Having a Narrow View of the 6th Commandment

The world we live in has a very narrow view of adultery. This view of adultery is the same view I had when I was in college. Adultery only really occurs when a man and woman are married, and one of them engages in sexual intercourse outside that marriage. This viewpoint should be avoided at all costs. A narrow view of adultery only leads to justifying sexual sins.


I took my narrow view of adultery with me to college. I engaged in what I would today call, rampant adultery. Sex before marriage, pornography, and habitual lusting after women didn’t fall into my narrow view. I was living my life, having fun, and sadly doing what a lot of college kids do. I was an easy target. The devil, the world and my flesh knew what I wanted. There wasn’t anything to stop this narrow view of adultery.

My view widens…just a little.

Luckily I met someone whose view of adultery wasn’t so narrow. My wife, having grown up in a more confessional Lutheran church body, was though a wider view of adultery. At the time I wasn’t happy about waiting, but it was exactly what I needed. If she had not insisted, I may have gotten bored and repeated past sins. I very well could have fallen back into that rampant sin and missed out on the best thing to ever happen to me, my marriage. Unfortunately years into our marriage, my view on adultery was still very narrow.

The devil, the world, and my sinful flesh.

Even being happily married to a beautiful woman didn’t stop my adultery.  The devil will tell you not to worry about lusting after that woman in the grocery store. And even when you try to look away he will remind you of your past sins. The world will shove all kinds of sexual images in your face to try to sell you something. Women struggling with their own adultery will dress provocatively and your sinful flesh won’t look away. The biggest contributor to my adultery is me. My sinful flesh doesn’t want to look away. Lord, have mercy.

 Matthew 5 – 27 & 28

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I imagine when I first read this verse my jaw dropped. This verse helped jump start the widening my view of adultery.  Sadly, the change came many years into my marriage. I’ve heard this expression too many times. “It’s okay to look, as long as I don’t touch.” Well based on that bible passage, it clearly isn’t. This is where the devil, the world and your sinful flesh come in. The devil will tell you that your adultery is nothing compared to the next guy. You’ve already looked, why not look some more? The world will tell you that your adultery isn’t adultery at all. And you’ll tell yourself that your adultery isn’t so bad. At least I’m not cheating on my wife. All these attacks can cause you to put your adultery above or below other sinner’s adultery.

Don’t put your adultery on a scale.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad did you sin today? On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad did you commit adultery? I used to put my adultery down towards the bottom of the scale. You know, I’m not doing that bad. I haven’t looked at pornography lately, but I did look at that attractive woman at the store. I used this scale to justify my lusting. We can’t use this scale. As sinners we are always at a 10 when it comes to sin. God doesn’t look at my lusting after a woman any differently than the prostitute on the street corner. We both need to repent and turn from our sin.

Your Adulterous Sins Won’t Stick.

I’ve learned in my daily struggles with the 6th commandment that I am in constant need of the law and the gospel. The law shows us our adultery for what it is….Sin. Without that you’re back on the scale with the devil and the world trying to lower your score. The gospel shows us that adultery is forgiven because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  Jesus lived an adultery free life for us. He took all our sins to the cross. When our father in heaven looks at us, he doesn’t see our adultery. He sees Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.


Having a Narrow View of the 6th Commandment — 14 Comments

  1. Luther’s Small Catechism meaning of the 6th. Commandment would have cleared that up. We need to teach simple things clearly to our youth.

  2. If we take the Law seriously, every one of us is an adulterer, probably even including those who intentionally live in recluse. And, it is not just words in the Sermon on the Mount that accuse us. Because of sin, we may be able to live faithfully as husband/wife, but we are not able to live in marriage as instituted by God.

    I agree that we cannot grade adultery, just as we cannot grade any other sin. But, we often are tempted to think of our own adultery as just a “little sin”, especially when we compare our adultery to the “big sin” adultery of our neighbor. When we confess our neighbor’s sin in that manner, we fail to confess our own sin and pronounce judgement upon ourselves.

  3. Often sin is marginalized…..”Yeah I may be committing adultery by what I view but at least I’m not gay” Thanks for your post on the 6th commandment. The Devil,world and our sinful FLESH really do work overtime on us this side of heaven.

    Thank you Jesus my Savior!

  4. In the Evangelical circles I used to frequent, some sexual sins were often brought up as “especially abominable”, such as homosexuality. But if we really understand the sixth commandment, any breaking of it would be equally heinous in our eyes. Thanks for this article. I appreciated it.

  5. Hey, if I can watch this play out, in public w/apology, yet no repentance in private to me,…and the general forgiveness granted, do we wonder why, it is a revolving door w/some?!

    I know full well what it is, it’s be done & I have seen it done, what I have not seen in either case, is any holder of the Office, apply both keys, not just one. I’ve seen just the offended & victim leave, not the offender of said. Both sexes apply, I’ve seen it w/both.

