14 – You shall not commit adultery.
27- “You have heard that it was said: ‘Do 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.”
A couple weeks ago Sue and I were bicycling south on the tow path of the C & O Canal. Not long into our ride we came to a familiar detour just below Great Falls that routed us to the eastern side of the canal and we obediently took it but on the return route I just had to ignore it. You see, I don’t like being detoured. When I read a warning that says
something in me wonders if it is really not better to just ignore it and proceed ahead. I had seen this particular detour on the tow path for a couple years so I thought to myself,
“That sign probably isn’t valid. The work is probably already done and they just forgot to take the signs down.”
So on the way home I convinced Sue to ignore the detour and to stay on themain trail. And for a while it was great…beautiful scenery with spectacular vistas…but after a couple miles we came to a place on the trail-where there WAS no trail. Instead there was about 100 yards of huge boulders and sharp rocks so rough that we had to pick up our bikes and carry them. I quickly realized that I shouldn’t have ignored those detour signs!
But you know-all of us are somewhat like that. We don’t like to be told we can’t do something. If we see a sign on a door that says
“Do Not Enter,”
our first inclination is to at least take a peek inside to see what all the fuss is about.I’ve been in museums and come upon exhibits displaying priceless artifacts that are covered with fingerprints — in spite of the sign below it that says,
“DO NOT TOUCH.”
We don’t like rules or detours or commands. We didn’t like them as children and the truth is we don’t like them much as adults either. Words like
“thou shalt not”
sound harsh in our ears. Perhaps this is one reason there has been such opposition as of late to posting the ten commandments in schools and courtrooms. People look at them as 10
that they would prefer to ignore. I came across this anonymous quote recently,
“Everybody looks for different things in the Ten Commandments. Some look for Divine guidance, some look for a code to live by…but most of us are looking for loopholes.”
And we DO look for loophles….we seek ways around these ten tender guidelines from God.
No doubt this is a character trait that we inherited from our first parents: Adam and Eve-whose questioning of God’s FIRST rule cost mankind so dearly.
Today we’re examining the seventh of these commands or rules….where God has lovingly provided us with a detour around the trail that leads to the painful destination known as adultery.
Now, the word
comes from the term
which means to contaminate or make impure…and an individual makes himself or herself impure when he or she doesn’t heed this command and violate their marriage vows. Leviticus 18:20 says,
“Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile-or contaminate-yourself with her.”
In a New York church’s Sunday School children were studying the Ten Commandments one a week like we are. And each week the children would bring home an illustrated card that dramatized one of the Ten Commandments. The first week showed people worshiping at church. Another week, to illustrate,
“Thou Shalt Not Kill,”
the card pictured Cain in the act of slaying Abel.
Well, some parents began to kind of dread the picture that would come home the seventh week. They anxiously wondered how the publishers would illustrate the act of adultery. But fortunately, tact prevailed. Under the caption,
“Thou shalt not commit adultery”
was a picture of a dairyman, leering villainously, as he poured a huge pail of water into a can of milk. And this illustration wasn’t too far off the mark for, adultery is anything that weakens or contaminates the exclusivity of our marriage vows.
The Los Angeles Times (March 1, 1998) published the following definition of adultery submitted by one of it’s readers:
“Adultery is when you participate in the type of close behavior with someone who is not your spouse, and you would not want your spouse to behave likewise with someone else.”
And I kind of like that one for, in my opinion, adultery is much more than improper physical relations with someone other than your spouse. Adultery is anything you do that threatens your spouse’s trust of you….any behavior that weakens your relationship with her or him. It is any action that gets you closer to another person than you are to your mate. I had a good friend who destroyed his marriage because he had a female friend with whom he would pray alone regularly about things that he would not discuss with his wife. He let this other woman get closer to him in the intimacy of prayer than he did his own wife and this adulterated….or fatally weakened….their marriage relationship.
Now, thinking this way about marriage is not popular these days. I could be considered prudish or old-fashioned. Its pretty obvious that our culture today does not embrace God’s seventh commandment. You may be aware that the first edition of the King James Bible was published in 1611. What you may NOT be aware of is that in an edition that came out in 1631 the printer made a mistake that was possibly the most SCANDALOUS mistake in the history of the printing press. The word
was left out of the seventh commandment so it read,
“Thou SHALT commit adultery.”
