Chop off your hand?! Was Jesus serious?

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:29-30)

I doubt there’s a Christian alive who hasn’t been troubled by this verse (and Matt. 18:8-9). It’s one of those things you read that causes you to do a double-take. What?! Did Jesus really say that? Was he serious? I’d better ask the pastor.

Chances are you came away thinking that Jesus wasn’t serious. After all, Jesus is the kindest person there is. He healed people. Surely he doesn’t want us to go around maiming ourselves.

Then you looked around your church and saw that no one had actually chopped off their hands, so you took comfort in the fact that everyone thought the way as you did. There’s safety in numbers.

No doubt this is an uncomfortable pair of verses. Maybe you don’t think about them that much. But how you interpret Jesus’ words is extremely important. So let’s cut to the chase: was Jesus being figurative or literal when he made this statement?

If you think he was using a figure of speech, how do you know that he wasn’t speaking metaphorically at other times? Do you just assume that anytime Jesus said something hard he was speaking figuratively? Or if you think Jesus was being literal, have you done what he said? Have you ignored him?

Hmm. It seems your choice is presumption or disobedience. This is a tricky one. Let’s look at the arguments for each conclusion.

Was Jesus speaking figuratively?

Jesus loved metaphors, especially when describing the kingdom of heaven. “It’s like a mustard seed” and “it’s like a treasure buried in field” and “it’s like a pearl of great price.” Jesus often used word pictures to convey revelation.

I guess the default view is that Jesus is speaking metaphorically when he tells us to gouge out our eyes and chop off our hands.

Jesus is using strong words to convey something about the seriousness of sin. He’s not really preaching self-mutilation but self-denial. What he means to say is we must be sensitive to sin and renounce it and run from it and do whatever it takes to avoid it.

This has been the standard interpretation for most of church history. But there are two flaws with this interpretation. First, it assumes that Jesus was exaggerating and Jesus never exaggerated. Preachers sometimes exaggerate but Jesus always meant what he said and said what he meant. He is Truth personified. It is inconceivable that he would play with words for the crude purpose of ramming home a lesson.

The second flaw with this interpretation is that it suggests we can do stuff to save ourselves from hell. Maybe we don’t have to self-amputate, but we can do things like confess, abstain, renounce and so forth. There’s nothing wrong with these things; the error comes in thinking we can save ourselves by doing them. There is nothing you can do to earn eternal life.

Was Jesus speaking literally?

Most people think Jesus was speaking figuratively because they cannot conceive for a second that he meant what he said. But what if he did? Does it follow that he actually wants us to chop off our hands? Of course not! We are sanctified by the blood of the Lamb, not our severed limbs (Heb 10:29). Self-mutilation does nothing to deal with sin for sin is conceived in the heart not the hand (Matt 5:28). Besides, if you chop one hand off you’re left with another. You can still sin!

So what’s going on here? Why would Jesus tell us to do something he doesn’t want us to do?

He’s doing it so people will realize the absurdity of trying to impress God with their acts of self-righteousness. He’s preaching law on steroids not so that you will try to keep it but so that you will give up pretending you are.

It is hard for some Christians to grasp the idea that Jesus could preach both grace and law without confusing the two, but he did. Jesus is the perfect physician. He knows exactly what medicine you need. If you’re broken and hurting you’ll get grace, but if you’re self-righteous and religious you’ll get law.

A self-righteous person thinks he can impress God with his religious performance. The only language he understands is law. He says, “all these commands I have kept from my youth, what else do I lack?” And Jesus responds, “Okay, you asked for it, here it is – receive more law.”

Why preach the law?

The law is not a standard to live up to, but a mirror that reveals our faults. The law was not given to help you overcome sin, but to help sin overcome you (Rom 7:8-9).

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was preaching to people who thought they would be judged righteous if they kept the law. But instead of being silenced by their inability to do so, they had watered it down making it easier to keep. Jesus’ response was to polish the mirror.

Why did Jesus do this? Why did our gracious king spend so much time preaching the law? Because some people will never appreciate the good news until they’ve heard the bad news, which is this:

Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:20)

The law is holy, righteous and good, but try to live by it and it will condemn and kill you (2 Cor 3:6,9). The purpose of the law is to bring man to the end of himself and reveal his need for a Savior (Gal 3:24).

If you are self-righteous, you will never appreciate Jesus until the law has done its job and plowed the pride out of your smug little heart. I’m a decent person, you say. I’ve never killed or committed adultery. Not good enough, says Jesus. God knows your heart. If you’ve entertained murderous or lustful thoughts you’ve as good as done it.

