Cut off your Hand!
Arguably the most bizarre command of Christ is found in
Matthew 5:29-30, where he tells us to pluck out our eyes or
cut off our hands if they cause us to sin. "It is better to enter
heaven blind and lame," he says, "than to have a healthy
body and be cast into hell."
This passage is often quoted as proof that Jesus never
meant for us to take him literally. To be honest, we've never
plucked out an eye or cut off a hand ourselves, and we know
of no saint who ever did. We have heard of a few mental
patients who did, however!
So maybe Jesus did not mean for it to be taken literally...
and if he did not mean for us to take that literally, then
maybe he didn't mean for us to take anything else he said
No way! We cannot accept that line of reasoning. If Jesus is
really the Son of God, then trying to make him conform to our
finite wisdom is blasphemy.
Let's start with the mental patients. If you or I cut a hand off,
wouldn't we be committed to a mental hospital too? So what
if the hand choppers aren't all crazy?
And is it really true that people who are widely recognised
as being sane have never cut off a hand or plucked out an
eye? Check the medical records of any hospital and you'll
find that amputations and organ removals are
commonplace. Life threatening conditions like gangrene or
cancer often lead people to take such extreme steps.
A railway worker in outback Australia was bitten on the hand
by a deadly brown snake. He had no hope of getting to a
hospital before the poison killed him. So he grabbed an axe
and chopped off his own hand. He was not locked up. In
fact, he was commended for his courage. Obviously he
showed good sense too. The loss of a hand was of lower
priority than life itself.
Try this experiment. Get a very sharp pocket knife and put it
in your pocket or purse for one day, with the understanding
that you will cut your hand off (or maybe just put a big gash
in it) before you will let it lead you into sin. Just do it for one
day. And see if you don't think very seriously about everything
that you do that day.
With a knife in your pocket, you begin to confront the
seriousness of sin. It is so easy to make spiritually fatal
decisions without thinking about their consequences.
Physical threats are usually visible and immediate, so we
tend to act more quickly to avoid them. A chopped off hand
(or even the threat of it) might be just what we need to get
things back into correct perspective.
The whole context of Christ's command was to show us
that, if physical life is worth such drastic action, then spiritual
life is worth even more. Most of us would lack the courage to
do what that railway worker did to save his physical life. But
we should be much more motivated if we thought that our
failure to act would mean eternal death. And in either case
we should be able to recognise the good sense of such an
action even if we lack the courage to do so ourselves.
Muslims practise such 'atrocities' as cutting off the hands of
thieves; and Jews teach "an eye for an eye". America
actually executes dozens of people each year in the name of
morality. All Jesus asks is that we show this same kind of
discipline on our selves. Is that so bizarre?
And now for the loophole you've all been hoping for.
(Though, to be honest, if you don't go through the stage of
being willing to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye, you
may not qualify for the loophole.)
Obviously it is not your hand or your eyes that actually cause
you to sin. Cutting a thief's hand off does not stop the greed
that caused the theft in the first place.
What we need to think more seriously about is a 'heart'
transplant! Jesus said "Where your treasure is, there will
your heart be." (Matthew 6:21) And he says to forsake our
treasure if we want to be his disciple. (Luke 14:33) Paul
says the love of money is the root of all evil. (I Timothy 6:10)
So this is what we must cut out.
As extreme as amputation may be, most people would
rather lose an arm or leg than give up their wealth and their
source of income. But Jesus says to pick up that axe and
hack away at the real causes of sin in your life. We think he
is quite literal about forsaking the root of all evil.
Smash your pride. Pluck out your emotionalism. Cut off your
visible means of support. So that you can begin (right now!)
to live by faith in the eternal kingdom of heaven.
(See also the article "The Root of All Evil".)
Dave McKay, and his wife Cherry, are co-founders of the
Jesus Christian communities, in Australia, England, Kenya,
and the U.S. The community is dedicated to at least
trying to literally obey the various teachings of Jesus.
Visit their website at http://www.jesuschristians.com or email