July 4, 2021
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire (Matthew 18:8-9).
I remember first reading this passage (many years ago) wondering, “Is Jesus really serious about this?” I couldn’t believe that Jesus would advocate self-mutilation, which I believed to be sin, in order to counter sin in my life. I really struggled with this because, like all Christians, I struggled with sin.
Again, Jesus is very serious about the matter of causing people to stumble and fall in their faith. He denounced the world for being a stumbling block to Christians. He denounced the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees for being a stumbling block to Christians. He denounced entire cities and villages for being a stumbling block to Christians. And now it seems He is doing the same with the believer when he/she is a stumbling block to self. Are we to really cut off a hand or foot or intentionally blind ourselves if these body parts lead us to sin against the Lord?
Sometimes it is difficult to know when Jesus is speaking literally or figuratively. Certainly, His judgment upon the world, the cities and villages, and the elders of Israel was literal, but His judgment upon the members of the human body is not. Jesus is speaking figuratively here. How so? No part of our physical body causes us to sin and removing any part of our physical body because we sin with that part of the body would not keep us from sinning. The Apostle James wrote (1:4-5), But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Sin begins in the mind and heart, not the eye or hand or foot.
Jesus stressed that a person should do whatever is necessary, no matter how extreme and painful it might be, to keep from sinning, or to keep from causing others to sin. Nothing is worth having or doing if, in any way, it leads to sin. The implication is that there is grace sufficient for the Christian to overcome the temptation to sin.
(1 Corinthians 10:13) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (Hebrews 12:3-4) For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
“Lord Jesus, continue to give me the strength and encouragement to resist temptation to sin and to live a life free from being a stumbling block to myself and to others. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”