This is a serious business, says Jesus. If you persist in this pathetic course of self-reliance, you had better be prepared to go the whole way even if that means sacrificing an eye and a hand. (Paul says something similar in Galatians 5:12.) And knowing there would be some religious wackos out there who might miss the point and actually go to such extremes, Jesus follows up with this:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)

God expects perfection and nothing less. If you’re not perfect, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you’re in serious trouble. Now here’s the good news:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matt 5:17)

Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of the law on your behalf. You are not perfect, but thank God you have a perfect high priest!

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Heb 7:25-26)

Why did Jesus make such a big deal about the law in Matthew 5? He did it to prepare our hearts for the good news of God’s grace. Jesus is saying you can either trust your own law-keeping performance or you can trust his. But what you can’t do is dilute the law and think that impresses God.

Jesus wasn’t foolin’

Jesus was born under the law and fulfilled the law to redeem those under the law so that we might receive the full rights of sons (Gal 4:4-5). Because of what Jesus has done we are no longer under law but grace. The good news is that his righteousness far surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees and he offers it to you as a free gift (Rm 1:17).

To the answer the question at the top of this post – was Jesus serious? – yes, he was as serious as a heart attack. He was so serious that he suffered and died to redeem you from the curse of the law that he himself preached.

The next time someone tells you that Jesus was playing with words, that he didn’t really mean what he said, don’t let them get away with it. Don’t let them water down his words to suit their own performance.

Jesus was not exaggerating to make a point. Neither was he using fear to push us towards dead works. He was telling us that God expects nothing short of perfection and that he – Jesus – is the only hope we have.

Enjoy this article? Why not sign up to our free email list and we’ll notify you about new articles as soon they come out. No spam, we promise.

Help these messages of hope and grace go further by supporting us via our Patreon page.

74 Comments on Chop off your hand?! Was Jesus serious?

  1. Great post! I love how you show the literal and the way that we are redeemed without removing our hands and eyes, because we all know we would all be handless and blind by now if we had to do what this says. I do find it amazing that Jesus gave His life so that all of us could live, I mean, I look at myself and all I can think is… I’m not worth that.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, a great explanation of these verses and of how great is our Savior and how great a salvation we have, in Him alone.

  3. Jesus came to fulfill the law Mt 5:17, yet grace came through Jesus Jn 1:17.

    In Chinese mao2 矛 is a spear, dun4 盾 a shield. A classic word-picture in this language is of an arms dealer who flogs his spears as “all-piercing” and his shields as “all-thwarting,” thus illustrating the meaning of mao2dun4 矛盾: contradiction, contradictory.

    The law is all-piercing–everyone feels its bite, all have sinned and do not reach the level of God’s glory Rom 3:23, and nothing we do can elevate us to an acceptable level of holiness Gal 3:10. But Jesus received the free gift of [our] sin that we might freely receive the unmerited favor of God, right-standing with God 2 Cor 5:21. Grace that covers–nay, erases–is truly all-thwarting: when we believe that Jesus has done this for us, we are counted righteous Rom 4:3, Gal 3:6, Jas 2:23.

    “Grace through faith” Eph 6:16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And so grace triumphs, turning even the darts of accusation that the law would throw.

  4. Good post. I think you missed the point of this verse. You mentioned, when Jesus says to gouge your eye out or cut off your hand if it causes you to sin, that he was speaking in riddles or metaphors etc… that would be anyone’s assumption. But really what was he comparing this self mutilation to? What was the example of self mutilation about?

    Everlasting torment in hell is the point of this passage. Why do most of the people at your church on Sunday sit next to you with their eyes in tact and their hands holding the hymnal? Is it because they are so good, without sin? C’mon you know what it is, your not safe in numbers and neither are they.

    The road is narrow and very few will get in. Most of us are headed to hell. Even the good Christians sitting next to you at church. Your nice grandparent, loving pastor, childhood Sunday school friends.
    Yes, we are all going to hell.

    Unless we take extreme measures and really start to depend on the holy Spirit begin the sanctification process. I think the sin that Jesus is referring to in this passage is the sin of lust. Paul mentions in Romans 1 that those sexual sins that God willingly turns over to are the ones that are really the damning sins that seal the deal for eternity in hell.

    I know I’m not going to be ripping my eyes out tonight. I can’t say the same as far as my lust goes with my eyes. I know I’m weak. I think you all are to. I’m worse than you, Chief of Sinners. I hope that I take sin in my life more seriously and also think of eternity in ever lasting torment as a good motivation to not allow lust to rule me. God bless all the people trying to really walk the Christian walk. God damn all the fake Christians leading others so effortlessly to torment for eternity.


    • You didn’t read the post. Even if you had glanced at the headings you would’ve learn my view – that Jesus was speaking literally and not in riddles. Yes, this is very serious, but I will not join you in cursing those whom God has blessed. With respect, I encourage you to get your eyes off your sinful self and onto your Savior.

