“If I were to take spoons and pluck your eyes out, it’d be more embarrassing and uncomfortable than painful because your eyeballs would be dangling out of their sockets by strands.”
The things teenage brothers say to their 5 year old little sister to scare them for eternity…
For some reason, perhaps the scaring, these words have always stuck with me. I’ll randomly be going throughout my day and think on them. I will also think of it, not so randomly, when reading the Sermon on the Mount.
So if your eye — even your good eye — causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to he thrown into hell. And if your hand — even your good hand — causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It it better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Jesus didn’t sugar coat anything in this sermon, and the case of dismembering body parts is no exception. But why would he call is to something so extreme, something so radical?
While I hope to dive in depth to each section of the Sermon on the Mount in later blog posts, I think this is a good passage to summarize the entire sermon. In this and other seemingly extreme cases, Jesus is calling his followers to live out the righteousness we gained in our salvation.
We as Christians are made righteous as the death and resurrection of Christ made us free of our sin and guilt. (John 3:16) This is incredible and amazing, but it is not enough to have faith and do nothing with it. In James 2:18-19 it says, “…how can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds. You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” Sure, we can believe in God and all Christ did, but if we want to be elevated above demon status, we better learn to start living out our righteousness.
“Ouch, Rachel. That sounds harsh and uncomfortable and even a little radical to compare me to a demon.” Yes it does. Welcome to the call of righteousness.
Righteousness is doing the will of God as Jesus reveals it.
This could be summed up as a radical separation from sin. Gouging eyes out. Cutting hands off. God is holy beyond compare. We see this all through the old testament as the Israelites were unable to come into the presence of God for they were so tainted by their sins. Through Christ, we are made holy and now able to come boldly to the Lord. But if we are continually sinning, what good is it to accept Jesus into our life in the first place if we constantly take what he did for granted? We need to make radical moves in our lives.
Now, I’m not telling anyone to grab their knife out and start hacking away at body parts. But maybe we need to reflect on what less physical aspects we need to cut out of our lives. What leads you into temptation? What thing, that may not be wrong but can lead to wrong, are you allowing to be a stumbling block in your persuit of righteousness?
For example, I don’t believe alcohol is bad. But if you start drinking then proceed to continually drink in excess and make poor choices, maybe you need to cut out drinking all together. Or perhaps you have an addiction to pornography. While having a smart phone or internet in your home isn’t wrong, it may lead you into temptation. Maybe you need to get rid of the things that hold you back from righteousness. On a more perhaps subtle level, what if you have a tendency towards being flirtatious, but you are in a committed relationship. Would it then be wise to keep apps like snapchat or an old tinder account active? Or maybe you fall into gossip readily but you have a friend that always had the dirt on others. Could you cut down how much time you spend with that person in persuit of living the life God has for you?
Living out this radical call to righteousness isn’t easy. Its like getting your eyes plucked out. It’s embarrassing at times. It’s uncomfortable more often than not. And it is indeed a little painful. But wouldn’t it be better to go through some embarrassment, uncomfort, and pain to be in right standing with God? Instead of hearing, “I never knew you,” from our heavenly father, we will get to hear, “well done.” Let’s live this life radically.