Pluck Out the Eye

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Pluck Out the Eye

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The scriptures of God provide guidance to our everyday lives. Many scriptures exist which provide us help in leading more godly lives. All Scripture is given for “doctrine, for reproof, for correction” (2 Timothy 3:16). But, one particular scripture digs deep into the human psyche and can actually be a little frightening, especially to those new to the study of God’s Word. And, as we will see, this scripture is one that must be taken according to its intent, rather than the literal, raw words actually spoken. It is found within the Gospels of the New Testament.

Christ is speaking in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:29-30. “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you [it is better off] that one of your [body] members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [Gehenna fire]. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members [that right hand] perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

It would be better, much better, to symbolically lose an eye or a hand in this life as a Christian soldier in our battle against sin than…lose out on eternal life because we simply did not resist sin.

Once in a great while we may have heard a news report where someone has applied this scripture literally, by cutting off or poking out a body part. This is an example of someone who probably is very depressed and desperate. Yet we know that this scripture’s intended meaning is not the actual raw words spoken, that is, to actually pluck out the eye or cut off the hand. To do so really would not solve a person’s problem with sin. The eye or the hand is not the cause of sin. To pluck out the eye or cut off the hand is not going to erase the temptation to sin. But this scripture is painting us a picture. It gives us a symbolic and rather graphic lesson in the real magnitude of sin and where it leads, ultimately to Gehenna fire.

The lesson is this: It would be better, much better, to symbolically lose an eye or a hand in this life as a Christian soldier in our battle against sin than it would be to keep our members whole, yet lose out on eternal life because we simply did not resist sin. The lesson is we must avoid sin at all costs. We must stay away from sin and from those temptations causing us to sin, because the consequences of sin are serious. And in this war against sin, sacrifices may be necessary. Symbolically, limbs may be lost in our battle to resist.

In the Amplified Bible, Matthew 5:29 reads, “If your right eye serves as a trap to ensnare you or is an occasion for you to stumble and sin, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body be cast into hell.”

Causes of sin

We know that the Bible and Jesus Christ point us to a way of life that is opposite of sin. Our job is to follow that way of life—and to do what it takes to avoid being trapped. Our calling demands we resist sin and the natural pulls of the flesh. As followers of Christ, we are obligated to do what we have to—even if it takes major sacrifices to keep from sinning—in order to obey God fully.

What is it that causes you and me to stumble, to become ensnared, to fall down and sin? How can we better prevent sin?

Let’s notice the context in which we find this scripture we have just read. In Matthew 5:27-28, we find, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman [or a man] to lust for her [or him] has already committed adultery with her [or him] in his heart.”

Too many want to carry the Christian label yet want to live in sin at the same time. And this behavior is wrong.

Whatever has to be done to avoid sin, we must do. Even from Old Testament times, the letter of the law was against adultery. Married couples were expected to remain faithful to each other physically. Christ came, as we know, to bring fuller teaching to the people. He expanded God’s law beyond the letter of the law to a spiritual level—to its real, full, intended meaning. He personally taught and applied the law to the heart and mind of the individual. Christ is revealing in this scripture that sin is not only something based on physical action but also on thought. Old Testament people lived with a mindset that they could think all the bad thoughts they wanted, so long as they did not actually perform it and did not actually break the letter of the law. For us today in the New Testament era, we cannot even think a bad thought without it putting us on the verge of sinning, of breaking the spirit of the law.

Now, referring back to verses 27-28, we understand that prolonged looking and lusting upon a woman or man is wrong, because basically the only thing that prevents the thought, the lust, from maturing into real-life action is the lack of the right circumstances. And, given the right circumstances, anything can happen. We need to realize all of us are subject to doing crazy things at times, given the right circumstances. The only thing that prevents a lot of sin is simply that the right circumstances are not there. The wrong thought is there, but the time or setting doesn’t allow the thought to become action. Christ is teaching us that we need to dismiss these kinds of thoughts before they lead to action. We may have to do things that hurt. We may have to make sacrifices to prevent sin—to avoid certain things or certain people, whatever it takes.

To successfully prevent sin, we have to be constantly on guard. If you are married, you cannot go around flirting with the opposite sex. You are playing with fire. If your workplace has a mix of male and female employees, you have to be on special guard. Many affairs arise in the workplace. We may have to better control the movies and TV we watch. And we simply must say “no” to the pornography so prevalent on the Internet today. Symbolically, we may have to remove the offending member—to remove that thing that brings temptation into our lives—to avoid sin. If we cannot control the bad side of TV or the Internet, we may need to “cut it off” and remove it from the house. Could you do this if need be? It comes down to exercising some good old-fashioned character.

Let’s notice Matthew 18:8-9. Christ here repeats Himself to emphasize the importance of doing all to avoid sin. “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”

Bottom line, we have to do whatever it takes, no matter how painful, no matter how many sacrifices are needed. We have to personally avoid the temptations around us. We are obligated to lead a life free of sin. If we want to carry the label of a Christian, then we have to think and act like Jesus Christ. Too many do not. Too many want to carry the Christian label yet want to live in sin at the same time. And this behavior is wrong. We see examples every day of “Christians” who live contrary to the moral teachings of the Bible. They live together, have affairs, live a gay lifestyle, are involved in chronic crime, etc. God abhors their using His name in vain by calling themselves Christians (Matthew 15:8-9).