      • If Jesus didn’t mean Christians to obey this why would he suggest that under the law if you remove your hand that would remedy the problem, since it shouldn’t have happened in the first place and cutting one’s hand off wouldn’t prevent someone going to hell fire since no amount of removing limbs would surfice, but Jesus implies here that removing whatever is the spiritual obsticals (which it what the cutting of limbs is a metaphor for), between a person and a relationship with God is what is really what is in view here and not perfection. A person doesn’t need to be perfect and without sin to cut off or remove from their lives those things that are spiritually unwholesome. The law is in view here but not a perfect keeping of it, which one can only do by seeking the righteouness of Christ. May I sugget you have misuderstood?

    • I definitely think rdietz definitely misses the point here. While I don’t agree with this article on 100% of the things presented, it was still good and truthful in many ways.

      Your lifestyle is totally run by legalism instead of the Holy Spirit sanctification you claim we need. Now, I cannot stress Holiness enough but your are trying to be self righteous. You are trying to save yourself!

      You probably struggle with assurance of salvation because you can’t trust God’s grace to save you. If you sin once you probably are in turmoil the rest of the day and beg God for salvation again. These are just guesses, but educated ones. I know, i used to be there. But God opened my eyes through His Word. He showed me Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8 – 9 and then the book of 1 John.

      We can’t save ourselves, so stop trying!

    • The Greek word for Hell used in this instance was geennan, the Hebrew word, Gei-Hinnom. The Valley of Hinnom was a despicable place where people would burn their garbage and offal. This was the location where the Isrealites once sacrificed their children to Molech Jer 32:35. Three words were translated as Hell in the New Testament: Hades, Gehenna or and Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4) These three words were translated as Hell in the King James Version. William Tyndale also translated these three words as Hell in his New Testament tranlation. John Wycliffe translated these three words as Helle. John Wycliffe translated the Bible from the Latin Vulgate, William Tyndale from the Greek. The word Hell does not appear in the Hebrew or Greek translations, it was introduced into the English translation…

  5. Marcus Carey // August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm // Reply

    Jesus is saying we should take sin serious. Plucking your eye out and cutting off your hand shows this seriousness. However, sin does not come from ones eye or hand. Sin comes from the heart. (see Matthew 15:15-20) A man can look at women without sinning. It is the lust he has in his heart that causes him to sin.

    • I agree and think this is the best interpretation, which also happens to be literal. Continuing the thought would mean we need to cut out our heart. Good News. God did that for us. Ez 36:26 & Heb 10:16.

  6. Classic. Preaching law so that they will be ready for grace. Great write up!!!Yipiie!!

  7. Paul, I just started reading your page. I began searching for the meaning of John 14:15, and I just went on from there, from your links. I’m beginning to love you. – Jeff.

  8. Your a blessing Paul. Thanks for explaining that verse on plucking out eyes and chopping off arms. Jesus was serious about sins, and at the same time throught His ministries, He was opening up the way for Grace and to fullfill the Law and its requirements. No wonder the pharisees and suducees were mad at Him. Knowing us christians cannot fullfill the Law and be perfect, Jesus did that in order for all of us to be accepted and made righteous by Him.
    Lets not forget that He imputed His own righteous to us, so now we dont have to worry if we are measuring up to Gods standards.

  9. This is quite simple actually, not being arrogant, but Christ forgives sins… His love is an ocean of mercy! What would be the point of forgiveness if this was literal. Think . Peace.

  10. Mikael Cupidon // August 26, 2013 at 10:20 am // Reply

    Hello bro my name is Michael I’m 17 I’ve been in the Body Of Christ since I was 5 but my spirit was awoken around the age of 14.i just wanted to lightin up the answer.
    I’d answer your question by saying Jesus always spoke in parabolas,
    for example he said if someone slaps you on the cheek give them the other you wouldnt think of doing that the first thing that would come to your mind is fight. But where told to turn the other. What im teying to say is
    God n Jesus are the same in which they have many mysteries that we as men make a big deal. And it’s really not the mysteries are not in some books written by people on tv that call themselfs the names of the five ministers. It in the greatest most powerful book of all which is the bible.
    God bless

  11. I wonder if the chopping off a hand and entering heaven without hand is figurative does it change to literal when speaking of going to hell?

  12. I stumbled a bit about “…Jesus never exaggerated”. The plank in my eye kept whacking against my monitor and making it hard to focus on your point. But indeed God is known to respond to us as we request, salvation for those who want to spend eternity with Him and absence from the Lord for those who chose to reject Him. I hadn’t considered before that for those that desire law, He would keep heaping it on them until they cried for salvation. But it does seem fitting for His character and His purposes, to draw all men to Himself as Savior.

