Aron Ralston cut his arm off. Breaking the bones of his forearm and then cutting through the muscle with a dull knife made sense but only because, if he did not do so, he would die. His arm was pinned under a rock, he was alone in the wilderness, and rapidly running out of time. It was worth it.
Jesus was exaggerating when He said:
“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9)
He was exaggerating about what to do, but not about the consequences. It took five days for Aron to realize he had to take drastic action. But if you understand what Jesus said, you don’t need five days; you know it now.
Jesus didn’t really mean to cut your hand off or pluck your eye out. The fact is, those two organs do not cause sin; the brain does. If you pulled out one eye, your other eye would simply take up the slack. Jesus wanted to startle us and convince us that it is worth it to do whatever it takes to pull ourselves away from habitual sin. Drastic measures are appropriate.
It’s important to understand that these warnings were given to us because Jesus loves us. He is passionate that we not hurt one another or destroy ourselves. Jesus had been explaining how precious it is whenever anyone places receives Him with childlike faith (See: Hand in Hand). He takes it personally when someone causes such a person to sin (See: It’s Personal). And then He looked each of us in the eye, so to speak, and said, “Also, make sure you don’t hurt yourself, because you are precious to Me, too! Do whatever it takes! Trust Me on this: the consequences are horrific and final.” Jesus was talking with the urgency and seriousness that you would use if you saw toddlers playing with hand grenades.
But, if cutting off body parts is not intended, then what kind of drastic measures? A friend of mine signed up for a service that would notify a trusted friend if he looked at internet pornography. I canceled the free premium cable channels that showed sleaze at night. Another friend attends AA every week and meets regularly with his sponsor. Some set themselves strict, modest limits in casinos. Others don’t go anywhere near a casino. Of course, sex, drinking and gambling are not the only areas that cause people to fall. Maybe you struggle with gossip, overeating, or lack of compassion. No matter what it is that drags you down, do whatever it takes; it’s worth it.
To illustrate God’s personal love and concern, Jesus continued on with a parable about a lost sheep. Stay tuned…