“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27–28
Researchers in the field of music, specifically the effect of music on the brain, have documented that when listening to music virtually all areas of the brain are activated, even the portions dedicated to motor activity. These findings tell us that while simply listening to music the brain actually engages in pretended participation in the playing of the music. When the pretended activity is the performance of music, particularly frontal lobe enhancing music like hymns and classical music, the effect is positive, but when the pretended activity is destructive and sinful the effect our thoughts have on ourselves is just as destructive as if we’d actually done the act.
The apostle Paul realized this and that’s why he counseled us in the book of Philippians chapter four and verse eight to think on those things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. When these ideals become our standard for evaluating what we choose to meditate on our thoughts become the training ground that prepares us to live a godly and noble life.
Jesus indicates the same reality in regards to our thoughts and imaginations in our focus text. Many of us combine the sense of sight with the power of imagination to vicariously engage in sin. This can become a highly destructive habit, one that some have found themselves helpless to break free from on their own.
Friends, looking at another person to lust after them is a sinful trap that will disrupt and possibly harm and even destroy relationships we have with family and friends. We must learn to lean on Jesus for the protection and strength he can give to guard us from our damaging thoughts.
Advertising, much of television and internet media programming is designed to lead us into vicariously participating in actions we ought to never even momentarily think about. And it’s not just sexual sin, though this is a very common and powerful one. Sometimes the sin we virtually engage in is violence, deceit, stealing, profane and corrupt behavior, and disrespect. All of these imaginings don’t encourage or prepare us to have the mind of Christ. They, in fact, develop within us habits and responses that lead in exactly the opposite direction.
How serious do we need to be about removing these avenues of vicarious sin from our lives? The very next verses in the Sermon of the Mount say that if our hands or our eyes offend us we need to pluck them out or cut them off. It would be better to be blind or maimed in this life than to be lost because we held back from doing everything necessary to curb our thoughts and actions.
Perhaps amputation is further than we need to go but maybe removing our TVs and cutting internet capabilities is a good idea for some.
It’s all about bringing our thoughts into captivity to Christ. Whatever is required needs to be done because we are what we think.