Day 28: Matthew 5:29-30

So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.

[This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about adultery.  He is explaining to his disciples how they can be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].

Such an interesting scripture.  So gory!  What immediately comes to mind is that although Christian fundamentalists insist that they practice literal interpretation of the Bible, I’ve never heard of one of them actually taking out their eye or cutting off their hand to avoid sinning.  I guess even the most hard core literalist is willing to accept that this one is a metaphor. They know that the alternative is a lot of self-amputation.  And clearly this logic could be interpolated to a very frightening kind of amputation for sexual sin.

Of course I interpret this as a metaphor. There is no evidence anywhere in the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament that Jesus ever intended this to be taken literally. The scripture is sometimes interpreted as an example of Jesus sharing his somewhat edgy sense of humor.  But with references to self-mutilation AND hell, Jesus is making sure he has his disciples’ attention.  Behind the somewhat morbid humor is a deadly serious exhortation – you must choose to do the right thing. What’s more important?  Your body and its animalistic desires or your soul and your God?  Do whatever it takes to stay on track and keep focused.  Don’t let down your guard!  Avoid all temptation!  Don’t look at anything that might get your mind spinning in the wrong direction.  Don’t touch anything that doesn’t belong to you.  Don’t let the devil convince you that you can get away with something “just this once.” You are valuable and important so protect yourself!

I’m so glad this is a metaphor because even the most focused among us have our moments of weakness, especially when it comes to keeping our brains under control.  The lyrics of a popular hymn say, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”  If this scripture were literal, instead of being known for our love, we would be easily identifiable as the people walking around without any eyes or hands.  Or brains.  Zombies for Jesus.  I think Jesus would totally get this little joke. Oh yeah, I’m sure he would.

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What does this scripture say to you?

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2 thoughts on “Day 28: Matthew 5:29-30

  1. Does this really mean anything? Unfortunatelycutting off body parts doesn’t seem a very reasonable response. I will just have to admit that I don’t understand this passage.

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