08.01.06 Mt. 5:27-30
THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14). 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 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 the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!
Righteousness is broken before a sinful act is committed. Marriage was originally designed by God to symbolize the relationship between Himself and the believer. Just as a husband and wife are united for life, Jesus and His believers are eternally united. The original plan of God has not changed, but men have challenged both the relationship with God and the marriage covenant symbolic of the spiritual union. Therefore, any lust or action outside marriage is considered sin. To ensure purity of heart, Jesus went on to demonstrate that drastic action needed to be taken. He explained it as follows:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” Concerning the first part of this phrase, “if your right eye causes you to sin,” is sometimes translated as “if your right eye offends you” or causes “you to stumble.” Clearly, there is an exaggeration in this phrase; it is not a literal command. The term is translated from the Greek word skandalon, but that translation issue is minor compared to the difficulty modern students have in understanding the two stages of sin according to Jewish thought.
08.01.06.X Understanding the Two-Stage Concept of “Light and Heavy.”
All instructions or laws are to be obeyed, but some are clearly more significant or “heavy” than others. For example, as is explained in the video below, tithing was expected but it was a “light” issue in comparison to some more important issues, such as caring for one’s elderly parents. The term “light” does not mean “insignificant” or “unimportant,” but only that some other issues of life are far more important.
One of the popular teaching methods was known as kal-ve-chomer, that is, lessons of “light and heavy.” It was commonly believed that there were two stages of sin. Before anyone committed a major sin (or “heavy”), one first committed a smaller sin (“lighter”) or a series of smaller sins. Rabbinic law stated that it was better to resolve the sin problem while it was small, rather than wait until it consumed an entire life. Hence, when there was a “small sin,” it was better to remove the eye or hand as opposed to losing life as the result of the final “big sin” (see Mt. 23:23). The phrase concerning the eye was, in fact, a common expression among Torah students. While Jesus used it in reference to sin, the Law used a similar scenario of forgiveness after a sin was committed. The Hebrew Bible, Oral Law, and Talmud made these observations respectively:
Even though a man pays (him that suffers the indignity), it is not forgiven him until he seeks forgiveness from him, for it is written, “Now therefore restore the man’s wife . . . (and he shall pray for you.” [Gen. 20:7]).
If a man said, “Blind my eye,” or “Cut off my hand,” or “Break my foot,” he (that does so) is guilty and accountable; (even if he said), on the condition that you are not guilty and accountable, he is (still) guilty and accountable.
Mishnah, Baba Kamma 8.7
Tooth and eye are only one limb of the man, and still (if they are hurt), the slave obtains thereby his freedom. How much more so with painful sufferings which torment the whole body of a Man!
Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 5a
Jesus essentially said that believers should take radical steps to get sin out of their lives. The Jews understood this was not to be considered literally; it was an expression of sincerity to be holy before God. Gentile believers have difficulty with this passage because they do not understand the cultural mindset and some think it was to be taken literally. As stated previously, believers should not regard the statements of Jesus in Matthew 5:28, 32, 34, 36, and 44 as setting aside the Law, but as reflecting His authority by giving proper interpretation of the Law.
It would be wise to understand that some passages, such as this one, are not to be literally interpreted. Rather, Jesus and the gospel writers used the literary license of exaggeration to express the seriousness of their instructions. In the early third century, Origen Adamantius (c. 185-254) was a church father who had a lust problem and literally applied this passage for the solution. He read that some men became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 19:12. So to resolve his lust issue, according to noted church historian Eusebius, Origen had himself castrated. Only later did he learn that this passage concerning gouging out the eye was not to be taken literally, but was spoken in this form to emphasize the importance of resolving sin issues before they become explosive.
Video Insert >
08.01.06.V The Concept of “Light and Heavy”in Torah Instruction. Messianic Rabbi John Fischer, discusses the Jewish concept of “light and heavy” elements of the law (instruction) relative to the words of Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).
. Green, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Mt. 5:29; Berry, Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament. Mt. 5:29.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 223.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 223.
. For more information on the importance of tithing, see 08.03.03.Q1 “Why isn’t there a strong teaching on tithing in the New Testament?”
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 25.
. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 26.
. Eusebius, Church History 6.8.