“If Your Right Eye Causes You to Sin”
I think it was Gandhi who first pointed out that the logical end of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a blind and toothless society.
In the same way, the logical end of the literal application of Jesus’ words here is a Christian population that has no eyes and no hands.
It is possible that Jesus was making his point through the use of absurdity and indirection; he could have meant something like “Of course your eye and your hand are going to cause you to sin but what are you going to do about it, rip out your eye and cut off your hand? Better, then, to concentrate on the state of your heart, from which your sinful attitudes sprout and from which your sinful actions emerge.”
It is also possible that Jesus was making his point through the use of hyperbole; he could have meant something like “Lustful looks lead to adulterous actions and so if you find yourself falling prey to such sins, it’s serious business and you should do anything you can to avoid such sins; it’s so serious that I can describe the lengths to which you should go to avoid them in terms like ripping your eye out and cutting your hand off—but for goodness’ sake don’t’ take me literally.”
Regardless of the rhetorical method employed here by Jesus, though, his point is clear: we should take very, very, very seriously our responsibility to let God in God’s grace and love develop hearts in us that want to view people in the right way and to treat people in the right way.
So God, work that great work in us. Help us every day to treat the people that we see and with whom we deal with a little more love, a little more grace, and a little more respect.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members 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 of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)