  13. Funny He never mentioned the tongue, seems to me to be the major one that gets most people into trouble 🙂

  14. Hi there,

    i believe i have been born again for 13 yrs now. But i have struggled with lust for about 12yrs now. My life is like “jenkel and Hide”!

    I love Jesus, worship, prayer, bible read daily, but sometimes I get swept away with lust with hours a day, doing the filthiest things… shameful. Could this be a demon?

    What can i do?

  15. I had a revelation about this that Jesus by saying this was living prophetically. What is required is the cutting off of that that causes you to sin. Now we know that Jesus was cut off from the living so the body of sin could be cut off in Christ . He became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. 🙂

  16. I got saved at billy Graham mission England when I was seventeen. I am now forty seven and for a long time I turned my back on Jesus got mixed up in drugs dealing as well which ended in my going to jail. Even though I was in a dark place god protected me I could easily have been killed yet he never turned his back on me. God doesn’t give up on us he didn’t with me. My faith is stronger and I know that we might try to give up on god but he won’t on us that is why god is god . perfect unlike us. It has taken me a long time to get to this place of assurance of gods love . I get annoyed with Christians who get all legalistic you can’t earn gods love don’t try because you won’t. Jesus said my yoke is light let it be so. All glory to god. Amen

  17. this post was done in 2011.. but here it is answering questions I had in my heart just this week.. great post Paul. thanks..

    • 1 Timothy 5:2
      older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

      Could this be an answer?

  18. So did Jesus want us to literally hate our mother and father then too?

    • Good question, Peter. If Luke 14:26 was the only thing Jesus said on the subject, we would be in a bind, but since Jesus spoke about this elsewhere we can let the words of Jesus interpret the words of Jesus. His meaning is perhaps best conveyed in Matt. 10:37: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” In other words, if you have to choose, Jesus comes first.

      What about that word “hate” (miseō)? Jesus uses it in Matt 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Same conclusion. Jesus is talking about putting God first. Conclusion: the meaning of the word hate depends on the context and in the scriptures we’ve read it means to have a strong preference for something else.

      If you took Jesus’ words as an invitation to hate people, you would miss his heart completely. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to hate no one (Matt 5:43). John who said “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (1 John 3:15).

      No doubt there have been some who justified their hatred of others by telling themselves they were putting God first. But 1 John 4:20-21 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

  19. Sin is serious but did he really mean cut off your hands legs etc? Its the human brain that sins and send signals to the body.. but anyway I have heard that .. the meaning of his words are cut off anything that stops you from Coming close to GOD ..could be relations .. bad company ..negative thoughts

  20. This verse means that, if there’s something you like to do that you’re not sure if it’s a sin or not, stop doing it.

  21. Henry Alferink // January 29, 2015 at 9:55 pm // Reply

    Hiya, in Matthew 18, Jesus repeats what he said in Matthew 5 about gauging your eye out etc. If you read those verses in context, Jesus seems to be serious – not just trying to give us an impossible standard. What would you say about this? Peace.

  22. The explanation is even simpler than this. Jesus said “if your eye causes you to sin…”

    Does your eye CAUSE you to sin? NO
    Does your hand CAUSE you to sin? NO

    Sin is IN us. It’s woven into our very fabric and there is nothing WE can do to be rid of it. Hence, the Grace of God given to all through Christ. He must do the cleansing becasue HE is the only one who can. Our faith must rest solely on HIS work not ours. I would like to think that by the time a person had wound up with no hands, eyes, or feet, they would realize that they still had sinful thoughts. What’s next the head?? I imagine Jesus was dealing with people in his time much like the people in our time who try to excuse their behavior by not taking responsibility for their actions. I can hear them now “It’s not my fault, my eye is causing me to sin. It’s not my fault, my hand is causing me to sin.” Jesus tells us that it’s not even what goes into you that makes you unclean. It’s what comes out. And if you think he’s talking about food….go back and read your Bible again.

  23. I think it’s simple, Jesus wants us to realize that it’s impossible to meet his standards and we should give up trying because no matter how hard we try its futile. Once we realize this simple truth, we are humbled and look for a Savior, we then put our faith and trust to Christ instead of our own self or ability.

  24. Yes, Jesus meant what He said, and He wants His followers to live just as He spelled out in the Sermon of the Mount. Can we do it? Of course not! Based on our own strength we can’t. But by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can. Our part is to respond and let God help us. This is the way of life that we must aspire to and let God help us attain more and more.

