Watch / Visual Commentaries / Matthew 5:29-30: Eye and Hand Mutilation

Matthew 5:29-30: Eye and Hand Mutilation

Watch a short animated video commentary explaining the meaning behind Jesus' demand to gouge out your eye and cut off your hand if they cause you to sin.

Visual Commentaries May 6, 2024


Jon: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus invites people to live in right relationships with others.

Tim: Because every human is an image of God and worthy of respect. Then he calls out the way men often reduce women to objects of sexual fantasy, which is a gross violation of women's dignity. Jesus thinks this problem is so important, he follows it up with a shocking demand.

Jon: “If your right eye causes your downfall, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of your body parts than for your whole body to be thrown into gehenna. If your right hand causes your downfall, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of your body parts than for your whole body to go off into gehenna.”1 That’s pretty graphic!

Tim: He got your attention though didn’t he?

Jon: Sure, but he can’t really be recommending that I chop off a body part.

Tim: Well remember, Jesus just located the core problem of adultery and lust “in the heart,” not in the hand or eye as such. He’s focusing on how misdirected sexual desire can distort our ability to see and treat other humans as images of God. And those desires lead to habits with our eyes and our hands that might seem natural or irresistible. But ultimately, they’re harmful to ourselves and to others.

Jon: Okay, so the dominant hand or my eye, they’re metaphors for how something can seem indispensable, but I actually can live without it, especially if it’s causing my downfall.

Tim: Exactly. And that phrase “cause your downfall” is from the Greek word skandalizomai. It describes something that trips you up and causes a collapse.

Jon: Okay, so painfully cutting off a destructive habit is better than going off into gehenna. Which—what’s that about?

Tim: It’s about divine justice. Remember, gehenna is the name of a valley on the southwest side of Jerusalem, where Israel’s ancient leaders once burned children as sacrifices to other gods. Israel’s prophets confronted this evil and warned that those leaders would be captured and killed by invaders and thrown into gehenna. 2

Jon: So the fires that once consumed innocent people would turn and consume those who started them.

Tim: Right. Jesus uses the image of gehenna to describe how God hands people over to the destructive consequences of their actions, and so removes evil from his world once and for all.

Jon: Okay, so reducing others to sexual objects is rooted in a deeper attitude of the heart. It’s like a fire that not only hurts others, it also destroys me too.

Tim: Yes. Jesus is challenging us to trust God’s wisdom, which means taking extreme measures to cut off destructive habits and then replace them with habits that build self-control and love for others.3 Right relationships begin with treating those around me not as objects for my desire but as human images of God who are worthy of dignity and respect.4

1. Matthew 5:29-30
2. See Joshua 15:8; 2 Chronicles 28:1-3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:30-33
3. See Galatians 5:19-24
4. See Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 25:35-40; 1 John 3:16-18
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