“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
There aren’t enough left-handed, one-eyed sinners in the Kingdom.
I’m fairly certain that Jesus doesn’t intend this to be taken literally. I think we would all agree that the root of sin is in our hearts and minds. Further, the thing that we call “sin” is often the manifestation of the thing itself that is killing us. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg problem. Which comes first? Which is more destructive? Is it the lying or the selfishness that needs to be dealt with – the second look or the lust – the abuse or the pride? I would argue that while both are devastating, dealing with the root is far more helpful that talking about the rotten fruit. We Christians love to talk about the manifestations and not the sin itself. Probably because it’s just easier. Also, we can hide sins that don’t manifest themselves physically. Unfortunately, Christians have become experts at concealing sin. I’ve meet so many (myself included) that love to point the finger at folks dealing with big, “external” sins relating to sexuality and drunkenness while never dealing with the pride and selfishness inside our own hearts that can easily lead to the sins we convict others of.
Honestly, I’m just tired of hiding. I want to deal with this stuff and I believe the only way we will be successful is if we are honest with a small, trusted community around us that can hold us accountable.
So, because we need to deal with the root of sin, I think it’s interesting that Jesus is talking about plucking out our eyes and cutting off our hands. At first I thought that it was related to output. We kill with our hands and lust with our eyes. But I’m becoming convinced that Jesus is talking about input. How sin enters the body. There’s definitely a cancerous element to sin. What enters through the eye infects the whole body. Disease spreads through touch. In that sense, quarantining the infection site might prevent death to the whole body.
But who are we kidding? Sin is part of our nature. We’re born sinners, so what chance do we have? Even if I’m a deaf, blind, quadruple amputee, I’ve still got a heart that is prone to wander from God. It’s depressing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll continue to fight sin with all of my might. But maybe we’re missing the point. Maybe it’s not the act of gouging out an eye, but rather, the willingness to live with the scar? The truth is, we all have them anyway. We all bear the weight of our fight with sin. Just because you don’t see the scars doesn’t mean they’re not there. Maybe we need more outward expressions of our fight with sin? Christians aren’t different because we are more holy in and of ourselves, but our pursuit of holiness should show the difference. We should wear the road on our bodies and in our conversations and attitudes towards others. Maybe that’s what this passage is about. Putting our sin on display so that we can’t hide it anymore. Understanding the cancer and taking drastic measures to make sure it doesn’t spread. Mostly about humility towards our “Great Physician,” who will one day wash away our disease.
I think this plays out in honest dialogue with those that we would otherwise condemn. Maybe we start by being truthful with ourselves in our churches and home groups. Because the reality is, we’re not going to stop sinning. We can’t expect the message to those outside the church walls to be, “stop!” We can’t even do it ourselves. The message isn’t the sin – it’s the Savior.