Matthew 5:29-30 (NIV) “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 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.”
Jesus never pooh-poohed sin, or its danger to the lives and hearts of His followers. Remember that these words were not spoken to the crowds, but to Jesus’ own disciples who had followed Him up the mountain.
Jesus’ point is that sin is such a terrible thing, with such powerful and eternal consequences, that even the most drastic steps are not too extreme to remove it from a person’s life. Of course, He is engaging in hyperbole here. It is easy to see that removing one eye cannot keep the other from looking in lust at someone. And cutting off even a valuable right hand (or a left hand for lefties) cannot remove sin from a person’s heart.
But even though Jesus is using hyperbole, that is not a signal that we can disregard or minimize what He is saying. His point still remains, and is as valid today as it was then. If there is something in my life that opens the door to sin, there is no justification for keeping it in my life that would make the drastically high penalty for the sin incurred worth it – especially since the penalty lasts forever.
If my computer causes me to sin, I need to get rid of it. Any justification for keeping it based on wants or “needs” for school or work must be judged on the basis of the eternal consequences of allowing it to further cause me to succumb to temptation, and making me liable to the eternal fires of hell.
If my smart phone causes me to sin, I need to get rid of it. Or my television set. Or my gym membership. Or some books that read. Or a friendship that drags me into sin and into which I can bring no redemptive force. If any of these cause me to sin, I must get rid of them for my soul’s sake.
People are so good at rationalizing and justifying, today as much as in Jesus’ day, that the power of His hyperbole needs to penetrate our hearts again and again. Would it be inconvenient to live without an eye or a hand? Absolutely! But if losing the eye or hand would keep a person from spending eternity in hell, the temporary inconvenience becomes worth it. That is the truth behind the hyperbole. A practical application would be to ask if it would be inconvenient to live without a computer or a smart phone. Absolutely! But if removing those things from my life would keep me from spending eternity in hell, the temporary inconvenience would unquestionably be worth it.
God’s people must always keep eternity in view as we live in the world. This life is not all that there is, and any changes that we need to make to our lives here and now, any sacrifices that we must make to ensure holiness of body and soul, will be paid back multiplied millions of times in eternity.
Father, that last paragraph really impacts me today. Help me to live each day keeping eternity in view. Help me to not live for today, but for forever. And help me to judge each thing in my life for whether it will help me or hurt me when I stand before Your throne when this life is over. Amen.