Some of us love to follow rules. We can be really good at following rules. We like to know exactly where the line in the sand is. Some of us want to know exactly how far over that line they can go before they meet some opposing force that’s going to let them know for sure, “you’ve gone too far!!” Point is, we like to know where the boundaries are, so we can either stay within those boundaries, or know that we are pushing the boundaries and can expect some kind of consequences to let us know we’ve overstepped them.
So it is with the “laws” of Jesus. We know we can’t hold anger, malice or contempt in our hearts for another. We know we shouldn’t lash out in anger, using words of contempt, tearing down someone who has in some way thwarted our will or offended our own delicate sensibilities. We know we shouldn’t stare longingly at the backside of every young lady who walks by. We know we shouldn’t take the scissors from work home with us.
Some of us will then try to push these boundaries. “Don’t you know I’m only joking!!” “Yeah, I watched this and it was hot and got me excited, but i wasn’t watching porn.” “I got angry at the little old biddy only doing 60 in the fast lane, but I didn’t run her off the road! And she shouldn’t be in the road anyway!!”
This is where we get tripped up. I’ve heard many people say that Jesus laid down “harsher” laws than Moses so that we would all really see our hopeless condition and then we will know that it’s only by His grace we can be saved. They set Jesus up as being meaner than Moses, setting the bar so high so as to force us to turn to Him. After all, if we can’t even follow the Ten Commandments, how in the world are we going to live up to this standard which is even higher?
Except the “laws” of Jesus given in the Sermon on the Mount aren’t really laws at all. They are examples given to us by Jesus of what we will look and act like if we are living in His kingdom here on earth, examples of what others will see from us if we are living out salvation in our lives (and BTW, when Jesus talks about the “Kingdom of God” and Paul talks about “salvation”…they are pretty much talking about the same thing.). If we have come to faith in Jesus Christ, for example, and someone cuts us off on the road, we might feel anger flash in that instance (after all, they could be pitting us in physical danger.). But we won’t be led to tailgate them, slingshot around them with our finger in the air, then cut in front of them and slam on our brakes to let them know we are not to be trifled with! Or someone of the opposite sex walks by on the beach, we will notice, but we won’t default to wanting to follow them with our eyes for the next half mile down the beach to etch every curve of their body unto our memory to use for for own purposes later on. We don’t have to put blinders on, swearing never to look at another man or woman for the rest of our lives as though their very existence was evil.
This is what Jesus is taking about as he continues from his warning about adultery in the heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Jesus is telling us right here that if we think we can create laws to live by to avoid wrongdoing in these areas, we may as well just cut off our body parts that would allow the action in the first place. If you blind yourself by gouging out both of your eyes, you could never undress another woman with them, could you? If you cut off both arms, you could never punch someone in anger. But then you’d have to cut off both legs too, because you could still high kick ’em into oblivion. Cut out your tongue, you could never utter words of contempt, using your words like a sword to cut that fool down to size.
Sounds like a miserable way to live, right? But…we’re not living for this world, are we? We’re living for eternity. So if that’s what you have to do in order not to break the law if Christ, then it’s worth it to know we are going to heaven. Isn’t it?
Except…you still aren’t in the Kingdom of God, in this life or the next. You’d be living in your own self-imposed hell right here, and you’d still wind up in the lake of fire in the age to come. Why would I say that? After all, you were able to follow all the rules, right? So that’s how we earn our ticket to heaven, by not doing all the right things, isn’t it?
Except for one little thing. Your heart is still your heart. You didn’t look lustfully at women who weren’t your wife. You never struck someone in anger. You never cursed out Grandma in the checkout line. You lived a miserable life as a bloody stump because you thought that was the only way to be truly righteous. But you would have done it all, and more. You would have told everyone exactly what a piece of trash they were. You would have beaten to a pulp those who offended you, might have even killed them. And if you could have only seen those women, maybe even gotten your hands on them. You’d have been such a stud. But you didn’t do any of these things. You cut off you arms. You cut off your legs. Cut out your eyes and tongues. You didn’t any of those things. But you also never changed your heart. You never heard the call of Jesus. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 ESV.
You didn’t give Him your heart. That’s all He wants. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 ESV
“”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 lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Matthew 5:27-30 ESV