Author: Ron Graham
This page continues to study Matthew chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus’s advice about dismembering one’s right eye or right hand (Matthew 5:29-30), is not meant to be taken literally. The important little word is "if". If it were literally true that a member of one’s body could cause one to sin, then one would be better off to dispose of the offending part. However the members of our body do not really cause us to sin. It is lust in the heart that is the problem.
The members of our bodies can only be instruments of sin, not causes of it (Romans 6:12-13). It is lust that causes sin (James 1:14-15). The "lust of the eye" and the "lust of the flesh" are not functions of the physical organism itself, but of the inward person . For example, when a man "looks on a woman to lust after her" the problem is not in his physical eye, or in his flesh, but "in his heart" (Matt 5:28).
When Jesus says, "if your eye offends you..." he is speaking in sarcasm against the attitude of blaming one’s eye for what is really the fault of one’s heart. A person’s eye does not offend him. Rather, he misuses and abuses his eye.
Paul might seem to disagree with that. He observed that his mind took delight in God’s law, but in his flesh another law waged war against the law of his heart (Romans 7:14-25). But he didn’t excuse himself and blame his flesh for the problem. Paul is addressing lack of self control.
The heart wants to do God’s will, but it does not take responsibility for training, instructing, and directing the desires of the body. The body of flesh is not evil, yet left to its own devices it is easily influenced by evil. Your body is not suited to be your master. Your heart and mind should be master of your body which is designed and suited to obey your mind’s direction.
When condemning evil speaking, Jesus did not blame the mouth, the fleshly organ that does the speaking. He blamed the heart out of which the evil came (Matthew 12:34-37). The same applies to all members of the fleshly body.
Jesus, in Matthew 5, is not challenging you to cut off any parts of your body, but rather to let him help you cut off and cast away such as the following:
Jesus makes a way for you to "put off the old person" and to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Ephesians 4:20-24, Romans 6:1-14, 1Corinthians 10:13).
It becomes clear, then, that not only can you avoid any need to dismember your body, but better still you can avoid being cut off from God and cast into hell.
1. Did Jesus really mean that if your hand offends you you should cut it off and throw it away? If he didn’t mean it, why did he say it?
2. John married Jane. Jane divorced John. John married Josie. Jane married Jim. John divorced Josie. Josie married Jacob. John married Jean. After this all remained happily and faithfully married till death did them part, Jane with Jim, Josie with Jacob, and John with Jean.
(A) Is this an unlikely story in our society?
(B) Is it possible that John never once committed adultery?
(C) Could the last sentence be in line with Jesus’s teachings?
Here is a chain of Bible references.
Matthew 5:31-32, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Malachi 2:13-17, Matthew 19:3-9, Mark 10:1-2, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-3, 1Corinthians 6:9-11, 18-20, 1Corinthians 7:1-3, Hebrews 13:14.