Riches versus eternal life

Now let’s go on to another commandment that some may struggle with. Let’s turn to Matthew 19:17-22. This is the incident concerning the rich young man who came to Christ and wanted to know what he had to do to gain eternal life. Christ, seeing in this man’s life a great lesson for us all, said, “‘But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “Honor your father and your mother,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

This young man, no doubt, was striving to follow God and probably devout in following the law. But he fell into the same trap and snare so many of us have fallen into. He could not see himself as he really was. He could not see that he was breaking the first of the commandments in question. He could only see his obedience and goodness in life. He could not see that he worshipped a god different from the one true God. He could not see that he put his riches above God. Until Christ made him choose between his riches and being a disciple, he could not see much wrong in himself.

Bottom line, we cannot put God in the backseat and give Him a few selected minutes each week. Nothing should separate our relationship with God.

Again, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, [if you want the best thing to do in your current life] go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The rich young man was probably stunned when he was presented with this choice in life. He had a choice to follow Christ and be with the other disciples or a choice to keep his wealth and go his way. As we know, the rich man simply could not give up his secure bank account, his comfortable house, his designer wardrobe. He would not give up his lands and houses and livelihood—all that he had—which was great. He would not give it up and walk with Christ. He was not willing to spiritually chop off a hand or pluck out an eye to put God first in his life. He looked to the security of his own riches rather than the security of treasure in heaven. If we had been the young rich man, would we have done the same? Well, probably so, unless a strong measure of God’s Spirit was upon us. Wealth has a strong pull. Security of money in the bank has a strong pull. And Christ cautions those who are wealthy, not to be trapped.

Next, notice in Matthew 19:23: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’”

The disciples were probably shaking their heads and thinking, “This road to salvation is a tough road. Who can be saved?” Christ was warning them, and us today, about materialism. Few rich people, in fact, few people in general, seem to be strong enough to balance and keep their money and possessions in proper prospective to their worship of God. Why? Because wealth is so appealing to the carnal nature. And it is so hard to part with, once one has it. The rich young man could not give up the physical comforts of life in return for discipleship and promises. Promises of something better in the future. Promises requiring faith and obedience and sacrifice to God. Man’s carnal nature leans toward a pocket full of gold and silver more than the promises of God.

Other spiritual roadblocks

What else might come between us and God? What else is hindering our strong spiritual relationship? Well, one’s work or job could be worshipped. It’s not necessarily how much we love our jobs as it is the volume of time spent working—preventing us from developing a better and closer relationship with God. Unnecessarily going to work early, staying late and working weekends will take their toll in many ways. Sometimes our health is hurt, sometimes our family suffers and definitely our relationship with God suffers. Those who are loyal, dedicated, hardworking employees can let their jobs become their main focus in life. Work can crowd out one’s spiritual life. We can end up worshipping our jobs, our hobbies, our “things in life,” our homes, even our families. Bottom line, we can not put God in the backseat and give Him a few selected minutes each week.

Nothing should separate our relationship with God, even our families. God created the family unit for our good, it is a blessing, it is a help—but never should we let it be a hindrance in worshipping and serving God.

Let’s read further in Luke 14:26. “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.’” The word hate here should not be viewed as having malice or ill will toward one’s family, but simply realizing that devotion to family—to father, mother, spouse and children—must come second to our devotion to God.

It is easy to let the things of this world come before God. Nice homes, nice cars, big bank accounts and even family. Sometimes, to avoid the sin of putting things ahead of God, we might have to eliminate whatever prevents our full devotion to God. Would we quit our job if it were a source of sin in our lives? Would we sell or cease our hobbies if they separated us from God? We all struggle with finding the right balance in life. I am not the judge of these other gods in your life. I struggle myself with these things. The young rich man could not give up his wealth.

We next look at another scripture showing us what attitude God desires us to have towards Him. In Luke 14:33, we read, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” We must be willing to give up everything for God. Everything. What couldn’t you give up? The young rich man couldn’t let what he had go. He didn’t have the faith to follow Christ and put Christ first in his life. Remember, we need to remove, “pluck out,” the temptations or get ourselves away from the temptations. If things in life are separating you from God, “cut them off” and cast them from you. Of course, this requires wisdom. You may need to seek the counsel of God’s ministry.

Building godly character

If anything stands in the way of our obedience to God and His commandments, we have to make the sacrifice to obey. If your boss demands you work on the Sabbath, you have a decision to make—to work or keep the Sabbath. To keep from sinning, you may need to cut off your right work hand, symbolically, so you can honor God and keep the Sabbath. Of course, you need to use wisdom in how to go about this. You may want to seek legal help. You may need to get counsel before taking any action. But, in the end, we must sacrifice whatever it takes to stay right with God. Nothing can stand in the way of obedience to God.

All of this that we have talked about is simply the process of building righteous, godly character in our lives. Truly, our purpose in life is to develop the character that Jesus Christ had—choosing right over wrong. We need to direct the mind and body to obey God and not sin.

Can we ever put too much emphasis on obeying God? NO! We must strive to overcome sin and develop righteous, godly character. If any circumstance or influence tempts us to sin, if it challenges our allegiance and obedience to God—then that member must be plucked out or cut off symbolically. The sacrifices we go through in perfecting ourselves add mightily to the character that Jesus Christ is creating in us.

Let’s always put God first and not let anything separate us from Him. In return, we will have the promised life eternal, worth more than the riches of this world.