Theme: Conquered Pride
This week we learn a lesson in humility
“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.”
What happens when people try to become great? They put themselves ahead of others, particularly the small and the weak, and they trample on them in order to get to the top themselves. What Jesus is saying in verses 1-6 is. . .that, instead of striving to become greatest in the kingdom of heaven (v. 1) [and] in the process of attempting this hurting others instead of guarding them (v. 6), the disciples should rather learn to forget about themselves and to focus their loving attention upon Christ’s little ones, upon the lambs of the flock and upon all those who in their humble trustfulness. . .resemble those lambs.
It is hard to know whether verse 7 belongs with what comes immediately before or with what comes after, and the reason is that it applies to both. It is a standout verse dealing with the matter of sin, determinism, human responsibility and free will.
It is not hard to understand why Jesus said this or why Matthew added it to his collection of Jesus’ teaching at this point, however. It is because sinful people want to excuse their behavior by saying that they just couldn’t help what they were doing. In our day this usually takes a materialistic form. I do bad things because of my genetic makeup, or because of the bad neighborhood in which I grew up or because I wasn’t properly loved and cared for by my parents. In religious circles it may take a theological form. I sin because God has ordained it; it isn’t my fault. In Paul’s day some even used this argument to approve of increased sinning, since God had willed to bring good from it. “Let us do evil that good may result,” they were saying (Rom. 3:8).
Interestingly enough, Jesus does not deny the determinism, though that is not the best word to describe the Bible’s teaching in this area. He acknowledges that this is an evil world and that “the things that cause people to sin. . .must come” (v. 7). We can even say rightly that God has determined that it should be so, at least passively, since God is not the originating cause of sin. But at the same time Jesus is equally insistent that the man who does sin or who is responsible for causing others to sin is responsible.
It is impossible in this fallen evil world to be without enticements to sin, but woe to the one through whom the enticements come. That is the point. The judgment of such a person will be just, and the judgment will be most severe if the enticement causes one of Jesus’ own followers to stumble. Remember that when you look into your heart and examine your actions. “Woe” to such a person, Jesus says. Woe is the word the Bible uses to lament the terrible end of a person who is to be judged by God in “eternal fire” or “the fire of hell” for his or her sins (vv. 8-9).
This is not only a warning about harming another believer, however. We can also harm ourselves, and it is to this that Jesus turns in verses 8 and 9. “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
These verses are an almost exact repetition of Matthew 5:29-30, from the Sermon on the Mount. So we should be familiar with them by now. Jesus was talking about adultery at that point in the Sermon on the Mount, and he was teaching how seriously adultery or any other sin should be taken. Sin is so serious that any inclination toward it must be dealt with radically.
What happens when you try to become great? What should you do instead?
Why is v. 7 a standout verse?
Explain the argument people make to excuse their sin.
I What point did Jesus make about sin and responsibility?
Who is harmed when you sin?
Determinism- the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.