The Toughest Words You Will Ever Love
For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.
It is hard to read these words of Jesus without a Halloween-like movie scene coming to mind. And since most of us fret over the occasional splinter, we can’t imagine that submitting to a voluntary amputation as much of a solution to anything.
Our physical selves are so us, aren’t they? When we suffer pain or injury, it is hard to concentrate on little else. But, there is one thing that is more us and more real than our physical body: our immortal soul. The eternal life that Jesus is speaking of is determined by the condition of our soul, not our body. It is also important to notice what kind of temptations our Lord is describing here. They are the kind that come from the outside, but have the ability to damage, even destroy, our innermost selves.
Here is a simple illustration: You are walking in the woods and you trip over an unseen log, badly injuring your arm on a rock. On this rock grows a deadly bacteria. When tests determine this, the doctor tell you there is no treatment for this infection and you must have an immediate amputation of the diseased limb. Otherwise, the bacteria will overpower your immune system and you will die.
Here is another illustration: You and your spouse purchase a home (car/boat) that you clearly cannot afford, but you tell yourselves you will make it work. In short order, the stress on the budget becomes stress on your marriage, taking its toll on your relationship and impacting the emotional well-being of your family.
In both scenarios something from the outside has caused internal damage. The solution in each case is to excise the source of the problem: the infected arm, the extravagant purchase.
The world we live in is full of temptations that can harm both our inner peace and our relationships--with others and with God. In every case, one can hardly do better than follow Barney Fife’s advice to “Nip it in the bud.”
Tough words? Yes, they are. But if you follow them with your whole heart, these tough words can translate into a very soft pillow.