Regardless of what you believe about Jesus, we can all agree he was shocking.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
So many quote Matthew 5:27-28 to point to how looking at another with lust is the same as adultery, but when read within context, verses 29 and 30 make such a strong statement.
If you’re dealing with sexual immorality, it’s better that you actually dismember yourself than to continue to walk in this and straight into hell.
I think because many Christians have heard this quoted so much, the verses lose their shock value. But put yourself in the shoes of the first century listeners. They’ve grown up reading about David, who is so often triumphed as a great man while covering over his very real sins in being an apathetic father and committing adultery himself.
Then Jesus drops this word bomb on them.
No, it would have been better for David to cut out his own eyes than for him to have committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband.
The implications are crazy. There is nothing that is more valuable than your soul. There is nothing more valuable than protecting the purity of that soul.
Let’s play an exercise and see if we can regain the shock value.
“It’s better to cut off your arm than to stretch the truth.”
“It’s better to gauge out your eye than to roll through a stop sign.”
“It’s better to cut out your tongue than talk about someone else.”
“It’s better to cut out your ear drums than accept gossip.”
These sound ridiculous and exaggerated don’t they?
That’s really how shocking Jesus’ words are!
Unfortunately they fall on our ears and we are so unaffected by them. We struggle with sexual immorality but we’re not willing to cut off what we stumble over. What in your life is stirring up unholy passions in you that you could cut off?
Movies, television, Facebook, Instagram, romance novels, unfiltered Google searches, magazines.
Whatever it is, it’s worth it to cut it off.
If you stumble in church because of dress, move to the front of the church so all you see is the pastor. If you’re a woman who seeks sexual or self-glory from dress, purge your wardrobe.
This is just a first step and it won’t change your heart, which is the true issue, but it will help you on a trajectory toward being changed.
Trust the wisdom of Jesus’ words. Don’t accuse him of being a Pharisee. It’s not a rule to bind you; it’s a command to free you from the shackles of your sexual sin.
If you want to read more into this topic and with practical ways to run from and cut out these stumbling blocks, I highly recommend The Purity Principle: God’s Safeguards for Life’s Dangerous Trails (LifeChange Books) (an affiliate link, which will not add cost to you if you choose to buy the book, but does help support me to continue to write).
This book helped me to see how much of my life was filled with stumbling blocks, from the external to the internal.