Thereafter the 1631 edition came to be known as
“the Wicked Bible.”
When the mistake was discovered, every copy was promptly withdrawn from the public and King James FINED the printer, Robert Barker, 300 pounds-a lot of money in those days. But you know, when I look at our society today, it makes me think that ole King James must have missed a few copies. Because, many people today live as if they leave the word
out of the 7th commandment. A large segment of our society has promoted the idea that ANYTHING is okay between two consenting adults.
I read last month about a new service in England that is designed to keep adulterers from being caught. Its called,
“THE ALIBI AGENCY”
and it works like this: you pay a small fee (around $30 dollars for membership) and another fee each time you use the service. For this price the agency will help you cheat on your significant other. Need an excuse to get out of the house? They’ll send a bogus letter to your door, summoning you to an equally bogus business convention. Worried that your spouse will try and call you at the convention? Not a problem. Just give him or her the phone number provided by the service. It will ring up a special receptionist who will make it sound as if this is, indeed, the hotel where the convention is meeting.
They’ll lie that you’re out of the room or not answering, then call you wherever you are with the message. On it’s Web site, the Alibi Agency says all this is to
“protect your loved ones from undue anxiety and help to ensure the stability of a long-term relationship.”
In less than a year, the agency claims it had 18,000 clients internationally and had made over a million dollars in membership fees alone. Adultery is big business these days. It has become an activity that has somehow lost all of it’s societal taboos.
In the past forty years, we’ve gone from a culture in which TV programs were not permitted to show husbands and wives sleeping in the same bed to the soap operas of today in which 94% of every sexual activity is between partners who are not married or not married to each other. In the June 9, 1997 issue of The New York Times a sociologist is quoted as saying,
“Data indicates that the vast majority of Americans think adultery is wrong, pure and simple….about 80% feel this way. But the interesting thing is that more people think adultery is wrong than have been faithful. People think adultery is wrong the way they think it’s good to be thin, yet they lack the will power to keep off the weight.”
Our culture has come to the point that it glamorizes, defends, and promotes adultery. Katie Roiphe writes for the New York Times Magazine and says,
“Women’s magazines practically recommend [adultery] to their readers as a fun and healthy activity, like buying a new shade of lipstick or vacationing in the Caribbean.”
Even religious groups seem to ignore God’s commandments when it comes to sex. In a survey of 20,000 church members of one denomination 70% said that a person can embrace a homosexual or lesbian lifestyle and still be a growing Christian. In another denomination the chairman of a controversial committee on human sexuality said that the committee did not consider marriage to be the only valid context for sexual expression.
So it seems as if the WICKED BIBLE has appeared again but this time it is not a mistake and no one seems to be upset about it.
You may remember that when we began this study I said that God’s commands are given to both protect us from harm…and to provide us with His best.
Well this morning I want us to apply this principle to this detour sign from God and ask ourselves how obeying the 7th commandment protects us from harm while at the same time providing God’s best for us. Let’s begin by looking at the ways this command protects us.
1. First of all obeying this commandment….heeding this detour….keeps us from being hurt physically or emotionally.
You see adultery literally hurts people…but we rarely hear that out in the world these days. This is because Satan is very much like an unprincipled used car salesman…who will do anything to get us to purchase a car that we cannot possibly afford. When it comes to adultery he doesn’t want us to think beyond
He doesn’t want us to consider the painful cost of our actions. He doesn’t want us to think about the consequences or look down the road we will travel if we ignore this detour from God. He doesn’t want us to calculate how many payments we will be making for the rest of our lives: payments of loneliness and regret….payments of destroyed families and shattered marriages. He would rather not have us understand the pain that will come with this sin. One experienced marriage counselor took the time to actually list the agonizing consequences of yielding to the temptation of adultery. Here’s what he came up with: * I will inflict untold hurt on my wife, who is my best friend and has been faithful to me. I will lose her respect, love, and trust. I will destroy my beloved daughters. All their lives, they will hurt if I do this. I might lose my wife and children forever. I will shame my family….my parents….my siblings. I will destroy my example and credibility….others may follow my example and yield to this sin. I will lose my own self-respect. (Though God could forgive me, could I ever forgive myself?) I could form memories and flashbacks that plague future intimacy with my spouse. I could cause a pregnancy that would be a lifelong reminder of my sin.
