“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. 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.
Of course we shouldn’t commit adultery, but Jesus as usual takes it to the next level. What Jesus is saying is that lusting itself is the bondage mechanism. Adultery was punishable by death in His culture, and so equating lusting to adultery was pretty serious. I think that’s why He brings up hell. He is really trying to tell us how serious it is.
When we lust we are dehumanizing the other person, we turn that other person into an object in our mind’s eye. Lust turns people into something we simply consume.
What is Jesus’s answer to this problem? Gouging out your eye! Now don’t go tearing out your eyeballs just yet. What He is saying is that you have to radically change the way you see. You can’t look at other people as objects. You have to give up the mind games we call fantasy. How hard would it be to give up your fantasy life? Probably almost as hard as it would be to tear out your own eye. It requires discipline and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
You have to realize that fantasy has nothing to do with the world or real relationships that we live in. I am convinced that relationship is the core of life. Just as God is a perfect relationship of the three persons of the Trinity, everything is about relationship. Jesus’s primary teachings are all about how to live in relationship with God and our fellow humans. Salvation comes from our relationships. So right relationships are critical. How can you treat another person as you would treat yourself if you think of them as objects? This is the real sin. Jesus, as John the Baptist says, strikes at the root of the problem. He isn’t going after the symptoms, but the real cause of the problem.