And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you…
The ideas of this verse are expressed in the strong language of Oriental imagery, and yet a moment's reflection will show us that the language is not a whir too strong, even if it is interpreted with strict literalness. If it came to a choice between plucking out an eye and death, every man who had courage enough to perform the hideous deed Would at once choose it as the less terrible alternative. Every day hospital patients submit to frightful operations to save their lives or to relieve intolerable sufferings. But if to the thought of death we add the picture of the doom of the lost, the motives for choosing the lesser evil are immeasurably strengthened. Therefore to one who really believes the alternatives set forth by our Lord to be his, there should not be a thought of hesitation. Doubt as to the future, the overmastering influence of the present, or weakness of will, may restrain a person from doing what is really for his self-interest; but these things will not make it the less desirable. The difficulty, then, is not as to the truth of our Lord's words, but as to the application of them.
I. AN INNOCENT THING MAY BECOME A CAUSE OF STUMBLING. Christ does not require us to maim ourselves as an act of penance, or on any ascetic grounds. The eye is given to see with, and the hand to work with. Both are from God, and both are innocent in themselves. The body is not an evil thing, but it is meant to be the servant of the soul; as such it is an instrument "fearfully and wonderfully made." We do not honour God by dishonouring the body which he has bestowed upon us. But the body may become the tool of the tempter. It may be corrupted and perverted so as to be worse than the slave of sin, so as to be itself a perpetual temptation. Not only the body, but other things that belong to us, and are sent for our good, may become stumbling-blocks - e.g, wealth, power, friendship.
II. A STUMBLING-BLOCK IN THE WAY OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE MUST BE CAST ASIDE AT ANY COST. The question turns on Our estimate of the great end of life. To frustrate that in deference to any present pleasure, or to escape from any present trouble, is to commit a great mistake. We are not now concerned with some slight inconvenience in the future. The thought is of complete shipwreck, of being thrown into perdition on account of the hindrance which it is very unpleasant for us to remove. So serious a danger does not admit of any consideration for the present annoyance involved in escaping it. The engineer will tunnel through mountains, blow up huge rocks, and bridge wide chasms to carry his line to its destination. Shall any hindrance be permitted to block the Christian's course to eternal life? As a matter of fact, self-mutilation is not the right method of avoiding temptation. If it were the sole method, it would be prudent to resort to it. But, as God has provided other ways, only a wild delusion will resort to this. Moreover, if lust is in the heart, it will not be destroyed by plucking out the eye. If hatred reigns within the enraged man, he is essentially a murderer, even after he has cut off the hand with which he was about to commit his awful crime. Still, whatever is most near to us and hinders our Christian life, must go - any friendship, though dear as the apple of the eye; any occupation, though profitable as the right hand. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
WEB: If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.