The seventh commandment, as you know by now, is part of the Second Table of the Law. It’s yet another example of a way for us to love our neighbors like we love ourselves. This command is another short and simple one. In Exodus 20:14, God commands, “You shall not commit adultery.”
Adultery is a word mostly used by adults, not kids. But the word “adultery” isn’t about being an adult. Instead, it’s a label for a serious sin: breaking God’s plan for marriage! You don’t have to read very far into the Bible to understand God’s good design for marriage. After making our first father Adam, God created a special helper for him, a perfect partner. And that special helper was our first mother, Eve. Right after God introduced our first parents to each other, Genesis 2:24 says something special about Adam and Eve: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
God’s plan for marriage is pretty simple: one man and one woman come together and make a “covenant,” a super-special promise to each other. In a marriage covenant, two people come together to become one. A husband and wife promise to stick together for the rest of their lives, to love and take care of each other. They also promise to save their most special smooches and hugs and other “mom-and-dad things” only with each other.
Human beings have come up with a lot of different ways to mess up God’s good design for marriage. Sometimes, a man decides he wants two or three wives instead of just one. Other times, a man will decide he wants to marry another man instead of a woman. But it doesn’t matter how many different versions of “marriage” humans come up with, there’s only one Person’s opinion we should care about: God’s! And he’s made it clear to us in his Word: a marriage must be between one man and one woman. If we think we have a better design for marriage than God, we are headed straight for disaster!
Adultery is when someone breaks this God-given plan for marriage. When a husband or wife shares their special smooches, hugs, and other “mom-and-dad things” with someone they aren’t married to, they commit the sin of adultery. They’ve broken their marriage covenant promise to their partner. But this commandment isn’t just for married people. When anyone does the special things that only married people should do, they have also broken the seventh commandment.
If you asked most people, “Have you committed adultery?” they would probably say, “No.” But just like we learned in the last question, the seventh commandment is one that we can break inside of our hearts. In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus tells us, “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.”
To “look at someone lustfully” means to imagine giving them the special smooches and hugs and “mom-and-dad things” that only a husband and wife should share together. When a man or woman looks at someone else and thinks about doing these marriage-type things, they’ve committed adultery and broken the seventh commandment inside their hearts.
To obey the seventh commandment, God wants us to live pure lives. Just like you wouldn’t want a glass of apple juice mixed with a spoonful of dirt, we don’t want lust to be mixed in with our thoughts, words, and actions. When men and women interact with each other, the words they say should be pure and loving. The same goes for their thoughts and their actions. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul explains how we should act towards each other: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”