Cut It Out
Jesus’ teachings were often controversial, and at times they were shocking. For example, in Matthew 5:29-30, our Lord said, “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.” Those are stunning statements. Tear out my eye? Cut off my hand and toss it in the garbage? Otherwise, I will be thrown into Hell? What are you talking about, Jesus?
Let’s back up a bit.
The immediate context for these two verses involves Jesus’ teaching on sexual immorality. In verses 27-28, He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Jesus’ contemporaries only required external obedience to the Law of God. For example, in their view, as long as you didn’t commit the physical act of adultery (or sexual immorality in general), all was well. However, Jesus took it a step further. He got to the heart of the law. Christ said it’s not just the physical act of adultery that God condemns. He also judges the thoughts that lead to the action. If you even lust after another person who is not your spouse, you’re guilty of adultery.
Jesus takes sin very seriously because He knows its destructive power. That’s why He gives such graphic instructions on how to deal with sin. Now, to be clear, Jesus isn’t telling us to cut off our hands and tear out our eyes literally. Nowhere in the Bible does God call us to self-harm as a way to worship Him. Instead, He is using metaphorical language, and it’s intentionally gruesome. The point is that we must go to whatever extreme is necessary (within the bounds of Scripture) to overcome sin.
For example, if pornography is your vice, then perhaps you need to smash your computer. Or, maybe you need to throw away your smartphone and get a flip phone instead. If shopping and overspending are your problems, cut up your credit cards. Allow someone else to hold you accountable to not have cash unless you need it. Maybe you overeat or drink too much. Have a friend require that you call them at the end of every night to give an account of your actions so that you won’t be tempted to binge. If television or social media have become idolatrous for you, it might be time to get rid of your TV or delete the apps. Whatever your sin might be, go to any length necessary to kill it. That’s Jesus’ point in this teaching. Cut out sin before it cuts you to pieces.
I can hear it now, “This is too extreme. Who could do these things?” That’s the point! Cut off your hand. Tear out your eye. Do whatever it takes to kill sin in your life. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
Jesus’ commands are metaphorical in this passage, but His threats are not. The consequence for not putting sin to death is Hell. Our Lord is not saying that a believer can lose his or her salvation. But Jesus is saying that if you live a life mastered by sin and you never try to fight it, then you prove that you are an unbeliever. Believers wage war against their sin because they hate it, and they love Christ. Their strongest desire is to please their Master. The unbeliever lives in his sin because he has no real love for Christ or desire to please Him.
What sin is dominating your life right now? Are you fighting it or does it have you mastered? Go to any lengths necessary to kill your sin. Nothing is too extreme when it comes to matters of eternal life and death.
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