“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ ..." (Matthew 5:27-30)

"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." (Matthew 5:27-30)

Is Jesus really teaching us to cut off body parts?

Jesus is speaking metaphorically. He is not advising his followers to cut off any body parts.

He doesn't mean we should literally cut off our hands or gouge out our eyes.

Did any of Jesus' followers do this? Were there one-eyed or one-handed followers of Jesus? No. This tells us clearly that he wasn't speaking literally.

The metaphor that Jesus is using refers to discontinuing (cutting off) behavior that harms others. To cut off the means of self-centered harm means to disregard or dismiss those aspects of our lives that create propensities. 

For example, a person who is employed by a bar will more likely become a drinker. So leaving the employ of such an establishment would leave behind the environment that would promote the drinking habit. 

Jesus is speaking of leaving behind those parts of our lives that produce the propensities for habits that encourage self-centeredness. Doing so is a sacrifice of sorts, which could be compared to cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye.

It is a metaphorical statement urging his followers to leave behind those parts of their lives that don't promote their spiritual growth.

What does he mean by 'stumble'?

In most of the other translations of Matthew, the word translated to "stumble" is translated to "sin." Even in the prior version of NIV, the Greek was translated to "sin," but has been changed to "stumble."

There are several Greek words that have been translated to "sin" in the texts of the Bible:
- "paraptoma" to fall.
- "hamartia" to miss the mark.
- "hettema" to diminish.
- "parabasis" to cross the line.
- "amonia" to not abide.
- "parakoe" to refuse to heed.
- "agnoeema" to ignore.
- "skandalizō" to stumble.

Stumbling takes on another meaning because it assumes that someone was not stumbling prior.

This assumes purity in essence. Yes, each of us was created by the Supreme Being, so there is an origin of purity. Such purity is one of love. We are each born from the love of the Supreme Being.

But stumbling in this respect contrasts this by acting in a self-centered manner that harms others. Love contrasts this because caring for others is the consciousness of love.

As such, purity is caring and loving the Supreme Being and others. To stumble is the opposite.

What does Jesus mean by 'hell'?

Jesus' statement, "whole body to go into hell" clarifies that rejecting or ignoring our relationship with God is hell. Rather than hell simply being a place we will go to be punished, hell is the consciousness of rebellion that rejects God. 

Hell is that place where our own enjoyment comes first, and God is forgotten.

This means that hell is not a location, but a consciousness. It also means that much of human society is, unfortunately, living in the consciousness of hell.

This statement presents particularly difficult criteria for someone living in modern society. Our society tends to focus on the more materialistic, self-centered aspects of life.

Why is Jesus talking about lust and adultery?

The sexual act is by nature a self-centered activity. There might be some love involved - wanting our partner to also feel good, or having sex to have a child.

But sex is actually quite difficult if each partner isn't ultimately interested in their own satisfaction. The sexual organs are stimulated through the seeking of physical satisfaction and ultimately, the orgasm.

The problem is that we are not these physical bodies. They are simply vehicles we occupy for a few years. Therefore, the sexual satisfaction of the body does not satisfy the soul - which has a spiritual composition.

We are the spirit-person occupying this physical body. At the time of death, we leave it behind.

And we - the real person within this body seeks real love. We seek the love of others and we want to love others. But this real person is covered up. It is covered up by our self-centeredness and our false identification with this physical body.

And what we are really looking for in the sex act - within - is union. We want to exchange love with someone but we are currently pre-occupied with physical gratification. This blocks our ability to truly love.

As a result, seeking union in the sex act will translate to mutual self-centeredness. Each partner wants to "get off."

We gradually find that sex brings no real satisfaction to our spiritual self. Our body might get some nerve sensations going, but the person within - our real selves - is not satisfied.

It is like a person driving a car feeling hungry and thinking that if they fill the car with gas they won't be hungry anymore. This doesn't work because the person's body is separate from the car.

In the same way, we are not our physical body, and filling the body up with sensual pleasure does not fill up the spiritual self.

Can we be satisfied without love?

Our real self within is only satisfied by giving love. And the ultimate union of the person within is loving service to the Supreme Being and His children.

This brings real happiness because there is no self-centeredness in true love of God.

And there can be no true loving service to the Supreme Being within self-centeredness. It is only emptiness.

What this means is that those of us who are trying to feed the image in the mirror instead of the real person within are in hell. Becoming saturated with self-centeredness prevents us from entering the world Jesus is inviting his followers into.

The love that exists in the spiritual realm between the living being and the Supreme Being is pure. It is unconditional. But the perverted reflection of this love in the physical world is conditional lust.

This is illustrated by sexual attraction in the physical world. While a man might be attracted to the body of a woman, and a woman might be attracted to the body of a man, these attractions come with conditions. For example, someone might see the rear of another as attractive as they walk down the street, but that attraction would stop if they saw that same rear defecating.

A man might be attracted to the private parts of a woman but that attraction would stop if they saw those same private parts during menstruation or childbirth.

As a result, men and women must work hard to maintain the mirage of attraction. Shaving, putting on antiperspirant, make-up, special clothes, and so on, all create the mirage of attractiveness. Without these, there would be little attraction for a hairy, blemished, and malodorous female body and a fat hairy blemished male body.

Furthermore, given a few years, even the most attractive body ages. An older body is no longer physically attractive, even with make-up piled on.

Can this world be hell?

Understanding that hell is a state of consciousness, hell is where we are drawn in and trapped by lust. In the consciousness of hell, we are teased by the illusion that the attractions of the physical world will bring us happiness. But they never do. They only lead to misery, as we become bound by their conditions.

The best way out of the consciousness of hell is to gradually and realistically develop a higher taste. This higher taste is accomplished by re-developing our innate loving relationship with God. We can do this with prayer and praise - by glorifying His Holy Names and by making offerings to Him. These facilities bring us closer to Him.

As our relationship with God evolves, the attractions of the physical world lessen. In fact, we can judge how well our relationship is developing simply by observing how drawn we are to the illusory attractions (reflections) of this world.

The attractions of the material world are tests. They teach us to grow stronger by illustrating how weak we are without the Supreme Being. It is not as if the temptations of the world have come from another place other than God. 

God designed the physical world and its temptations for a particular reason. He created the physical world for those of us who rebelled against Him and wanted to be independent of Him.

While we can never actually be away from God because He has created everything and is present everywhere, He has created a place where we can pretend He is not present. Here we have temporary senses and the physical body and mind that give us the illusion He is not here. These give us the opportunity to attempt to enjoy ourselves.

At the same time, He does not completely let us go. As we travel through this physical world with these temporary physical bodies ‘of clay’ - we continually find emptiness without Him.

Can we go back?

As we reach out to God and request to return to Him, it is not an automatic process. Consider the situation if we were to want to be friends again with someone we rejected years ago. Suddenly we wanted to be their friend again.

Would such a person just forget the past and accept us back into the relationship we had with them before? Likely not. They would most likely want to go slowly and make sure we won't leave them again. They would likely test us to make sure we didn't have any ulterior motives.

The bottom line is that they would want us to be serious about having a relationship with them.

This is not dissimilar to God's process. Except that He already knows our intentions, so He does not test us in order to understand our intentions. He tests us so that we can understand our intentions.

The temptations of the world are here to help us see just how serious we really are about returning to our relationship with God.

In other words, we don't have to be afraid of going to hell - we are already here. The question is how do we get out. Jesus gave us the path out of the consciousness of hell: By learning to re-establish our lost loving relationship with the Supreme Being:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)