You possibly can think of things to add to this list because the road to adultery is a road to unbelievable pain and anguish.
Much of today’s liberal philosophy about sex outside of marriage is fruit of the sexual liberation movement of the 60’s that taught that sex is simply another appetite to be fulfilled. When we’re hungry, we simply pull up to a Taco Bell or a McDonalds and take care of that appetite in five minutes.
So, if you have a sexual appetite you should find a way to fill it. But something happens when you adopt that philosophy. Instead of being filled the opposite happens. You have a sense of profound emptiness and loneliness. And God wants to protect us from this emotional harm by giving us this law. According to Dr. Lana Staneli, author of a book on marital triangles,
“of those who break up their marriage to marry someone else, 80% are sorry later. Of those who do marry their lover, which is only about 10%, about 70% get another divorce. Of the 25-30% who stay married, only half of them are happy.”
So adultery is anything but a route to happiness and bliss.
And not only does adultery inflict emotion damage. It can also cause people to suffer physical harm. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says that women are 5 to 11 times more likely to develop cervical cancer if they or their husbands have numerous sexual partners. This form of cancer is directly linked to a virus known as HPV that is spread through intercourse. And this is only one of numerous life-threatening STD’s that are spread in this way.
Proverbs 6:32 says,
“A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.”
And scientific research is proving this to be true.
Now of course Satan doesn’t want us to realize the incredibly painful price of this particular sin.
One of his tactics is to use Hollywood and mass media to make adultery look romantic and exciting-fulfilling and even funny. Producers surround it with laughter and beautiful music-at the same time they carefully airbrush away the inevitable shame, deceit, betrayal, and pain. People who watch these weekly make-believe encounters begin to think,
“My life is dull…so unromantic…maybe an affair is what I need.”
I remember seeing an old classic biblical epic entitled
“David and Bathsheeba”
and it portrayed their adultery as a tragic but romantically wonderful love affair. They showed silk sheets and marble tubs and a palace with servants…but they never told what happened in the remaining years of David’s life because of this sin.
Proverbs 6 says,
“Do not lust in your heart after [the beauty of an immoral woman] or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife…”
Adultery hurts. It causes incredible emotional and even physical pain.
2. And….not only does it hurt individuals or families….adultery can also negatively impact an entire culture.
J, D. Unwin was a British social anthropologist who spent seven years studying the births and deaths of 80 different societies. His studies showed that all civilizations begin with strong moral principles and strong family values but that, in time, these principles deteriorated and this led to the destruction of that civilization. Dr. Unwin stated that when a man is devoted to one woman and one family, he is motivated to build, protect, save, plan, and prosper on their behalf. However, when his sexual interests are dispersed and generalized, his effort is invested in the gratification of his own sensual desires. Then he spends all his time trying to satisfy self and as a result he neglects his family. Dr. Unwin concluded,
“Any human society is free either to display great energy or to enjoy sexual freedom. The evidence is that they cannot do both for more than one generation.”
And America is not likely to be the first nation to prove this wrong. There is strong historical precedent that our country won’t fall because of a lack of military might or due to attack from outside forces but rather to an adulteration or weakening of the family.
3. But you know, perhaps the most grievous consequence of ignoring this detour is that it alienates us from God.
You see, according to the Bible, God invented sexuality. It wasn’t something that we came up with.
No, the gift of sex was presented to mankind by God Himself. In the book of Genesis, after God created the universe it says, that He created man as,
“male and female.”
So there is nothing dirty or ugly about sex between a husband and wife. Hebrews 13:4 says,
“Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed is undefiled.”
But, the fact that God invented or designed sex also means that there is a spiritual dimension to it. If you leave out the spiritual aspect of sex, you lower it to the animal level. And I think all people know this…deep down inside. When people disobey this commandment they naturally tend to shy away from talking with God in prayer. They shrink back from worshiping Him and they tend to stop reading their Bible. They stop interacting with Christian friends who’s moral lifestyle only accentuates their own sin. As a result, their spiritual life shrivels away as their heart turns numb and indifferent toward God.
So you see the act of adultery alienates us from the God Who loves us. And of course this pleases Satan. You see, Scripture records that the home and the church are the two institutions ordained by God on earth to visibly model His love. And it is of course in Satan’s interest to mar and disfigure both of these models.
