By Stan Balcom
“And If Thy Right Eye Offend Thee, Pluck It Out…”
When I first started reading the Bible I’d get stuck on particular verse and couldn’t go forward. For example, when I read the verse above, I thought a couple of things. One was to engage in thought experiment by trying to visualize it’s meaning. I started with a question. How could an eye offend me at all? Was it insulting me? I imagined it floating in front of my face taunting me, calling me names. That didn’t work. Another was to relate it to my past experiences. For example, I had heard of people actually plucking out their eyes while they were on a hallucinogenic drug, but never when sober or straight. Thinking like that got me nowhere and I accepted that there would be verses I wouldn’t understand.
As I matured in my walk, I realized that Jesus often taught in parables and metaphors. Matthew 5:29 was an example. He was speaking figuratively, not literally, and using a concrete example to explain a spiritual concept. The NIV Bible translates the word ‘offend’ as ‘cause to stumble’, which means to sin. The verse really means that if anything in our lives causes us to sin, get rid of it. And not just the things that are expedient or easy to part with, but also the precious things, things as precious as our eyes.
I visited a man in prison one Saturday. Five times he’s been in. As his parole approached, he became more determined that he’s going to stay out. He asked me to help him formulate a plan that would work this time. When he first gets out of prison, he explained, things are fine. But, when he’s inevitability tempted, as everyone is, he almost always commits another crime. He said, “I know it is my fault, but realize now that it’s when I hang with my friends that I get into trouble.” Those friends are his ‘eyes’ and he needs to pluck them out.
We all have eyes to pluck out, some more or less than others. What kinds of things do we need to pluck out? Below are some common ones:
Drugs are idols. They are things that people run to when they’re stressed or tired or happy. What makes drugs an idol is that those who use them have faith in their power to make their lives better. And, like idols, they don’t work. Of course, it’s a sin to get high or drunk. Drugs impair judgement, change personalities, and are mostly illegal. They destroy families and hurt loved ones. In other words, they make people stumble.
Sex out of wedlock is fornication and fornication is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9). Like drugs, it feels good but only for a little while, and when the high dissipates you’re stuck with the aftermath. There are consequences like STDs and poverty. Jealous partners might have to be dealt with, too. Sex is powerful and can be used to manipulate others. Men and women will sometimes use their lover’s desires to fulfill selfish wants. Fornication causes people to stumble.
Having money is certainly not a sin, but Jesus said it was hard for a rich man to get to the kingdom (Matthew 19:24). That’s not because he had money, but because the money became more important to him than God. And, money will not satisfy. All anyone has to do is to read about all the wealthy people who end up in jail or dead because money didn’t bring them happiness. Money causes people to stumble.
There is a Biblical order to things: God, spouse, then family. We are to love God with everything we have (Deuteronomy 6:5). Then we are to love our spouses (Ephesians 5:22, 25), then our children. Following the most important commandment, we must pluck out anyone or anything that tries to disrupt it.
All of us may have things in our lives that make us stumble. We need to identify them pluck them out.
How do you do that?
First, you must pray. The Bible doesn’t prescribe how often you should pray, but I suggest at least twice a day. Pray once in the morning, having a conversation with God about the day that’s about to begin. Tell Him where you are going, who you might run into, and what you are going to do. Make a plan with Him for anything that comes up that might make you stumble. Second, pray before going to bed. Tell God about your day: what you stumbled on and what you did well on. Ask Him about the things you should do next time to prevent stumbling.
Second, you must read the Bible. Read every day even if only for a few minutes. It’s by reading the Bible that you learn to hear God’s voice when you pray.
Third, find a man or woman of God as a mentor. You need a person of God in your life. Paul said we battle not against flesh but against powers (Ephesians 6:12). It’s our minds that are attacked. By ourselves, we can take any piece of scripture and justify any behavior. You need a person of God in your life to hold you accountable, to make sure you are interpreting the Word properly (2 Timothy 2:15).
Last, go to church. International Christian Fellowship provides the guidance, instruction, correction and fellowship to help you carry out the changes you want to see in your life. It is a community in itself filled with people who care.