In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus tells his disciples (and those listening, including us)
“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump." (MSG)
At first glance, Jesus' words seem crazy. What person (let alone Jesus, who is supposed to be loving) in their right mind would tell someone to maim themselves in order to live a morally pure life?!! A parent would never suggest something like this to their child if they caught them being selfish with a toy. A friend wouldn't suggest this.
What in the world is Jesus talking about?
First, some context.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to the people gathered about the difference between living for God, and how they have been taught (by their religious leaders and traditions) to live for God. He uses a lot of contrasting language here to distinguish what they've learned and how it differs from God's heart.
The verses leading up to 29 talks about adultery/lust and the effect it has on a person. Jesus states,
“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt."
So we have other language here that is important to notice.
"Your heart can be corrupted..."
Jesus is letting us know that things can enter into our hearts and corrupt who we are. Now, let's put that into perspective with verses 29-30. In order to protect our heart from corruption we must go to extreme measures.
No, Jesus was not literally meaning we should gouge out our eye or cut off our hand. A blind person can still think lustfully. A person with no hands can still desire to do wrong things.
Instead, Jesus is saying that we need to "pull the weeds out by the root" so to speak.
If you find that you are heading down a path that causes you to put your heart at risk of being corrupted (with addiction, lust, hate, greed, etc) go to extreme measures to prevent that from happening.
If you find yourself attracted and flirting with a waitress at a restaurant and you are a married man, never go to the restaurant again. If you find yourself with friends who tend to bring out a side of you that you know is ungodly or wrong morally, find ways to change when and how you meet with those people so you aren't risking your heart being changed (corrupted) and you become a person you don't desire to be.
As a parent I do this all the time. I'm constantly looking at the toys, tv shows, movies, friends, etc that are in my children's lives to discern whether they are good for them or not. I don't want them to be shaped by things/people that will influence their character in a negative way. Abba (God), being the good father He is, is saying the same thing here.
Stay away from the things that will corrupt who you are and who God desires you to be.
Spiritual Action Steps:
-Read Matthew chapter 5 and ask God to use the words Jesus says to speak directly to your heart.
-Reflect on what you read. What stands out to you? What caught your attention? Reread those verses.
-Ask God to show you how to apply what you read to your life as you go about your day.