Scripture: Matthew 5:27-37
Observation: Jesus addresses adultery, divorce, and making vows. He makes it clear that sin isn’t simply about what you do or don’t do; it starts with your motives -- what's happening in your heart.
Application: Anyone remember the commercial with a brother and sister in the backseat of a car, and one of them was sticking their finger in the other one’s face while cajoling “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you”? (A very thorough Google search turned up almost zero results, which made me think I might be making this commercial up… but thanks to my Google ninja skills, I found an ancient message board circa 2005 that confirmed this was a real thing from Sunny D back in the day. We all know you can’t put things on the internet that aren’t true, so there’s that…)
We’ve all had the “I’m not touching you” person in our lives. When we’re younger, the “I’m not touching you” person is the sibling in the commercial, their finger only a millimeter away from our face, so they can claim that they’re technically not touching us. But as we get older, the “I’m not touching you” person isn’t quite so obvious. They’re the person who technically doesn’t lie, but also doesn’t tell the whole truth. They’re the person who technically doesn’t miss a deadline, but does a last-minute, sub-par job on a project they’ve claimed to be working on for weeks. They’re the person who technically doesn’t have an affair, but they talk to that person at the office, think about them much more than they should.
I’ve been the technically person at times, assuming that the technicality will keep me safe and on moral high ground. Maybe you’ve been a “technically” person too, reading through the Bible, scouring the ten commandments, and proudly declaring yourself righteous because you haven’t physically murdered anyone or cheated on your spouse or stolen from your neighbor. That’s good enough, right?
We couldn’t be more wrong.
It turns out that technicalities don’t fly in the Kingdom of God. In this section, Jesus talks about three topics – adultery, divorce, and vows – and addresses the technicalities of the law versus the importance of our heart motives. Many of these people were living by the law – performing all the technically right actions on the outside – but their motives were messed up.
Jesus isn’t simply interested in what we do; he’s interested in who we’re becoming.
Sin starts in our hearts far before it ever shows up in our actions.
I love how The Message paraphrases these verses from Jesus:
“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices – they’re also corrupt.” (v. 27-28)
Sin starts in our hearts – and Jesus calls us to a radical separation of sin. (Just re-read verses 29-30 – if that’s not radical, I don’t know what it is.)
Walking his will means we stop pretending that our technicalities and rule following will get us to heaven. It means confessing the ugliest parts of ourselves that would be easier to hide than to reveal. It means paying attention to motives and embracing the mess.
The only thing harder than living a technically right life is living a vulnerable, exposed, fully submitted one.
The reward for living a technically-right life is temporary affirmation for a job well done, a reward that quickly unravels when we inevitably mess up. But the reward for living a vulnerable, exposed, fully submitted life is eternal affirmation from the One who loves us for who we are and not what we do.
What kind of life do you want to live?
Prayer: God, I come to you to confess everything in me that’s messed up, everything that falls short of your best for me. I pray you’ll help me hold on to the eternal affirmation you offer, rather than chasing after my own temporary affirmation. Help me lay every part of my life down to you today. Amen.