“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” - Matthew 5:29-30a
Does Jesus really mean this? Literally?
We can be certain that this language, which is shocking, is not a literal command but is rather a symbolic statement commanding us to avoid sin with great zeal, and to avoid all that leads us to sin. The eye can be understood as a window to our soul where our thoughts and desires reside. The hand can be seen as a symbol of our actions. Thus, we must eliminate every thought, affection, desire and action that leads us to sin.
The true key to understanding this passage is to allow ourselves to be affected by the powerful language that Jesus uses. He does not hesitate to speak in a shocking way so as to reveal to us the calling we have to confront with much zeal that which leads to sin in our lives. “Pluck it out…cut it off,” He says. In other words, eliminate your sin and all that leads you to sin in a definitive way. The eye and the hand are not sinful in and of themselves; rather, in this symbolic language they are spoken of as those things that lead to sin. Therefore, if certain thoughts or certain actions lead you to sin, these are the areas to target and to eliminate.
Regarding our thoughts, sometimes we can allow ourselves to dwell excessively upon this or that. As a result, these thoughts can lead us to sin. The key is to “pluck out” that initial thought that produces the bad fruit.
Regarding our actions, we can at times put ourselves in situations that tempt us and lead to sin. These occasions of sin must be cut off from our lives.
Reflect, today, upon this very direct and powerful language of our Lord. Let the forcefulness of His words be an impetus for change and avoidance of all sin.
Lord, I am sorry for my sin and I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness. Please help me to avoid all that leads me to sin and to surrender all my thoughts and actions to You every day. Jesus, I trust in You.