Matthew 5:29-30 seem to be pretty morbid on the surface. God is asking us to pluck out eyes and cut off hands so we might enter heaven. Does it really take such a masochistic approach to make things right with God? Luckily, the answer to this is no. However, Christ uses the imagery of the loss of an eye or hand, two vital parts of our every day living, to drive home a point. Nothing is worth keeping if costs your soul. We'll dive more into this statement on ACCESS later, but for this devotion, we are going to dial in on the meaning behind the eye and the hand. First, though, let's get a handle on a key word.
What does it mean to offend?
We've talked previously about causing offenses in the lives of others and making amends. However, Christ is not referring to that kind of offense here. The term offense defined here means to entice to sin. The actual Greek word is scandalizo, which is where we get the term scandal. Sin scandalizes our lives, causing our biggest mistakes to be made public and garner the judgment of society (if you want to learn about the judgment of society, check out our recent podcast episode). Christ wants us to avoid those things so he offers prescriptions. Let's examine them.
The Eye = Visual or Mental Sin
The eye is used by Christ as a metaphor for the eye of the mind, or the fact of knowing. Our mind is a marvelous creation. We have the ability to process 400 Billion items of information at once. When focused towards the right things, the mind is able to unlock mysteries for the betterment of mankind and the earth at large. However, it also has the ability to bring destruction and ruin based on the focus it is given. We cannot allow evil thoughts to become the focus of our lives. Whether they are of other women/men or any sinful action, we must rid ourselves of them. Christ tells us how.
Pluck Them Out
This term literally means to remove by rooting out. To root something out, one has to do some digging. I was recently working in our little atrium to remove the weeds. You can cut them back and spray poison, but the only way to guarantee a weed is removed is to get it at the roots. I had to get down on my hands and needs and physically pull each root out. Even then, a couple weeks later, some new weeds were growing, though not as much as last time. I had to get back out there and root them out some more. Sin is going to try and take over our minds. It's up to us to root it out. We have to dig down deep into our thoughts and see where is that sinful thought coming from. What is causing me to look at other persons when I'm perfectly happy in my marriage? What is the root of my covetousness when I have all that I really need? These and many more questions are just the first step into identifying the weeds in our lives. We then need to focus our prayer, fasting and trust in God for these spiritual wees removal. Reading scriptures and modern stories about men and women who triumphed over similar situations will help encourage us and give us a window into how we can do it, as well. Finally, we cannot just do this once. While the thoughts may not be as prevalent, they will try to sneak back in. Regular "weeding out" of sin is necessary to overcome the onslaught on our minds and lives.
The Hand = Action Sin
The hand is the most useful tool we have in our possession. With it, men our able to handle tools, build structures and pave paths, among other things. However, we are also able to wield killing machines, destroy civilization and breakup roads. The hand is a tool of action. We cannot allow our actions to scandalize our purpose in God. Notice, too, that it is the right hand Christ uses. In the Bible, the right hand is the symbol for power. What are we empowering in our lives? Are we empowering adultery, pornography, lust, hate, unrighteousness, etc.? If we want to enter into heaven, this cannot be. So how do we rid it from us?
Cut it Off
We are told to cut off the actions and empowerment of sin, which means we are to sever the ties that sin have to our lives. We have to cut off physical sin and empowerment at its source. We have to identify where theses sinful actions are originating from and get rid of it. Maybe it is a relationship that must be severed. Maybe your best friend gets you into trouble. It's time to end that friendship until both of you can stand as righteous. Maybe its a place that you go. If you go to a gym where you know you are going to get into trouble with a member of the opposite sex, it's time to end your gym membership. If even your job or one of your possessions leads you to sin, its time to find a new job and get rid of that possession. However, we must also cut off the desire to empower those things. We must renew the desire we have for God or those things we have cut off will be replaced by something just as bad or worse.
It's all About Making Heaven
Christ sums up both of these scriptures with the reasoning behind them. It's all about making heaven. We don't stop looking at or doing things just to feel better or get ahead in life. We do them because there is a greater purpose to this life. God desires for us to make it to heaven, so much so that He tells us throughout the Bible exactly how we can get there. These two scriptures are a part of that process. It's serious stuff, but it's such a rewarding end. Think about that the next time you feel tempted in your mind or with your actions. Is this really worth missing heaven over? Having that question at the forefront of our minds will help encourage us to keeping rooting sin out and cutting off further those things that would destroy us.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.