So when it comes to improper sexual desires we must not forget that,
“…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 .
Now,God wants to protect us. He doesn’t want us or our families hurt physically or emotionally. He doesn’t want to see cultures and nations destroyed. And most of all He doesn’t want anything to weaken our relationship with Him. As I said a few minutes ago, one reason God has given us this command is to protect us from all this pain but, as in His giving of all these tender commands,
4. He has ALSO done so provide His best for us.
An intimate relationship between a man and woman committed to each other as husband and wife for life far outshines all other forms of intimacy. You know, there is a misconception in the world today that monogamous Christians are somehow sexually repressed; that sex within God’s guidelines is somehow not as
….that if you follow God’s rules and regulations in this area you miss out in some way. But this is simply not true. Obeying God in this arena provides us with the purest form of pleasure-and this makes sense! After all God designed these
including their sexual systems. God created us in such a way that husband and wife can experience a oneness which is impossible for a man and woman otherwise. His will is that husbands and wives would enjoy a vital, regular, and mutually satisfying physical relationship. If you doubt this then read the Song of Solomon! I once heard that the difference between a conservative Christian and a liberal Christian is that conservatives believe the creation account in Genesis is literal and the Song of Solomon is symbolic and liberals believe the creation account in Genesis is symbolic and the Song of Solomon is literal.
Well I must be a true moderate because I believe both are literal. God is pro-sex. He designed it and it is wonderful when it is done within the context of His commands. The latest research by social scientists is confirming over and over again that this is true. A study published in 1994 by the University of Chicago came up with the following conclusions: * married couples reported being the most physically pleased and emotionally satisfied. the lowest rate of sexual satisfaction was among single men and women…the very ones presumed to be having the hottest sex. The group having the most sex is not the young and footloose but the old and married. Physical and emotional satisfaction started to decline when people had more than one sexual partner.
These scientists admitted being especially surprised when their data revealed that the most consistently sexually-satisfied women in the country were conservative Protestants. (All of whom had a greater & more pleasing sex life than did those with no religious affiliation!) Again and again there has been independent confirmation like this by social scientists that God’s plan for our sexuality really does make sense. It really is the best. His detour signs don’t bind us! They liberate us to experience intimacy in it’s most fulfilling form.
So I guess you could say that the best sex is
sex which is only found between one man and one woman united in holy marriage.
Well how can we avoid the sin of adultery? What are some catalysts that lead to this sinful act? Ron Mehl suggests three:
5. And the first is simple immaturity.
Babies naturally come into the world demanding that their needs be met. We expect this from infants but sometimes people never outgrow this immaturity and they go into a marriage selfishly expecting their spouse to meet all their needs. This is seen in the way that people tend to define love. Some say that love is based on PASSION:
“I’m empty without you, but if I can have you, I’ll be fulfilled and satisfied.”
Others say love is based on NEED:
“I need you and I’ll never make it if I don’t have you.”
But six months from now, they find themselves
someone else. Both of these definitions of love are selfish and immature. Biblical love-love that will enable you to steer clear of adultery is based on a firm commitment not to your needs but rather to meet your spouse’s needs. The whole purpose of this kind of love is to serve, satisfy, and fulfill the person to whom you’ve committed your life. One of the chief falsehoods in Satan’s great Encyclopedia of Lies is that love is a
But that is a selfish concept. Love is not a feeling. It’s an act of the will. It may certainly produce wonderful feelings-as do many other of God’s blessings in our lives. But genuine love is still love when you wake up in the morning and don’t feel anything at all. Love is a selfless commitment to the other person no matter how you feel.
Think about it: was it a warm, fuzzy feeling that kept Jesus on the cross? Is it a feeling that causes Him to love and forgive us when we fail? No, it is His love for us…His commitment to meet our deepest need.
So if you want to avoid the pain of adultery in your life then grow up and avoid selfishness. Commit yourself to meeting your spouses needs and not your own. A by-product of this kind of commitment will be a TRUE joy. And then a second catalyst for adultery is….
