“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…”
(Matthew 5:29 (ESV))
A couple of months ago I preached on Matthew 5:27-30, the section of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus teaches about adultery, which includes the difficult statement about cutting off the offending member of your body if it causes you to sin. As is usually the case, it’s not until a sermon has been delivered and tucked away that I come upon a comment or thought that make me think, “I wish I would have said that in my sermon.”
Recently I heard in a conversation the accusation that Christian’s are such hypocrites; that if we really believed what the Bible said, then we would all cut off our hand if it caused us to sin, or cut out our eyes. We have all sinned with our hands and eyes: we have done idle work, made obscene gestures, used our hands to inflict harm upon others, looked covetously at our neighbor and his/her property. If we are consistent, and if we say we adhere to Jesus’ teaching, then why haven’t we followed his command to remove the cause of our sin?
The explanation is really quite simply. The reason Christian’s aren’t walking around with their hands cut off or their eyes gouged out is that their hands and their eyes did not cause them to sin. They may have sinned with their eyes or with their hands, but the source of the sin was much deeper: the heart. If we want to take Jesus literally here, then we must cut out the cause of our sin – we must cut out our hearts.
Our hearts are dead in sin. They may pump blood to sustain life, but they can never produce the kind of repentance and love in obedience to God as is required. Our hearts are self-serving, self-seeking, idle-factories that must be cut out and cast away so that we may be given a new heart.
And that is the promise of the gospel. That our hearts of stone, our rebellious hearts, our hearts that were consumed with the passions and lusts of this world, have been removed. God has promised, and has performed, a heart transplant. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “and I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” He has given us new hearts, hearts that beat for Him, hearts that are capable of loving Him, hearts that are strengthened to love one another.