“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:30).
If these words sound both severe and unnatural, then we have understood them correctly. Before saying anything to lessen their impact, we need to take them at face value. Some things matter more than other things, and if one had to make the choice, one must choose those things that will not send you to hell. If you had to make a choice, choose to go through this life with less so that you may avoid losing everything in the life to come.
Is your hand getting you in trouble? Cut it off.
Is your tongue getting you in trouble? Cut it off.
Are your legs taking you places you shouldn’t go? Cut them off.
Better to be maimed for a while than to end up in hell where you suffer eternally. Before we consider the matter further, do not miss the point. Our choices in this life have eternal consequences. We choose everyday to take the path of temporal pleasure or we choose the path of eternal pleasure.
Remember that the context (v. 27) is about adultery, a very physical act. But Jesus expands the thought to include looking on a woman to lust after her in your heart (v. 28). If that’s a problem, you can’t really cut out your own heart. You could amputate a hand but not a heart.
Sin goes deep, and we need a deep solution.
Sin starts on the inside, and that’s where we need the help.
Why do doctors amputate?
Why do they remove a diseased organ?
They remove the part to save the whole. In this case sin has so invaded the human condition that we are sinful through and through. You could cut off a hand and still lust in your heart, or hate in your heart, or envy in your heart. You could cut off a tongue and still curse in your heart.
Jesus’ words, while not calling us to literal amputation, teach us the pervasiveness of sin. As one writer put it, if sin were blue, we’d be blue all over. If the problem is in the heart, then what we need is divine heart surgery.
told me about a billboard posted near a Chicago freeway advertising the
cardiac services of Christ Hospital in the Oak Lawn area. The billboard
reads: “Christ is #1 in Open Heart Surgeries.” I don’t know about the
hospital, but I can vouch for its namesake. Jesus Christ is indeed #1
in open heart surgery. He has never lost a case yet. When you come to
him by faith, he gives you a brand-new heart.
The gospel is good news. But until we see how bad the bad news is, we will never understand why the good news is so good.
Jesus, I am more sinful than I know and in worse condition than I
realize. O wretched man that I am. Deliver me from myself. Grant me a
new heart so that I might be changed from the inside out. Amen.