6. Unrealistic expectations.
We often put pressure on our spouses believing that they are the ones who are going to satisfy us, fulfill us, and meet every need that we have. But God-not your spouse-is the only one who can meet our deepest needs. He is the only true Satisfier in life. There is no man or woman in the world who can fill all the empty places in your heart. Ask King Solomon.He had a thousand wives and who knows how many concubines, yet he ended up saying,
“everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
(Ecclesiastes 2:11 ) He discovered that only the Lord God can fill the vacuum in a human heart. Do you remember his conclusion after considering all this? In Ecclesiastes 12:13 he said,
“Fear God and keep His commandments.”
He came to realize that this is the only thing that makes us feel whole.
So don’t expect your wife or husband to do what only God can do. To do so is to invite problems into any relationship. The emptiness you feel just may be due to the fact that you aren’t walking close enough to God. And then a third thing that often leads to adultery is…
7. A Lack of nurture
At the marriage alter brides and grooms make a commitment to love and cherish one another.
But when they don’t follow through on this both marriage partners suffer….when they do both benefit. Some time ago, I read about a man named Johnny Lingo who lived on a Pacific island.
The people of this little island had a unique custom: when a young man found a girl he wanted to marry, he paid his future father-in-law a certain number of cows for the daughter’s hand.
Now, two to three cows could buy you an average, perfectly adequate wife. Four or five cows could get you a highly satisfactory one.
Well, Johnny loved a girl named Sarita. And Sarita had always been very plain. She was thin, her shoulders were hunched over and she walked with her head ducked down. Yet Johnny paid Sarita’s father eight cows for her hand. The islanders said to one another,
“Eight cows? This is ridiculous. He got cheated.”
This transaction was the talk of the community. A visitor who had heard of the eight-cow betrothal came to Johnny’s house to do some business with him. As they were talking Sarita, entered the room to set a vase of flowers on the table. And it seemed to the visitor that the flowers weren’t nearly as fresh and beautiful and vibrant as the wife of Johnny Lingo. She was not at all like the Sarita he had heard about. She was one of the loveliest women he had ever seen. There was something in the lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, and the sparkle of her eyes. Johnny noticed his guest’s wide-eyed response to his wife. When Sarita had left the room Johnny said to his guest,
“Have you ever thought about what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband had settled on the lowest price for which she could be bought? Did you ever wonder what it must feel like to her, when the women boast of what their husband paid for them? One says, ‘Four cows,’ another ‘five cows,’ or maybe even ‘six cows.’ How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two? I decided this must not happen to my Sarita,”
“I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman. I wanted Sarita to be happy…but I wanted even more than that. I wanted her and everyone else to know that she is worth more than any other woman to me.”
Johnny Lingo was a wise man!
Because of his desire to nurture his wife’s self worth she became the most beautiful woman on the island.
Now I don’t think you women would feel complimented to be bought by your husband….much less by any number of cows but this story illustrates an important principle: Nurturing the needs of your spouse takes a lot of work…it is costly…but it is worth it. When you love and care for someone you build in the person the capacity to do the same. He or she learns to love you, think of you, pamper you, and put you first too. And as Christians we must remember that putting the needs of our spouse before our own needs is following Jesus’ example. He showed beyond a shadow of a doubt how much He cherished or esteemed you and me. I Peter 1:18-19 says,
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ…a lamb without blemish or defect.”
Now,what if you have broken this rule? What if you have ignored God’s detour signs around this sin? Remember Jesus said that even lusting in our hearts is adultery! So I dare say none of us are innocent before this commandment.
Well what can we do if we have failed in this area? First, make a decision to repent and confess your sin to the Lord. Agree with Him that what you have done is wrong. Remember, repent means to change course…to admit you are headed in the wrong direction…to turn and follow God’s route. Then, secondly accept His forgiveness. Let God forgive you. Remember no sin is greater than Christ’s sacrifice. He forgave the woman caught in adultery and if you ask Him, He will forgive you as well. End the relationship now.
Not tomorrow…not a week from now…NOW…remove any source of temptation….anything that weakens your exclusive relationship with your spouse. Thank God. Praise Him for His mercy And then….if you are the victim of adultery hear this…
There are few agonies in this life that are as deep and lasting as the knowledge that your spouse has committed adultery. There is an incredible sense of betrayal and even shame. My heart hurts for you but please know that God hurts for you as well. And there is a difference between a pastor’s care and the care of God. I can sympathize with your broken heart but God can heal it.
It is God Who will give you the power to forgive and restore your life and make it possible for restoration in your marriage. He can truly make all things NEW again.