Earley: Pluck out your eye? Seriously?
Published 8:08 am Friday, February 24, 2017
Sometimes Jesus said things that were very difficult to hear.
None can be more confusing than His words recorded in Matthew 5:29-30, “If your right eye causes you to sin, 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 be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Jesus did not exaggerate very often, but that is what He is doing here. The importance of taking seriously the power of sin to destroy our lives cannot be overestimated. Jesus would give His life for the sins of the world. He allowed humans to crucify Him, one of the most torturous forms of death ever devised by human evil.
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Our attempts to explain away sin, manage sin, compare ourselves to those we think are more sinful and in any way lessen the devastating effect of sin on our lives threatens to destroy us and lessens the sacrifice Jesus gave for each of us on that cross.
God created us in His image, and a part of that includes His gift to us of sexuality. Within the bonds of marriage, God desires couples to enjoy great sex (read the Song of Solomon). Great marriages always includes the husband and wife sharing physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy in such a way that God brings them together as one (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8).
This text about gouging out our eye is often associated with sexual sin, which is sexual intimacy outside the bonds of marriage. Pornography, strip clubs and the like take us down roads of sexual sin that prove very destructive. Our desire to satisfy the lust of our eyes can have an easy solution: gouge out your eyes! However, this is not the only solution offered by the Bible to help us have the victory over our sinful desires. Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality.” When Potiphar’s wife wants to have sex with Joseph, he runs away to avoid being immoral before God (Genesis 39).
If you value your eyes there are lots of things one can do short of gouging them out to help us flee from sexual immorality. We should seriously think about canceling cable television. The internet is a useful tool, but not if it causes us to sin. Are there certain trips we should avoid? Are there certain people that tempt us to do immoral things? There are definitely certain places we should avoid. Most movies have way too much gratuitous sex. We may have to consider changing jobs.
Running from sexual temptation can seem to cost us something, but compared to our eyes, the cost is small. Actually, when we are willing to pay the price for sexual purity, in the long run the cost is very small. The benefit to our relationships with our spouse, children and God is priceless. One person compared it to the cost to prepare for retirement. We know it is a good idea, but in the short term there is a price to pay. But when we save for retirement, it isn’t really a cost but an investment that pays off with huge dividends. Running from sexual temptation is lot like investing in retirement.
So, what do we do when we stumble and fall? Jesus says to gouge out our eyes. Jesus also taught us to confess our sins! In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us (Matthew 6:12). In I John 1:8-9 we also read, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I like this plan better than gouging out my eyes. His forgiveness is never ending, even if we struggle with the same sins during our lives.
Another very important thing to do to have the victory over sexual sin is to ask another person you trust to be a prayer/accountability partner. This should be a person of the same sex. One of my favorite Proverbs is 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
How much do you hate your own sin? Do you face your sinfulness by confessing your sins to God? Do you have a friend that you trust who helps you be strong against temptation?
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous columns, see www.lagrangepres.com.