If your right eye makes you sin, then take it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. - Matthew 5:29-30 (ERV)
Although treated as an antiquated concept in much of Western society, sin is very much a concern to Jesus. Sin is dangerous because it harms us in our walk with God. Sin is dangerous because, through us, it can cause others to sin. Sin is dangerous because our sin directly hurts others. Sin is disastrous because it separates us from God. Jesus wanted to get his disciples' attention. He wanted us to know that sin is horrid and dangerous. So he uses language that is best described as hyperbole to shock us into realizing that we must deal with sin in our lives.
Jesus elsewhere emphasizes that sin is what comes from the heart and causes the actions on the outside. It seems to me unwise to think he is speaking literally here since he goes to great lengths to emphasize that mere external changes don't create lasting change in us. What is needed is an internal change that works itself out into the external lifestyle. Just because God is gracious doesn't mean he takes sin lightly. We must never presume upon grace and use it as an excuse to keep falling back into the same old sinful failures. Jesus wants us to deal with the sin in our lives today.
Holy and righteous Father, I do not want to take my own sin lightly. Neither do I want to let it defeat me. Please empower me to put to death the misdeeds of the body as you promised. Please help me keep from taking my sin lackadaisically. In Jesus' name. Amen.
- Colossian 2:21-23
It is the evil things a person wants that tempt that person. His own evil desire leads him away and holds him. This desire causes sin. Then the sin grows and brings death. - James 1:14-15
But the bad things a person says with his mouth come from the way a person thinks. And these are the things that make a person wrong. All these bad things begin in a person's mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, saying bad things against other people. - Matthew 15:18-19