Sermon on the Mount

Lust, Divorce & Vows

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs.

Matthew 5:27-37

27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made.' 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.


I think for many people, myself included, commitment is a scary word. I got a new phone contract last year and felt very stressed at the idea of being tied in for 24 months. What if the phone broke or my circumstances changed!?

Nevertheless, we have to make commitments all the time: jobs, contracts, renting flats, utilities, marriages, even simple things like meeting up with someone or going to their event or party.

Unfortunately, making commitments and keeping them are entirely different things.

In this passage, Jesus is speaking of God's righteousness, and is saying that faithfulness - fulfilling one’s commitments - is essential to who God is. But Jesus is also speaking to us as people called to mirror God. Our behaviour demonstrates how loving we are to others.

This is the heart of these passages: do we demonstrate our love for others in fulfilling our commitments?

A few thoughts:
Despite Jesus' strong use of imagery we are not supposed to mutilate ourselves when we lust. Jesus is exaggerating his point that we ought to go to any length imaginable to avoid lust and remain faithful to the person we are with.

Matthew writes equally directly about divorce. If divorce or separation is something that personally impacts you, please speak to someone. Know that as Christians we are always holding in balance the twin non-negotiable virtues of mercy and righteousness. 

Questions to reflect on:
Do other people consider you to be a person of your word? If you say you’re going to meet someone do you stick to it?

If not, why is that? Speak to God about what it feels like when you feel hemmed into a commitment.

Ask the Spirit for the strength to keep your commitments. We need God's faithfulness to we can be faithful to others

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