Since all believers are saved, why do Mark and Matthew teach if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off because it is better to go to heaven without a hand than hell with a hand?
Let’s look at the context of Matthew 5:29-30 before we answer the question, “should you cut off your hand?”
We are all lawbreakers.
“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.” (Matthew 5:27–28)
Jesus begins earlier in Matthew 5:20 saying, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” One of Jesus’ main purposes of the Sermon of the Mount is to help the listener understand that unless they perfectly obey God’s commands, they are lawbreakers.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Many people believed that because they did not commit the actual act of murder or adultery, they were not lawbreakers. Jesus clarifies in Matthew 5:21-28 that even thinking malicious thoughts and sensual thoughts makes us lawbreakers.
We are all lawbreakers, and every lawbreaker deserves of the punishment of sin which is death. Jesus wanted to make clear that all of us fall into this category.
Many who heard Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount were not followers of Christ. Many falsely assumed that they were good people and law abiding people.
Jesus uses hyperbole.
Hyperbole refers to an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally.
“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 5:29-30)
Jesus did not intend for listeners to tear out their eye and cut off their hand. If the listeners truly believed that Jesus was speaking literally, there would have been at least a few people who would have injured themselves, and it would have likely been recorded.
Also, we know that tearing out an eye does not stop the heart from lusting sinfully. A blind man can still commit adultery in the heart and in the flesh.
What is Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:29-30?
Jesus is recorded to teaching something similar in Matthew 18:8-9 and Mark 9:43-48.
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your 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 the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18:7–9 ESV)
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”” (Mark 9:43–50 ESV)
Jesus warns us that our eternity destiny is much more important than our temporal conditions in this present life. It is better for us to have one eye and go to heaven than to have two good eyes and be thrown into eternal hell.
Jesus wants us to deal with our sin seriously, harshly, radically. He is not asking us to mutilate our physical bodies,
We all are guilty of sin. Even if we didn’t commit the actual act of murder and adultery, we break the laws of God in our hearts constantly.
Jesus never had in mind that these sins will cause believers to lose our salvation. Because many people listening to His sermon believed that they were not law breakers, Jesus wanted to dispel their false salvation of good works.
Ultimately, the solution to our sin does not lie within ourselves. We cannot stop sinning. We cannot save ourselves. That is Jesus’ point. After hearing the Sermon on the Mount, a listener should be gripped with guilt and despair over the prevalence, penalty and power of sin.
That is exactly why Jesus came. God dealt with the sins of His people harshly by sending His Son to die on the cross. Instead of pouring out His wrath on us deservingly, God poured out His wrath on His Son on the cross.
True security of salvation
We cannot inherit eternal life by following God’s laws. We have broken God’s laws; our salvation only comes by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And once we have received this gift of salvation received by faith, it will never be taken away from us.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:1, 38–39)