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 5:27-30
“If your right eye causes you to sin, cut it out and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:27-30) There are three things to note about this verse. 1) something that brings you pleasure is causing sin; 2) stopping it; 3) and not returning to it
Your eye is something that is good to you. But Jesus tells us that if that good eye becomes something that causes you to stumble, do not hesitate – get rid of it. In the same manner, many of us look upon those things that we enjoy frequently: movies, TV shows, music, magazines, websites, but when we are confronted with sin in those things, we rationalize and think our way out of not having to eliminate those things out of our lives. This is exactly the opposite to what Jesus says: Jesus is not saying “If something is leading you into temptation or is a constant source of temptation, think rationally in your mind about how to not do those same things, or think those same things” – What Jesus says is, “If something is leading you into temptation or is consistently a source of temptation, get rid of it, at whatever cost to yourself it may be.” Jesus’ demand is so great that he is calling us to maim ourselves. Jesus is telling us to stop it at its source. Get it out of your life, out of your mind, out of your sight, at whatever cost to you it may be. For us Americans, this is often foolish to us. We have become so disgustingly able to rationalize ourselves out of nearly every situation. We have scarcely called sin to be sin where it is blatantly apparent to be so. In a TV show, where people are having sex, we sit and watch, rationalize (some are so blind that they can’t even rationalize, but think it no harm at all), and continue with our program. Here is the cost: you cannot watch your program, or the movie you want to see, it proposes things that would tempt you. And here turns on the rationalizing-machine. One can nearly dictate all the thoughts that run through much of our minds. It is no wonder that the proverbs say “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) But the fundamental reality is that we, at the core, would rather have our entertainments, our enjoyments, than to cut out our eye. There are far too many Christians walking about today with healthy eyes and healthy limbs with filthy hearts and dirty mouths.
The last thing the verse calls us to do, which is most difficult, is to “throw it away.” And here comes the true test: are we those who, when a thing that brings temptation comes, set it aside for the time being, only to later on return to that same thing, thinking we are able to resist it more effectively? – “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11) Or are we those who when something is a source of temptation, get rid of it and get rid of it for good? This is the true test. It ends all rationalizing; it ends all sorts of ways we conjure to make way for our pleasures and enjoyments in questionable activities. And it is here that God’s grace is most desperately needed.
Some would say, at this point, “You are being too impractical, for if I were to take your advice, than I could scarcely enjoying anything, and I would have to become a hermit who sits and reads books and avoids the world!” I would like to confront this head on. The problem here is not what you are being called to, but is that you realize how much of your life is wasted away on paltry activities and enjoyments. Of course you could scarcely enjoying anything, because most of what you enjoy now is fraught with sin, or laden with temptations to sin! It is almost as if you would have to change your lifestyle… but who does that anymore…
This is why I say that we are in desperate need of a Christianity that can only be lived by God’s grace. Too many of us live a meager, wanting Christian life. We only resist those floodgates of temptations that we think would be especially ruinous to ourselves, all the while, leaving open all sorts of creeks and streams into our souls, and even knowingly. When Christ says, “cut out your eye and throw it away”, he knows what he is calling us to do. He knows we are going to say, “But Jesus, who can live like that? I mean, so much of what I do now goes into contrast to the life that you are really calling me to.” Jesus gives us such a demand because it calls us out, it calls us to stop depending on our own ability to constantly deem for ourselves what we think is “good” and ”bad” for us. It calls us to a Christianity that says, “I must depend on God to assist and support me, for I do not have the strength in myself to resist and rid myself of all these temptations that fill my life.” If you are cutting out your eye and throwing it away, you have to depend on God. You are demonstrating by cutting out your eye, or cutting off your hand, that you cannot depend on your own ability to resist those temptations. If you could resist the temptations, then you could leave the eye in, and leave the hand on. But how often do we find it to the contrary.
Jesus says “it is better to lose one of your members than that your whole body to be thrown into hell” And I believe it was CS Lewis who said something to this effect, “Heaven will be filled with people missing an eye or an arm, but they will the better for it. But Hell will be filled with people who have their whole body intact and do not know the difference.” Are we going to be Christians who cut off those things from our lives, no matter how much we may enjoy them, and rest on God’s grace to sustain us, or will we continue to be those who conveniently rationalize tempting and sinful enjoyments, and rest in our own abilities to stand?