Years ago President Jimmy Carter admitted this to Playboy magazine:
"I've looked on a lot of women with lust.I wonder what he meant by that? I am not sure that what he said aligns with the passage above. His confession seems to ignore the deeper issues of lust and how much intent, or motive, factors into the sin. So often lust is trivialized because of sentiments such as the one that President Carter expressed.
I've committed adultery in my heart many times."
To be delicate, let me first say that there is a progression to lust.. a progression that results in acting out sexually.. which is why Jesus speaks of the progression from the eyes to the hands. The pornography industry has built an empire on lust. It is serious because of the way that it destroys marital relationships.. adultery usually does.
Lastly, I want to speak to the issue of prophetic hyperbole. Jesus often speaks in this fashion and overstates an issue to make a point. In this passage he is not saying to literally tear out an eye or cut off a hand. He uses hyperbole to emphasize how important it is to keep yourself from lust. When we read such statements we are not to blow them off as fundamentalist rhetoric but to take note of the seriousness of what is being taught.
Lord, help me to keep my intentions pure.