Adding and Subtracting

05 Jun

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

Some fairly radical thinking going on here. Now, cutting off limbs, and poking out eyes, isn’t what God actually wants us to do, is it? What happened to taking care of our body, “because it’s the temple of God”? Certainly its true that it’s better to go to Heaven missing an arm then it is to go to Hell intact, but surely Jesus doesn’t actually expect us to cut off an arm!

Well of course Christ doesn’t want us to hack off limbs! That would be downright pagan. No, rather, as He sometimes does, He’s speaking figuratively. He’s trying to make the point that it doesn’t matter what you have to do, it’s worth salvation. Even if you have to “cut off an arm”; even if you have to sell your TV to break an addiction to it. To put it simply: Jesus is talking about cutting off access to sin.

There are plenty of things to capture our attention; plenty of idols to take up the space where Jesus belongs. We’ve got computers, TVs, not to mention sports, cars, sport cars, etc.. But if any one of them threatens to take up residence in our heart, we are to cut off our access to it. Jesus died in order to save us, and so that He and He alone could claim possession over our minds, bodies, and hearts. The last thing He wants is something that is merely temporary taking up what is, by right, His throne. Thus the commandment to get away from whatever is causing us to sin.

There are two things we’re to do:

  1. Radical amputation.
  2. Radical pursuit.

Radical amputation is what we’ve already discussed; “radically amputating” whatever is causing us to sin. The second is just as important as the first; radically pursuing Jesus. Here’s an example my dad once used, “Subtraction without addition equals multiplication.” When one demon is “subtracted”, but Jesus is not “added”, we end up with more problems than the one we started out with it; the demons “multiply”. Which is why, once Jesus gives us the strength to overcome whatever difficulty that we’re facing, we need to replace the sin struggle with some form of ministry; we need to radically pursue Christ. Something we see Jesus Himself supporting just a couple of verses after the ones we originally looked at:

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:40-45)

Jesus tells also says this,

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’(K) (Matthew 25:40)

When we “go the extra mile”, we’re doing it for Christ. When we love our enemies, we’re loving Christ. – We’re radically pursuing Him. So, let’s not multiply, let’s just stick with adding and subtracting.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland


Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Delivered Through Love


Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Adding and Subtracting

  1. jesusandthebible

    June 6, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    Hi Joshua,

    I’d like to add a few comments (and hopefully you don’t subtract them). 🙂

    The right eye that causes one to sin in Mt. 5:29 is a metaphor (as you said) that builds on the sin of 5:28–looking at a woman with lust. The same metaphor comes up later in Mt. 18:9; in this case, it is more clear what the metaphor is about. Jesus is talking to his disciples, who want to be great, and contrasting them with a child who is humble/lowly (18:1-4). The problem is their desire for greatness could lead them not to welcome “one of these little ones who believe in me” and cause them to sin (18:5-6). So Jesus warns his disciples of the woe coming to the man who causes lowly disciples to sin (18:7).

    So the eye of 18:9 that causes you to sin is linked with the self-inflated disciple of 18:1-7, who causes a lowly disciple to sin. The “greater” disciple has despised the “lesser” disciple, who in 18:10-14, has left the “flock.” But Jesus does not want even one of these little ones to perish; the one sinned against has left the flock, and needs to be rescued.

    As for the one who caused a “little one” to sin (and leave), this “great” brother should be confronted with his sin (despising the little one, and not welcoming him). If he refuses to listen to his “lowly” brothers, and even the whole church/flock, he is to be “thrown out” of the body (be an outcast in the church, like the Gentile and tax collector are outcasts in Israel) (18:15-17).

    Thus the “member of the body” that causes sin can be a metaphor for an actual person, such as a “great” person in the body, who uses his power (the “right” eye of 5:29) to abuse more lowly persons in the body like women or new, lowly disciples. Such sin should not be covered up or tolerated, but should be confronted, calling for repentance (turning away from such sin); if that is refused, the body should throw out the powerful member that is causing all this sin.

    • Joshua Cleveland

      June 7, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      Hey Lucas,

      I agree completely with what you said. (No subtracting going on here). 🙂 I hadn’t ever thought of it in that light before. In fact, I haven’t even given much thought to the “eye” part of what Jesus was saying, so thank’s for clearing that up for me. 🙂 Also, I suppose its also quite possible that Jesus is talking about the Spiritual “body” of the Church, and so the “member that causes sin” is, as you said, a person abusing a women or new disciple. So I could be wrong on that account.

      Anyway, thank’s for stopping by and giving your comments, I appreciate them.


  2. ansuyo

    June 5, 2012 at 10:40 PM


    • Joshua Cleveland

      June 6, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      Thank you Angie, you always manage to encourage me. 🙂


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