If your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away (5:30).
The film 127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Ralston, based on his memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place. In 2003 Aron’s forearm became pinned under a boulder for 5 days with no rescue in sight. Out of desperation he freed himself by cutting off his right arm with a blunt penknife. This gruesome scene in the film caused many horrified customers to walk out of cinemas. Some became physically sick or fainted as they watched Aron removing his appendage.
Jesus told His disciples to carry out a similarly horrific self-amputation. “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. . . . If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (matthew 18:8-9). Why such drastic, gruesome self-mutilation?
Thankfully, Jesus’ instructions were not meant to be taken literally. Jesus was using intentional overstatement to show the severity of sinning and the necessity of drastic, decisive actions to stop doing it (matthew 5:28-30; colossians 3:5).
Removing our hand or eye can’t remove sin, because sin comes from deep within our hearts (mark 7:20-23). A blind man can still lust and a man without a hand can still steal. We must control what our eyes gaze on (psalm 119:37; matthew 5:28; 1 john 2:16), what our hands do (isaiah 59:3) and where our feet go (v.7).
The metaphorical, not literal, cutting off a hand or gouging out of an eye is needed for spiritual survival. “It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet” (matthew 18:8).
No matter how pleasurable a sin is, it’s not worth facing the harshness of hell.
What does Paul say about temptations and how to overcome them so that we can avoid sin? (1 corinthians 10:12-13).
Have you been or are you presently fighting a temptation where you may have “to cut off your hand or foot” in order not to sin? What does it mean practically for you to ‘amputate’ that hand or foot?