I have been very grateful to Jehovah for the many blessings he has given me. One of them was the help he gave me in making many changes in my life as I was learning about him and forming a friendship. I had to overcome many bad personal habits in this journey to live by his standards and I am thankful that for the most part I was able to “turn the page” and put on a new personality piece by piece. One of the largest struggles I had was in quitting cigarettes. Oh how that was a struggle, including a day where I thought I was losing my mind. That’s a story for another time, but suffice it to say thoughts like “so this is how it happens” crossed my mind thinking of that Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down”. I really thought I was having a mental break, but managing to avoid murder for a day when I got home I realized my patch had came off and in a split second was so relieved that my sanity was intact and it was just a chemical withdrawl. I don’t know that you can fully explain how bad it is to someone who hasn’t quit a chemical addiction. The withdraw is really that bad.
Those things that I was blessed with help so early on were mostly exterior actions I was trying to change, things I was doing I wanted to stop or things I wasn’t doing that I wanted to start. One by one I was able to make changes. I can say to this day I don’t crave a cigarette, nor many of the other habits that I let go. So what does this have to do with Matthew 5:27-28? Lets start with what it says:
“You heard that it was said: ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart..Matthew 5:27-28
I remember the first time I read that and it hit me like a ton of bricks. You mean to tell me these thoughts are equivalent to adultery, to actually sleeping with another woman? This just goes to show how different God’s laws are from this world. There is a saying “It’s okay to look at the menu, just don’t order anything”, but we see here how different Jehovah looks at matters. Talk about a real punch in the gut, I remember feeling like I was doing well then when I read this I realized externally I was making all the right changes but internally I was still the same man.
It’s been a while and I’ve made some progress in “looking at the menu” but I’m sure it’s a life long process. You may be surprised that this isn’t the point of this post. Wait, what? Yes, there’s more to it! As I mature spiritually these old scriptures come back to me with new meaning. One of the things you start to understand is that God’s word doesn’t cover every possible scenario you can imagine. How could it, the infinite number of things the free will Jehovah gave us would make an infinite number of pages needed to cover every situation with a “rule”. God’s smarter than this. Instead, he provides his word to give us guiding principles we can apply to our life. You may wonder then, what principal does Matthew 5:27-28 bring? I’m glad you asked.
So we see how “You can look at the menu, just don’t order anything” doesn’t line up with the principal that if you look at a woman so as to have a passion you have already committed adultery in your heart. But what about, say, thinking about harming someone? Why does this matter? Case in point, when I was driving home the other day and a little Honda cut me off and you know what I was thinking? Yeah I was thinking of some creative ways to make him pay for his action. Of course I didn’t flip him the bird, I didn’t shout anything at him (I did mumble under my breath!) and I certainly wasn’t going to follow through with my thoughts, but they were there and I admit that I found some joy in them. Then I think about this scripture! Oh my, miserable man that I am!
Is there a point to this post? Yes. As we are reading through scriptures, written in a time long before ours, it’s easy to sometimes think they are antiquated and that they don’t apply to us, here, today. But God’s principals don’t change. In God’s law there are many scriptures about the customs of ancient Jews long past, but the principals are still applicable. These principals can help guide us through our lives, now thousands of years later, and are just as relevant today as they were when they were written. They didn’t have internet, but you can find principals that apply to how we use it. They didn’t have COVID-19, but there are scriptures that can help us keep safe and sane during this pandemic. This is part of the beauty of a law filled with principals. The times, the places, the countries, the people, even the language changes but God’s principals do not.