“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
So today I write these words with one hand, and a patch on my eye.
Ok, wait, don’t go away…
I am not being literal. Neither is the Bible. But the passage above is definitely an interesting one. What does it mean to me? Well, since it is not to be taken literally, what does it mean when it says to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand? This passage was specifically talking about adultery, but it can be used to refer to any sin that has us bound. It was a way for Jesus to show us how we can deal with sins that have the power of keeping us from a relationship with Him, both in this earthly life, and eternally.
Do you remember when you were young, and your parents were so concerned about who you associated with? It is said that you can tell what a person is like by the company he keeps. Why do you think your parents cared so much about your friends? I think we all know that it was because they wanted you to have good influences instead of bad. They did not want you to be drawn by others into bad habits, and make a mistake that could haunt you for the rest of your life. They loved you, and wanted the best for you.
Is it really any different than God’s love for us? Not really, except His love is far greater. He wants us to be with Him for all eternity. He knows that the obstacle to that is our sin. So He offers – through Jesus – a way for us to achieve eternal life, and this passage serves as a way for us to stay on the right path. No He is not telling us to cut off our limbs or pluck out our eyes, but He used the illustration to tell us that sometimes we need to make difficult choices in our lives.
For some, our sin really is adultery. It may be that for that person, the way out of that sin is a difficult choice to cut out a person or persons that may be tempting us to stray. Maybe that buddy who always invites us to happy hour is not the right influence on us. So maybe the decision we must make is whether that person should even be in our life. We can counsel him or her, but in the end, we need to do what is right for us, and make the decision that honors God. It may instead be thoughts that creep into our heads through TV or other sources. It could be vanity, or other emotions that we need to find a way to strip away. Whatever the case may be, Jesus tells us that it is better to do without some things in our lives, than to be led astray, and be estranged from our lord for all of eternity.
For others, that sin maybe be an addiction. In today’s society, many of us know someone who suffers from addition. For the person who worships the God of drugs, alcohol, gambling, even food, it can be extremely difficult to stay on the right path. In some cases, a decision needs to be made not just to stay away from certain people, but also situations that lead us into temptation. A bar or nightclub may no longer be a possible meeting place for the alcoholic. For those who have suffered or are susceptible to this type of sin, you can quickly learn who your true friends are when you make the choice to honor God and resist your temptations.
So what do you do if those temptations come from people you love? What if the one who is a bad influence is actually a brother, sister, mother, father. How difficult is that? How do you tell a loved one that their actions are causing you to stray from God? Will they understand? It is quite possible that they won’t. You may need a long talk with that person, in a way that helps them understand you still love them. You may be surprised. They may end up having more respect for you, knowing you are standing by your values. Maybe in the end, they will join you in honoring God, once they learn from your example.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
We need to remember that Jesus came down and became human. He was tempted just like us. He knows what temptations were about, and He overcame them. We are all sinners, and as such, will fail. But because we are saved, we repent of our sins, and strive every day to be as close to God as possible by resisting the world, and its earthly temptations. Because Jesus dwells within us, He will seek to change us, mold us, and we have the choice whether to surrender to His will and accept the change, or resist. God will not be moved, and He will not be molded to our likeness. We must do the moving, the molding, the changing.
“Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.”
Does your eye offend you?
What will you do?