  25. You have not read his words closely enough. He says *if* your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. He does not say he believes your hand ever causes you to sin. When you ask yourself what part of it it is that causes you to sin, you know that the answer is that it is the mind, which trivialises life into a problem to be solved, causing dissatisfaction until it is solved. Unfortunately it cannot be solved by using the mind, because it is the attempt to make life into a problem to be solved which causes the dissatisfaction. So what Jesus is really saying is that if your mind is causing you to sin, then get rid of it. He is not referring to your brain, or to your consciousness, but that voice in your head that tells you that what is right now (God manifested) is not enough. If you cannot be fully in the presence of God (i.e. without having to think), even sometimes, that is the real hell, and the monsters that arise out of that pit will perform all manner of horrors to satisfy the unsatisfiable voice. The vast majority of the world’s population suffer from this affliction, but it is possible to be free of.

    • There are two kinds of people; those who take Jesus at face value – he said what meant and meant what he said – and those who say Jesus was speaking metaphorically. “Jesus didn’t mean that, he meant this. Jesus says eye and hand but it’s actually voices in your head.” It’s fine to take the figurative route, if that’s your preference, but it’s a bit rich to say we literalists are the ones who aren’t reading his words closely.

      That said, I agree with you that the world suffers from the affliction of walking after the flesh and that this is a hellish path. But Jesus goes further here for he is speaking of the law (see the preceding verses in Matt 5) to a law-minded people. “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…” If you seek to justify yourself by the law, you’d better be prepared to go the whole way. It’s absurd/ludicrous/insane because the premise is absurd/ludicrous/insane – you can’t justify yourself by the law. Diminish the punchline – “Jesus didn’t really mean what he said” – and you damage the message.

      Incidentally, this style of preaching was emulated by Paul when he said of the circumcision group, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

      • Thank you for the thoughtful response. I am not a Christian in a religious sense, although I have started to look more closely at the teachings of Jesus, since I think that essentially what he was saying was that God is not some separate (human-like) entity watching us from afar, but that God is the totality of everything, and the glory of God is being fully present with this totality, of which we are as equally a part as a sheep or a mountain, which is perfect simply because it is the only thing.

        Since I am not a Christian, at least not in the ritualistic sense, I don’t consider myself to belong to any particular doctrinal branch. In fact, this is an example of the very thing I am railing against; when we attach labels such as literalist or figurativist to people, we both separate them from ourselves by seeing them as ‘other’, and we separate ourselves from God by concluding that if he is separate from me, then I am separate from everything, and thus I have everything to fear, and no time to enjoy being, which after all must be God’s purpose for us if that is what we are born doing. I appreciate that your post was in fact a fair and nuanced reply, but the categorisation may put off some more dogmatic people from reading further…

      • Fair point – I should’ve said there are two kinds of interpretation, not people. Thanks for the comment.

  26. I just wanted to drop a line of gratitude to you Paul for referring me to this page on a question I asked in another concerning if you were suggesting Jesus’ cut off the hand was literal. I have much to learn on this grace journey having been raised with a mix. I have to be reprogrammed if you will.

  27. I did a study on this and I found out (using cross-references) that it meant to ‘crucify the flesh’ as our old selves (sarx) were crucified with Jesus on the cross when we came to Him.

  28. I do believe it meant to show us the seriousness of sin…. And yeah really if that has to be so…. Then PLUCK it out…literally… Just as he say better to enter in the kingdom mamed…. Maybe it doesn’t have to go that far for some, but for others maybe plucking out both…. I used to listen to people always down playing what Jesus said…. Oh this oh Grace..oh Jesus paid for all sin… Once and for all…he did but he didn’t give us a free pass to sin and all sin has consequences in this life and more than that if you’ve fallen away from God and die in your sin you’ll b eternally lost in he’ll… This walk with God is not easy by any means… And if you need to do anything that would b considered over the top than so be it….

  29. By the way i love this post

  30. Dennis Linscomb // December 28, 2015 at 5:32 am // Reply

    Paul: You express your belief that Jesus did not use hyperbole, I think because you view this as lying (“Jesus always meant what He said and said what He meant. He is Truth personified.”) I don’t take that viewpoint. I follow the many scholars who believe that Jesus, esp. in the Sermon on the Mount, used effectively the rabbinic technique of hyperbole. He wasn’t lying by using that technique because people knew the rabbis did not mean it literally. Jesus sounded like many other rabbis of his day who said extreme things to reinforce the importance of their teaching. People took these teachings seriously, but knew they were overstatements for effect. That is why you don’t have examples of early Christians who had gouged out their eyes or cut off their hands. They understood that Jesus did not mean this literally.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be saying that Jesus wants his Mat. 5:29-30 saying to be taken literally (because Jesus is teaching the high demands of the law) and also to be taken figuratively (because he is also teaching the grace of salvation through Jesus’ sacrificial work). I think the law vs. grace tension is in the Sermon on the Mount, but I personally wouldn’t try to explain it by trying to have it both ways, i.e. literal and non-literal meanings of Jesus’ sayings, because that is confusing and contradictory. “Literal” is mutually exclusive of “figurative” by definition. Figurative means “departing from a literal use of words”. So one cannot say that you can interpret a verse in the Bible (or any statement for that matter) literally and figuratively at the same time.

