Cut It Off

By Lee Jones

.:Matthew 5:29-30:.

Jesus continues his earlier teaching on lust with a bit of imagery, a tool he often used in his discourses. It’s a bit dramatic for a reason, and also deeply rooted in the Jewish culture of that time.

First, the eye. This is a natural transition from Jesus’ earlier point. The lustful glance causes stumbling and so you should cut it out if that’s the case, as eternity is in question. Better to be maimed in life than to enter hell with your whole body. Same for the hand.

The Christian life doesn’t require self-mutilation, thanks be to God, but does require something even more exacting: dying to self and living to Christ.

Notice it’s the right eye and the right hand. This corresponds to the idea in Judaism that the right hand is the hand of power, or the stronger of the two hands. That’s why at Jesus’ resurrection he is said to be ascending to the “right hand of the Father.” That shows his power and royalty at the same time. There are many other references to right hands in scripture, and the same would go for the right eye also.

These are also the media for lust: the glance and then later the sinful touch. Jesus would seem to say that if these things cause you to sin, it’s better to cut them off, even if they’re your dominant and most effective limbs.

Obviously, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation. The Gospel truth about human nature is found in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” People sin because they are sinners, they are not sinners because they sin. The thing about poking out your right eye because of lust is that you are left with your left eye lust with afterward. Jesus means to get to something deeper than that.

Jesus’ overstatement is meant to teach that devotion, not only a man to his wife but also every believer to God, is more important than even the good things in life that could lead us into sin. Every sin is against God primarily, then against whatever person has direct effect from it. As Hebrews 12:1 says, “...let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangle us.”

As I’ve said in blogs past, the essence of the Christian life is repentance and belief in Christ from beginning to end. That doesn’t require self-mutilation, thanks be to God,  it does require something even more exacting: dying to ourselves and living to Christ. Repeatedly turning our back to our sins is a costly endeavor, but necessary to run the race we’ve been called to run.

Taking every thought captive, let’s apply our eyes and hands to the work Christ has called us to, not to the sin that tempts us. We believers are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and we are to keep a sharp eye out for every opportunity to give an account for the hope within us.

Glory to God alone.

Lee Jones