    This is survivable as a spouse, as long as the offending spouse, is put back into Christian/Godly men/Marriage/Fatherhood 101 class, w/o assuming they know a thing. If they did, no excuse would be allowed in His House.

  6. @Johan Bergfest #2
    Of course we can grade adultery. It is worse to have sex with a homosexual prostitute than it is to check out a cute cashier at the supermarket. Jesus himself says to Pontius Pilate that the one who handed him over has the greater sin (John 19:11). The point that we should keep in mind is not that all sins are ultimately equal (that’s simply not the case), but rather that all sinners are equally condemned by the law. The greatest sin is to sin against one’s conscience. Whether this is flirting at the water cooler, watching porn, shacking up, or carrying out an elicit affair is a matter of perspective. All these sins are damnable, though some are in themselves worse than others. But any sin committed against the conscience immediately becomes the worst of all.

  7. James #6,
    If it’s been levied unto you private or in public, …no, there is not much worse that can be done to you. It can be overcome, it must just begin with the one, who did so. That time line is set by, every or any but the one who did so.
    The question is, if it is known, are the still given the Altar Sacrament? Yes, there are. Why I have no clue….

  8. Maybe the OP didn’t think to include this, but his writing still reflects a limited view of the 6th commandment. All Christians should remember that the 6th Commandment also includes what we should do; that is to love, forgive, and faithfully fulfill our responsibilities to our spouses as we have promised before God when we took our marriage vows.

  9. Dutch, among other apparent typos, you seem to put commas where they don’t belong. I am not sure if I know what you are trying to say.

  10. I understand that sin is a sin–and we all break each and every commandment. But what about the “public” sin of fornication where two people are living openly together without being married? Is this any worse than the sin committed in one’s mind?

  11. This is another area where I think our LCMS churches lack in teaching…they don’t want to touch the “sex” issue. And it’s one area that we are being bombarded with on a continual basis from our culture. It should also be included in marital counseling. Or is it? I find it a struggle as a wife when I see the sexual imagery everywhere–and see my husband fall for it, thinking it’s completely normal to “look but not touch.” What he doesn’t realize, is that it degrades our marriage and distorts his view on women (objectifying them) and is just plain sin. It leads me to sin, feeling that I want to look like or be someone who I am not. This will be a good article to share. I don’t think we realize enough that sin feels great “now” but it ultimately leads us to the path of damnation.

  12. @DK #11

    If you have time there is a video that pastor fisk made that talks about the 6th commandment. He starts by talking about homosexuality but brings it back to all forms of adultery. your husband is being influenced by powers beyond himself. I know this all too well. I suggest talking to your pastor about this if it really troubles you. it took many years of law to even make a dent in my view on this. Even still I know I won’t ever be able to stop my lust. that’s why we turn to Christ as our justification and pray that his word will strengthen us to resist temptation.


  13. Hey thanks! I really appreciate this! What a great resource. And I find the more I keep us in the Word, the better. I do this out of love for my husband and wanting what’s best for him.

  14. @DK #10

    I will say yes. God knows everything, so in that sense, all sin is sin, all will deserve death, etc. But from our human relationships and vantage points, well, yes, there is a grading curve. For example, in the criminal justice system, there are felonies an dmisdemeaners, each with different levels of degress.If a person lusts after another in his or her heart (which we all have done) often only God and us individually know. Only when we tell/confess to others do these others become involved. But when we start shacking up, and ‘hey, where did that baby come from?’, now this catagory of sin is becoming public. Very early on we can employ8th Commandment, with the hope of repentence and changing behavior. We are still sinful and still need and are under the Law, and all of its uses. But if little comes of that, now the scandel is on. The situation is public, and in continued vilation of God’s will.

    Unfortunately, society is really taken to its individualistic narcissistic end, so no help there. of course this is what Satan wants: “Did God really say…” By flaunting, allowing, even now supporting an dencouragin some of these activities, weeds have been entered into the wheat field, with the hope of choking out the wheat. Well, everybody else is doing it, and there are getting into trouble. so the open fornication begings to weaken and confuse our Godly understnading, thanks to the False Prophet.

    Now for the ultimate condemnation: the millstone around the neck. What is the Church and her pastors doing and teaching about this? We know what is happening in e_ca. And the LC-MS guys don’t always shine too brightly. If we hide our light under a basket, we have just given away our credibility, for this and for a whole lot more. As we become unfaithsul to God’s Word, how can we inspire others to be faithful? Lead by example? Help care and forgive properly?

    I could go on, but I will finish with this. A person gets a wound. It can become infected. Gangrene can set it. Body parts can be amputated. Death can occur. How long do we wait to deal with the sickness? How much to we allow to be lost? How incapactated and not having the full life do we give away?

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