“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
(Matthew 5:29-30 ESV)
Today we come to one of the more misunderstood passages of Scripture and one which non-believers often point to in their quest to discredit the Bible. But as we learned several weeks ago in our study of Ephesians, context is king when understanding the Bible or any written document.
Over the past few days Jesus has opened the eyes of His listeners and those of us living today with the revelation that sin is not simply outward behavior. Sin goes much deeper. It has infiltrated our thought life to the point where we sin by getting angry and lusting (among other things).
Therefore Jesus’ comments in today’s passage should not be taken literally. He is not advocating self-mutilation as some claim. After all, if sin occurs in one’s mind as well as in one’s actions, then someone could easily lust or get angry – or have any number of other sinful thoughts – with or without his eye, hand, or other members.
What Jesus is saying here, metaphorically, is we should be willing to go to any extreme to remove sin from our lives. That is how powerfully destructive sin is.
Looking at the original Greek helps understand Jesus’ intent here. The Greek word translated “to sin” is σκανδαλιζο (pronounced: skan-dal-id’-zo). This word paints a very vivid picture of what sin does. This word means “to entrap”. It is the word used for the bait stick that springs a trap when an animal touches it. An animal who falls victim to this deceit is as good as dead.
Sin traps us. It ensnares us. It is so dangerous that Jesus advocates radical measures to remove it from our lives. But sin also seems harmless. The animal has no idea when it enters the trap that it has triggered its own fate. When it comes to sin, neither do we.
The world does not recognize sin. In fact, it often tolerates it and even promotes it. Sadly, many professing Christians do the same. The sins of anger and lust are not held to the same standard by the world as they are by Jesus. We could say the same about lying, homosexuality, and many other sins.
We should be willing to give up whatever we need to in order to protect ourselves – both individually and collectively (i.e. as a country) from sin. If a friend causes us to sin, then we should not hang around with them. If the person we are dating causes us to sin, then we should break up with them. If our job causes us to sin, then we should quit.
There is nothing on this earth so valuable that we should hold onto it if it brings sin into our life.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.