    • As I say in the post, I believe a figurative interpretation is flawed several ways and that Jesus wanted his law-observing hearers to take his lawful words literally.

      • Dennis Linscomb // December 29, 2015 at 5:01 am //

        Paul: But if Jesus wanted his hearers to take his words literally, what if some of them didn’t realize “the absurdity of trying to impress God with their acts of self-righteousness” and went home that night and gouged out their eyes and chopped off their hands because they thought (and rightly so according to you) that Jesus meant that literally?

  31. Actually, I’ve learned from going to churches for over 40 years that when the preacher/reader interprets it literally, then Jesus was literal. When the preacher/reader interprets it as not literal, then they say that Jesus wasn’t being literal. The point is that it’s the person who reads it who will read it exactly as they wish to take it.

  32. I’m sorry but this is insane how many people suffering with metal health do you think have self harmed gorged out both eyes I belive God I am a true seeker God would not let us go to hell he would give us a chance if we even do one good deed to change our heart just before we die good will decide what happens there are thousand of reasons why Jesus and the God of the old testament is a shame you trying to protect the bible is not going to convince anyone good day sir

  33. Excellent post Saint Paul. I like the phrase you used “He (Jesus) is preaching the law on steroids not so that you will try to keep it but so that you will give up pretending you are.” Great quote and I will use save that for future.
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

  34. Next Level // June 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm // Reply

    As I see it, Matthew 19:24 is a humorous example of Jesus using hyperbole.

    Jesus also repeated these sayings in Mark 9:43-49, not in connection with the sermon on the mount, and in Mark 9, notice the three parts of the body Jesus mentioned:
    – Hand: representing your power, effort, what you take hold of
    – Foot: representing your standing and your “walk”
    – Eye: your sight and perception

    It is beneficial to know that the wisdom of God is manifold (Ephesians 3:10), and Jesus always uses language perfectly. His words had a perfect meaning under the Law, and they also have a perfect meaning under Grace. The Pharisees believed external things could defile them (what they saw, what they touched and where they walked), and Jesus’ statement would carry their thought to its conclusion.

    Under Grace all three of these things have manifold meanings for us.
    If we try to clean ourselves up or please God by our own efforts.
    If we try to stand in ourselves, and don’t “walk” according to the truth of Christ
    If we still see ourselves as unclean which leads back to number one.

    Jesus knew what He was saying, and He managed to teach Grace while still upholding the Law perfectly, since He was still under it at the time.

  35. Not one single human being is capable of being perfect 24/7, 365. We are in the flesh. The flesh is unable to be perfect 24/7, 365, otherwise we would be Jesus himself. If we are capable of being perfect 24/7, 365 then heaven wouldn’t have very many angels at all. Although I’d like to be perfect 24/7, 365 and follow every word to the t, even not having sinful thoughts, I know that is nearly impossible being in the flesh and a human being, especially with 60 or more years of life ahead of me.

  36. Paul, thank you. All of you…thank you. It’s a tough gig, this…flesh. girls…heh ! I hope we all meet in Heaven and have a laugh. I’d like to tell you all about a songwriter by the name of Chuck Cannon…as brilliant as all of you. He has an album named God shaped hole. on which is a song that says “every sinner has a future , every saint has a past ” and another lyric that says “how I wish love was the coin of the realm” …I really enjoy his stuff. I didn’t mean to plug him, I was really looking for an answer to the question…in the end, I think we all know right from wrong. Thank God He lets us repent…a lot. God bless you all.

  37. …… what ever happened to walking with god? what happened to “go forth and sin NO MORE”? What happened to “If you love me, keep my commands”? what about “Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.?

    No…… this article is an heretical work and as for the so called “true believers” posting reply’s of “well you can never be perfect so sin all you want and then just say you believe and that you’re sorry” rinse repeat….wallow in your sin everyday like pig but then expect to be washed with the blood of the lord as if taking a shower every night? they need to look up the true meaning of the word REPENT.
    Jesus… praise be his name, is saying that you need to change your life style and if making that changes requires you to chop off your hand or gouge your eye out then perhaps you should consider it, better that than lose salvation.

