“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they are also corrupt.
“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
“Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
This is tough stuff from Jesus. In our modern day and age you might be made uncomfortable by some of Jesus’ statements here.
It hit different reading this in the Message than in the more familiar NIV.
What struck me this morning was the radical minimum standard of integrity that Jesus was calling for. Morality and commitment were not just behavioral issues for Jesus. He pressed into people’s hearts. The sentence, “You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure,” really struck me. This is such a subversive way of thinking in our day and time. So many of us deem what is legal and what is moral as the two of the same things. But, Jesus calls us to something deeper. He demands a depth to our integrity that goes beyond the legal.
“You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk…”
This challenge by Jesus to his hearers was meant to cut them to the quick. The reality is that integrity is something that demands from us more than just words. It requires action. But more than action, it demands something even deeper.
Did you notice that?
You can do the right thing and still not have integrity.
You can say the right thing and still not have integrity.
You can say and do the right thing and still not have integrity.
Jesus’ call here is a wholeness of being. It goes down to the soul or heart of a person. If we are living duplicitous lives then eventually they will be exposed. To live with integrity means that the wholeness of who you are, the wholeness of your being, lines up and is integrated.
Your words and your actions and your soul must all integrate.
We live in a day and age where integrity is rare.
This challenges from Jesus is one that we need to hear again and again.