can see a yes and no. I desire more nature but do not want another woman.

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