    Here is a question for you; I know a man, or know of a man. He wakes up in the morning and does his work, his work happens to be selling illegal drugs he buys and sells and goes about his business, he lies his way through many encounters and even steals small amounts of product for his own use.
    He is done for the day (peddling that is) so decides to go to a bar and get drunk, he gets an urge for something else while drunk and decides to visit a prostitute.
    After this is finished with and he’s on his way home he see’s a random stranger on the street and proceeds to beat him and steal his wallet, he arrives home an indulges in some of the product he acquired earlier before laying down in bed, at this point he prays and asks forgiveness.

    He wakes up the next day, this day will be very similar to the last as will the next day and the day after that and so on.

    Is this man saved? is he going to God’s kingdom?

    • What happened to it was that we realized that such scriptures were being used as a cover-up to hide scriptures like these: Whatever happened to God was in the world not counting men’s sins against them? “And I will remember your sins and lawless deeds no more.” Is there a risk for grace-abuse? Definitely. But Paul and the apostle risked their neck to preach it anyways. For we are worse of otherwise. You and the “late great church” are the heretic.

    • Gotta love that worn out assumption that because we are not crying and bawling about sin every second of the day we are pigs who want to wallow in sin. It is BECAUSE we know how bad sin is that we take the stance we have. We do not play fast and loose with pretending to ourselves that our ordinary everyday sins are okay because we have tried hard and mean well. Nor do we pride ourselves that because we are not doing the big ugly sins like drug dealing, theft and fornication that we are okay with God. The Holy Spirit dwells within us teaching us to say yes to godliness not to say yes to sin all you like 😉
      Our good intentions and sincere efforts to not sin are nice but they do not clean us up enough for the perfect holiness of God. Sin is so bad that only the blood offering of God Himself can wash us clean enough. It is true that no one is going to live perfect enough for God’s standards. The smallest sin is hell worthy even if you feel sorry about it and promise to try real hard to not sin that way again. Salvation and eternity are not purchased through cleaning up one’s act and/or the emotions of feeling sorry or disgusted about sin.
      Jesus one time blood offering purchased our eternal redemption. If we reject that and turn to our own behavior how are we any different than the Pharisees who thought they were on Gods’ team because of their outward holy living? I ask because I used to be one thinking I was awesome because of how Christian(aka holy) I was all the while looking to myself and not Jesus for being right with God

  38. I have dwelt on this and the revelation that I have is that Jesus never uses hyperbole, He is absolutely serious in what He says, it is the only way to deal with it ourselves and therefore impossible. But I see Jesus who was Himself cut off that we might have life in Him. This is the circumcision of the heart, the cutting away of the flesh where Jesus was cut off for us 🙂

  39. Thanks. It was good.

  40. This is such an excellent explanation of Jesus’s intent for saying what He did in Matthew 5:29!!! I was trying to fully understand why He said that, because scripture says, God is not a man that He should lie. Thank you for explaining it to me so exceptionally well!!! Love,Lisa Hudachek

  41. Beautiful documentary. My heart melted. I which all people in our government would read thth article and understand what Jesus meant about His views of the law, and start practicing His teachings. We need it more than ever! ! Thank you. God bless all.

  42. Thank you for this it helped me a lot

  43. “Jesus never exaggerated.”

    Do you think we should literally hate our father and mother???

  44. well said. those who are born again will take this as relief from performance based Christianity. And it puts a new light on repentance. it turns repentence into surrender to God and turn from sin. whereas the law was a fance behaviour modification and sin uses the law to kill you kinda like how everything hitler did was legal. the ministry of moses was the ministry of death. written and graven on stones… that is not the ceremonial law only.. he is talking specificly the ten comandments.. puts a blinder over the mind but when the heart turns to the lord the veil is taken away. those who get in a big huff saying this stuff like the guy that drinks and screws hookers then goes to church and prays and asks for forgivness… then say is he still going to be accepted into heaven.. the answer is clearl. no thief not murderer liar drunkard fornicator idolator
    or homosexual will enter the kingdom of heaven. in otherwords.. if you try to enter through moses you will be placed under one of these catagories. if you enter through Christ, you are a new creation. and it does not yet appear what we shall be.

