And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Maybe we are too lax. Maybe we don’t always take sin seriously enough. Maybe we don’t always realize fully how it infects us so deeply and permeates every part of us. It’s not just overt sinful actions, but the attitudes and desires in our hearts that produce those actions. It’s not just doing something we shouldn’t do, but also not doing something we should do. It’s saying things we shouldn’t say. It’s making false promises. It’s making light of a commitment and breaking a covenant. It’s living with a vengeful spirit or being covetous or stingy or selfish. It’s a lack of mercy and love for others, for everyone.
What is Jesus saying in this Sermon on the Mount but that sin goes deep. Its roots stretch down to our hearts much deeper than any surface righteousness that we focus on to make us feel good about ourselves. But Jesus exposes sin everywhere it tries to hide. It is a serious thing, a damaging thing, something that He doesn’t want to be such a permanent part of our lives. But it must first be recognized and acknowledged, not swept under the rug or covered over with a thin layer of self-deception.
So what is Jesus saying we should do? That we should mutilate ourselves as some kind of act of penance? That we hurt ourselves as punishment? That we actually pluck out an eye and cut off a hand? No, but He wants us to recognize the extensive nature of our corruption, that the presence of sin in us is unacceptable. The pervasive nature of sin often makes us blind to its true influence upon us, but we can make choices to lessen its impact.
If we recognize something wrong in us, we are to remove those offending parts before they cause even more damage. That lust of the heart, that festering anger, that sinful desire can easily become a sinful action. So it’s a preemptive strike, in a way, to remove those things while we can, while they are smaller and easier to deal with before they turn into something much worse. It is, really, a temporary pain to avoid what could be a permanent destruction. Sometimes striving for righteousness requires sacrifice. It cost Jesus His life so that we could be freed from sin. So may we be willing to make any sacrifices necessary to keep ourselves and our lives pure and free from sin.