February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, 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 stumble, 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. It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”—Matthew 5:27–32 (NIV)
I’m allergic to cats. So, I generally avoid situations that involve me being around cats. You probably see where I’m going with this. In today’s passage, Jesus shares the same kind of logic as it pertains to sin. You see, sin, like cat dander, is harmful and hazardous. Consider James 1:15 (NIV), which says, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Sin brings death to everything it touches. Thus, while Jesus’ words here may seem extreme, His point is true: It IS better to have one hand or one eye—or even no eyes— than it is to reap the destructive and deadly wages of sin.
Now, Jesus doesn’t expect nor is He commanding you to cut off your hands or gouge out your eyes! Why? Because it wouldn’t be enough anyway. Sin is not a matter of the body, but the heart. If you don’t deal with the heart, it won’t matter what you cut off or out because our sinful nature will find a way. If we cut off all limbs, we can still sin in our heart. This is what Jesus shows us when He talks about adultery and even divorce.
This is the very purpose of the commandments, friends! Paul tells us this in Romans 3:20 (NIV) when he declares, “Through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The law is meant to be a mirror that shows us how hopeless and helpless we are apart from God’s help.
Now, hear me clearly: As followers of Jesus who are seeking to live godly lives, serve Him, and draw people to His kingdom, we should take steps to avoid temptation. If scrolling through Instagram is leading to bitterness or covetousness in you, pray, surrender this struggle to Christ, and by all means, cut off your exposure to it or delete it WHILE dealing with the heart matter in play—finding one’s contentment, fulfillment, and identity in Christ. If your phone, computer, or streaming services are causing you to stumble into porn, surrender the struggle to Him and create boundaries, safeguards, and accountability WHILE seeking help from a counselor, support group, or pastor to deal with the heart issue. It’s logical to trim off the branches as you work on removing the root, but if you only trim the branches and think that’s enough, the firm root will find a way to grow.
Jesus’ notable point here is about sacrifice. He’s essentially reiterating the cost of discipleship (Matthew 16:24–26; Mark 8:34–35). To follow Jesus means to be willing to lay down everything to live for Him who laid down everything to save us. As His disciples, we must be willing and ready to sacrifice and surrender everything for Christ and His kingdom! Because at the end of the day, what will it profit us to keep both hands or eyes or gain the whole world and lose our soul? These things are not worth it!
Instead, we must be willing to leave everything at the feet of Jesus, who purifies and remolds our hearts, minds, and lives and transforms us from the inside out!
Pause: What is Jesus’ vital message here? Why do we need to understand it?
Practice: If you’re reading this and you don’t yet know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I must ask you, is losing your soul worth the fleeting and temporary, self-focused pleasure sin brings? No! So, turn away and come to Jesus! In Him, you’ll find true peace, joy, purpose, salvation, fulfillment, freedom, and hope.
If you’re a believer, is that habit you’ve found yourself trapped in (the Greek word for “stumble” in Matthew 5:27–32 is skandalizē, which means to set a snare, trap, hindrance, or stumbling-block, to fall into a trap) worth the destructive consequences that are guaranteed to come with it eventually? No! So, turn away, repent, take steps to avoid it, and seek help from the Lord in prayer and from pastors, trusted Christian friends, and mentors to overcome this struggle.
Pray: Father, as Jesus showed me to pray, I ask that You lead me away from the temptation to sin. I ask that You help me in my struggles with sin, that You give me the strength by the Holy Spirit to flee from and overcome sin in my life. Sanctify me daily so I may be more like Jesus and less like my sinful nature. I want to be willing to sacrifice all things for the sake of Your kingdom and glory. Help me, Father, to be about Your kingdom. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.