CUT OFF YOUR HAND
In college I majored in Speech Communication so I had to study lots of famous speeches given throughout history. I was always fascinated with the people who had an amazing way with words, like Winston Churchill. Jesus, though, is still the best when it comes to having a way with words. One of the statements Jesus made that really sticks out is found in Matthew 5:30. It says, “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Jesus is speaking about the process of holiness, or more specifically, how to stay away from sin. Now, we have all heard this passage explained by what it does not mean. “Surely, Jesus does not want us to actually go around cutting off our limbs,” is what we hear. But it does mean something. Jesus said it for a reason. If it doesn’t mean to actually cut off our limbs, then what does it mean?
First, it means that staying away from sin is serious business. I would think that Jesus did not say this with a twinkle in His eye or with a wink. He’s not making a joke. He’s not trying to generate a laugh. He’s trying to impress in our minds the seriousness of holiness. The Bible never jokes around about holiness. The Bible tells us to ‘make no provision for the flesh and to ‘flee from sin.’ Never should we take sin or holiness lightly.
Second, it means that staying away from sin is urgent. He sure didn’t say to ‘think about it for a while,’ or ‘get to it when you can.’ He said the things that lead us into sin must be ‘cut off.’ There is no waiting period. There is no time for consideration. This is not something we can put on the shelf for later.
Third, it means that staying away from sin is difficult. The imagery of cutting off your own hand is definitely a graphic one, but one that makes the point that it will not be easy. People should be thinking, ‘that is going to be hard,’ when they hear these words from Jesus. Holiness is hard. It is difficult. It is not easy. If you are just coasting along in your walk with the Lord with no real struggle with sin at all then you are not doing it right. Now, getting rid of sin is so difficult because of our remaining sin nature that continually leans us toward sin, as well as the thousands of temptations we face every single day. Our habits and patterns of sin are very difficult to break but we must break them.
Fourth, it means that staying away from sin is sacrificial. To lose a hand would place you at a serious disadvantage. It would make life very difficult. But that is the point, isn’t it? To decide to do things the Lord’s way inherently means that we can’t do things our way. We have to die to self, we have to give up our will, we have to submit to the Lord. It takes sacrifice to truly be holy. Too many times we think of holiness as a matter of convenience. If living holy will help me out, I’ll do it. If living holy causes me some disruption in the way I like things, then I won’t do it. But, holiness must be sacrificial. It has happened before that people have asked for pastoral advice on how to live for God and when I tell them what they must do, and they realize the personal changes that must take place, they choose to leave things as they are. ‘Cut off your hand’ means you have to sacrifice for holiness.
I hope as you read this that you do not look at holiness in a lighthearted manner. Being holy and staying away from sin is serious, urgent, difficult, and sacrificial. If you truly want to live for God then you must engage in the battle. Start cutting off some hands.
-Pastor Mark Scialabba