MATTHEW 5:29-30: “Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away 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. And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away 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.” NASB
OBSERVATION: How am I preparing for the New Year? As another year comes to a close I find myself taking personal inventory once again. What have I accomplished? Where have I fallen short? How have I grown as a person? What in my life needs to change?
When you think about this annual process it resembles a perpetual merry-go-round. It is like the holiday cycle of marketing that takes place in the retail world. In November and December, the focus is on gifts, food, and celebrations. Immediately after Christmas, the ads begin to change and focus on exercise equipment, storage and organizational items for the house, and personal improvement programs.
The reality is – most of us overeat during the holidays. We buy too much and have to pay off our credit cards. We don’t have any room to add storage units because we are already maxed out for space. And, we need to get rid of the last piece of exercise equipment that we bought and never use before we buy the next great miracle-working machine! Sometimes I feel like yelling…
Stop the merry-go-round! I want to get off!!
This brings me to one of the most misunderstood but important teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. While Jesus was addressing the issue of lustful thoughts, what He says next applies to all of life and especially as we face a New Year.
- “Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away 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. And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away 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.”
Now, before we start to overreact, Jesus was using hyperbole. This is making an extreme statement to illustrate an important point. It is like someone saying – “I am so hungry I could eat a horse!” Jesus was not advocating dismembering one’s body to battle sin. Jesus was making the point of removing anything from our life that causes us to stumble. If this advice was given to King David on the night he sinned with Bathsheba, it would have been worded like this –
“If you can’t keep your eyes from wandering – STAY OFF THE ROOF!”
Yet, how many times do we face a New Year, start with great hopes, and end up tripping and falling in the same way once again? Why does this happen? Could it be that we are simply leaving the same obstacles in our path and then wondering why we keep tripping and falling? What would happen if we took Jesus’ words to heart and removed the things that keep causing us to stumble?
Over the years I have used the “Twinkie” example to illustrate this. Everyone knows that Twinkies are not a healthy snack. Yet, a Twinkie and a cold glass of milk…well, you get it. If the doctor told me that I was borderline diabetic and needed to cut sugar out of my life then I would need to give up Twinkies. Yet, just for nostalgia I purchase a box of Twinkies and put them in the cupboard. Now, I am not going to eat them, but I just like to look at them and remember the good old days…
Until I have to buy another box to replace the one that is now empty!
If I don’t remove the obstacle from my life I will keep tripping over it time and time again. This is true in every area of our life. So, Jesus uses an exaggerated statement to make a bold spiritual point. If there is something in your life that is causing you to stumble, that is keeping you from overcoming sin, reaching your goals, living in peace, abiding in joy, forgiving others, loving as Christ loved, then…
CUT IT OUT!
I need to hear these words. Perhaps I need to focus on what obstacles need removing more than what my New Year’s goals will be. If I keep running on the same old path that is filled with rocks and ruts, then it does not matter what I decide to do in the New Year, I will once again start with great hopes only to trip and fall once again!
I need to remove the obstacles or take a completely different path!
Heavenly Father, as I face this New Year, show me the things that You want me to remove from my life so that I can run the race that You have set before me. Give me the grace to surrender anything that keeps me from becoming more like Jesus Christ my Lord!
In Jesus’ Name!