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 lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27,28
We all have some destructive behavior with which we’ve struggled that has caused us significant misery. We’ve tried to stop, and despite the negative consequences, we’ve continued to do it. That’s the definition of addiction.
In my drug addiction, I became so preoccupied with getting and using the drug, that I could think of little else. I grew so enslaved to the pill that I transformed into someone I hated, someone who was willing to sacrifice faith, family, and career just for the drug. The outward manifestations of my addiction were eventually obvious enough that I could hide it no longer.
The addiction Christ addressed in today’s passage though, is often more insidious, secretly hiding the shadows of our minds for years. Jesus taught that it wasn’t only adultery that was destructive, but took it one radical step further, insisting that simply fantasizing about adultery was destructive.
Lust feeds our pleasure center as surely as any drug, and easily becomes an obsessive thought to which we enslaved ourselves. In our preoccupation with lust, we cannot pursue faith or God, as we cannot seek good and evil at the same time. As the addiction grows, we become willing to risk more and more, seeking out pornography or inappropriate relationships, at the risk of our marriage.
But it’s only a thought! It’s only in my mind. I’ve never actually slept with another woman! Jesus insisted though, that what goes on in our hearts and minds is of profound importance. Faith, recovery, and eternal life in Christ, are all mental experiences that cannot coincide with our evil, lustful thoughts. When we indulge in lust, we turn our back on God, evicting him from our thought life. This is addiction and it is the mortal enemy of faith.
The painful truth is, we have churches full of individuals who say they follow Christ, but who are paralyzed in their spiritual growth due to an addictive, lustful thought life. If we want to live the life of faith and recovery, we must recognize the addictive nature of our lust. Then, we must do whatever it takes to abandon it to pursue authentic joy and life in God.