  45. Great article, you explained the Words of Jesus very well & simple to understand! Thanks!!

  46. Denver Aldridge // July 25, 2017 at 11:09 am // Reply

    Paul command Christians to mortify the flesh with it evil desire, This is what Jesus means when he said cut of right hand and pluck out eye if they causes you to sin. the eye and the hand is what the wicked heart uses to carry out sin. The bible speaks about the lust of the eyes.If we always obey the flesh which uses our members of our body to sin instead of the obeying Holy Spirit , then we are still in the flesh.Paul said walk by the spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of the flesh. Paul said people who practice sin according to Gal 5 : 22 will not inherit the kingdom of God.meaning they are not saved. Christians must deal drastically with the flesh which is not the eyes or hand but the flesh manifest sin through the members of the body. in 1st Corinthians 9 : 27 Paul said i disicipline my body and keep it under control lest after preaching to others i myself should be disqualified.The one of the fruit of the Holy spirit is Self control , but the fruit of the flesh are all sins that Paul speaks about in Gal 5 :22

    • Forgive me if I misread you, but you make it sound we earn or keep or complete our salvation by not sinning. Romans 8:13 is an exhortation (not a threat) to walk after the spirit, to act like who we are (in Christ) and not act like who we used to be. It’s the key to living the life that is already ours and can never be taken away.

      When Paul talks about being disqualified in 1 Cor 9:27, he is not talking about salvation. It’s certainly true that no sinners can qualify for heaven, but it’s equally true that God turns sinners into saints. You are not saved because of your performance; you are saved because you are a child of God. And how do we know that we are? It is not by examining our behavior and casting away a good conscience. It is by believing what the Spirit says about us. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:16-17).

    • momzilla76 // July 26, 2017 at 12:17 am // Reply

      Romans 8:9 says that if we belong to Jesus we ARE in the Spirit. We do not get into the Spirit by our walk, aka lifestyle choices. We get to walk in the Spirit because we already belong to Jesus.
      The thing about the fruit analogy is that the fruit grows because of what tree the branch is grafted into or growing from. The branch does not choose what kind of fruit it is going to produce. The natural tree can only produce the fruits of sin. Yet if one is in Christ by belonging to Him they are going to produce the correct fruits. Romans 6 the biggest sermon on mortification in scripture. Yet it begins with our old self having died with Christ this is what gives us our ability to mortify(resist) the urges to sin. This whole death and resurrection with Christ is what gives us our fruit of holiness and our eternal life.(Rom 6:22) It is not you who produces you fruit but God. Stop looking to the flesh for your salvation and eternal life. You will not find it there.

  47. Grace tionson // July 28, 2017 at 5:43 pm // Reply

    Im thankful every article i read in your post…Thank God for your life Pastor Paul Ellis.Your a great help to all of us who continually exploring the Grace Of God…

  48. I’ve found this idea very interesting but have the problem with Mk 9:42-48. The Jesus’ speach is similar but the context is different. Cannot see any signs of the law teaching. On Mk 9 it even doesn’t refere to adultery. Could you please help me to get through this problem and comment Mk 9: 42-48 in the light of Mt 5:27-32. Thanks.

    • In both cases Jesus is preaching law (unless you think he’s merely making suggestions) to those born under law and living under law. We are not under law but grace. We are part of Christ’s body and he will never cut you off.

  49. I don’t think Jesus was being literal when he said we should eat his body and drink his blood, and the phrasing is similar in that passage. He wasn’t exaggerating but it was figurative of identifying with his death and taking in his provision of self sacrificing atonement. Maybe he is being literal in the passage you mentioned, maybe he isn’t. I don’t know

    • Interesting comparison. I would note that when Jesus said the bit about eating his body, he was encouraging people to believe in him and when he said the bit about chopping off your hand he was condemning religion. Jesus famously used parables and word-pictures to preach the good news, but in condemning the self-righteous he was typically plain-spoken.

  50. Devin Edwards // February 21, 2019 at 1:24 pm // Reply

    Man must be perfected to enter into Heaven. He must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit which means his self-will which is the sin nature must be removed. You say how serious sin is and that Jesus meant what He said yet you are a hypocrite by saying you cannot do anything to earn salvation. Do you think that sin causes death? Does man have to cease sinning? Yes, he does. You cannot steal the righteousness of Jesus as your own because you are lazy and insincere. Man has to be righteous. The righteous belong to God and the people who refuse to bear their own cross belong to the evil one. God will not accept empty lip service such as sinners prayers. The man who puts his faith in water baptism does nothing but get wet. Putting your faith in your so called good works that you decide will gain you naught with God. This is the work that man must do to be saved. Man must repent with a sincere heart,
    willing to be righteous in all ways putting God first in all things. When God judges man’s heart sincere, He will baptize man with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of their prayer language. Man must pray in his sustenant prayer language to know what God’s will is for his life. Man must be obedient to the Holy Spirit by giving up his self-will which is sin nature. The Holy Spirit will take man down the path that will expose all of man’s sins making man see the ugliness and consequences of them. This is the baptism of Fire. As man gives up his self-will, the Holy Spirit gives man Grace which is the ability to resist sin. Man must be like Jesus. What good comes from a man who says he loves God but is too lazy and cowardly to be like Him. Man must take up his own cross so his self-will dies. This is the message of True salvation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.