In exposing the fallacies of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus begins by showing the broad application of the 6th and 7th commandments.  It appears that the religious intelligentsia of that day had reduced the commandments to little more than their surface appearance.  If one man killed another, then he stood in danger of the judgment, and he was in danger of the council if he said, “Raca,” meaning “empty-headed fellow,” to his brother.  But the Lord Jesus shows that God meant much more by the law, “Thou shalt not kill.”  He who was angry against his brother without just cause stood in danger of the judgment, which I interpret to mean God’s judgment.  And in even stronger language, the Lord affirms that whoever blasts his brother as a fool will be in danger of hellfire.  This puts a severe warning upon us to guard both our tongues and our hearts.  Unjust anger always begins in the heart, and most often it is eventually vomited out of the mouth in hateful, bitter language.  Each one of us no doubt has much to grieve and repent over on this account, as we think of the grudges we have nursed, the bitterness we have permitted to linger, and the insults that have too often proceeded from our lips.  There is a time and a place to harbor anger against sin and ungodliness.  But we must keep a strong check upon those passions, lest it spill over into a self-centered, self-righteous bitterness, which does no good for ourselves or for the target of our bitterness.  This is why Christ urges us in the strongest terms possible to seek reconciliation with our personal enemies.  We cannot even worship aright when we are estranged from our brethren.  Therefore, it behooves us as Christians to do everything within our means to effect a reconciliation when there is a division between us and a fellow Christian.  It may be they will refuse to be reconciled, and the fence cannot be mended.  But if we have attempted to honor our Lord by striving for reconciliation, it is the duty of our counterpart to respond in a Christ-honoring manner.  We are responsible for our own conduct, not that of others.  But if it is we ourselves who through stubbornness and deep-seated bitterness reject the entreaties of a fellow believer seeking to be reconciled to us, then it is we who will suffer under the judgment of God until we have paid the uttermost farthing.

The same principle holds true with the 7th commandment.  Apparently the scribes and Pharisees had reduced it to little more than requiring sexual fidelity between spouses.  And, in fact, this superficial interpretation had done little to improve the morals of themselves or the people, because Christ justly accused them of being an “adulterous generation.”  Our Lord Jesus shows that adultery begins not when one starts a tryst with one not his spouse, but that the law was violated when one simply looked upon a woman and lusted.  We ought to be careful here, and rightly divide the word of truth.  It is not sinful to look on a woman, or even to be attracted by her physical beauty.  It is a sin, however, to indulge licentious thoughts about that woman, desiring sexual contact with a person to whom we have no right.  This also makes it incumbent upon women to protect their male fellow believers by carefully and discreetly concealing those parts which are most likely to incite lust in a man.  A woman who exposes her legs or her cleavage, who wears form-fitting shirts, pants, or skirts, is only inviting men to commit adultery with her in their hearts, if not in the body.  And men, being sexual perverts inwardly if not outwardly, are all too delighted by let the lust of the eyes run rampant.  This is a struggle for even the soundest of Christian man.  It is for this cause that Job made a covenant with his eyes not to think upon a maid.  We must turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, whether it be an immodest woman in the church house, or the scantily clad harlots who adorn the covers of magazines so prominently displayed even in the supermarket.  This is our duty as men.  It is the sober duty of Christian women (guided by righteous fathers and husbands) to smother that fire of lust that is always smoldering in the hearts of men by dressing so modestly as to not expose the curves and shapes of her form that excite their unholy attentions.

The believer in Christ must forsake everything that would distract him from the service of his Lord.  “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee.”  Our affections must be wholeheartedly turned towards Christ.  But we must still live in this world, live in families, hold down our jobs, eat and drink.  There are many lawful pleasures which we may enjoy in this world.  But all of these must be kept secondary to Christ.  If they in any way prevent us from worshipping God aright, then we must put them away.  We must be willing to endure the enmity of those we love the best, rather than disobey Christ.

But here I think He refers in particular to such sins as he has been discussing.  Sinful lusts and passions must be crucified upon the altar of service to Jesus Christ.  Our dearest lusts, whatever they may be, if they deter us from performing what Christ has commanded, then they must be put away.  When stationed in Mexico after the successful conclusion of the war, Thomas Jackson (the future “Stonewall”) often visited a hospitable Mexican family, in which there were two lovely daughters.  Eventually, the pious Jackson informed the father that he could no longer visit their home.  The father concernedly asked why, wondering if they had offended, but Jackson replied that his daughters were too attractive, and he could not further expose himself to the desires the presence of those young women kindled in him.  Though so far as we know there was no sinful action performed either by the hosts or by Jackson himself, yet that godly man was willing to cut off from himself something greatly enjoyable because it exposed him to temptations and sin in his heart, which he could not justify before God.  This is an excellent example of plucking out the right eye, or cutting off the right hand.  Let us flee from the presence of temptation, then, lest it get the better of us, and our whole body be cast into hell.

Christ teaches also on divorce, something which had been corrupted by some of the Jewish doctors, who believed and taught a form of no fault divorce.  But the Lord Jesus corrects this ignorant corruption of the Mosaic law, based upon the rather vague statement of Deuteronomy 24:1.  It is quite clear, having already seen the high esteem in which our Lord held the law, that He is not dispensing with that commandment.  The uncleanness which Moses mentions must have been a sexual uncleanness, for the purpose of Christ here is not to annul certain precepts in the law, but rather to clarify their true intent.  The true intent of God’s law, going back even beyond Moses into the primeval history of man, is that divorce is unacceptable for either husband or wife, except on the grounds of unfaithfulness.  Although the declaration, “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commiteth adultery,” has given rise to much debate and discussion, at the very least we see in what great sanctity our Lord held the marriage state.  They who break it lightly are guilty of a great crime against the law of God, and also against their unoffending spouse.