Matthew 5:27–37 (NKJV)
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
This next series of antitheses revolve around relationships that involve promises. Jesus starts by discussing adultery, which is one of the most damaging breaches of promise. The conventional definition of adultery involves a physical sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse. Jesus, continuing His pattern of speech (You have heard it said…but I say to you) by telling the hearer that adultery is more than just having a physical affair.
The now-infamous discussion of the definition of sex from one of our previous presidents demonstrates the truly uncertain nature of our culture’s ethical system. Jesus makes it clear, though, that not only our overt actions, but also our thought life is under scrutiny when it comes to sexual sin. While it is not necessarily sin to be tempted, it is sin to contemplate and fantasize about someone other than your spouse. Jesus uses oriental hyperbole here to demonstrate just how serious this situation really is. If you eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If you hand causes you to sin, cut it off. While Jesus did not literally mean to maim yourself, He does use this extreme instruction to demonstrate just how seriously this sin can damage a relationship and one’s walk with God. Keep your mind holy as well as your body. You are promised to your spouse, so do not break that promise by sleeping with another, whether literally or mentally.
31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
Jesus then speaks to the promise of marriage in general. The law said that a man could divorce his wife if he gave her a cerificate of divorce. This patriarchal practice of a man having the authority in marriage is an issue in this discussion, but even if we remove the somewhat oppressive nature of that culture’s male-dominated social structure, we see that marriage is not to be ended flippantly or for the cause of convenience. Jesus calls casual divorcees adulterers. If you just walk away from a marriage without cause, you are guilty of unfaithfulness and you sin. Be faithful to your promise.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Finally, Jesus speaks to the general practice of making promises or making oaths. While this was a common practice to seal an agreement, Jesus says that Christians should not even make oaths or swear. The law said not to break an oath or swear falsely. Jesus said to live in such a way that you do not need to swear. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Be so faithful to your word that you do not need to swear. That is the faithfulness to one’s word that God requires. God is faithful, so we must be faithful. Keep your promises. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Be faithful to your spouse mentally and physically and fulfill your marital promises all the days of your life. This is God’s will and purpose for you!
Artwork from https://www.writingforhisglory.com/blog---talking-with-jesus/adultery-in-the-heart-matthew-527-30 and http://theverseoftheweek.blogspot.com/2013/05/covenant-eyes-matthew-527-28.html