Our next Jesus Says command causes much confusion and discomfort. Surely Jesus doesn’t mean for us to cut off our hands or poke out an eye? In a physical sense, of course not. Jesus is making an over the top statement to drive home a point. So often we think that a certain sin is so much a part of us that if we remove it, we will cease to be who we are. Jesus made this point about adultery and lust filled thoughts, but it really applies to everything.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out 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 be thrown into hell. 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.” (Matthew 5:27–30, NASB95 These are harsh and difficult but true words.
We can spread this out and include all forms of lust. My generation is steeped in “if it feels good do it” mantra. Basically, whatever we decide to do is ok. They say for example that porn is a victimless crime, not true for it at least hurts the one using it (even if they don’t recognize it at the time). Paul said, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18, NLT) Those images change the way the user views sex, people, and relationships. It sets unrealistic expectations that harm real relationships. And besides that, God says it is a sin.
But lust takes many forms, all of them are in some way self-centered and self-gratifying. Sexual lust, lust for power, position, or acceptance. Lust for food, for praise, for money and possessions can consume us. Lust to be left alone or to control others. Lust for anything that alters our mind or our mood.
Our lust can so entangle our lives that we may even fail to see it or see way out. We can recognize these lusts and addictions by what happens when they are denied. Possible indicators are anger, depression, moodiness, whining, feelings of failure, self-pity, and feeling that no one cares. These are all symptoms that may reveal our own particular lusts.
Victory over lust often requires a “cut it off” attitude. It may mean ending relationships, disconnecting our Internet connection, refusing to carry a mobile phone, fasting from an indulgent thought, laying our passions and desires at the foot of the cross – and leaving them there. Since many lusts and addictions also have a right and proper use a time of fasting is often helpful to bring them into order.
Here’s the big point. Those things that make us feel good may be the very things that are making it difficult to grow in Christ. I often ask this question – If Jesus told you to give it up (whatever the issue of the moment is) would you? If the answer is “no” then there is a heart issue. That lust is a god in their life. If the answer is “yes” then I can trust the Holy Spirit to reveal it to them at the right time. I do the same exercise myself. I don’t want anything to take the place of Jesus in my life. How about you?
Jesus says don’t, just don’t.
A Practical Note: Overcoming some of the things discussed above can be difficult and create guilt when we stumble and fall. My number one guidance is to find local pastoral counseling to help you walk out of these things. The first step is often talking with someone about it. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for prayer and support. The number two guidance is to get up and keep going after a fall. Don’t be discouraged, there are many who have walked this same path and found victory in Jesus.