A few weeks before I quit the church*, the priest talked about that cheerful old passage from Matthew 18:9 with that golden nut, “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.” It’s a doozy, and easy to skim over if you’re not religious like I’m not religious. But something in his talk resonated with me. Since I have this internet weblog, I wanted to unpack it here.
Here’s the text he referred to:
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it’s better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
Pretty brutal, no?
The priest went on to break it down. Where Jesus mentions “your hand,” he’s talking about your work, or where you get your power. If your work causes you to do shitty stuff, you’re better off having cut off your hands than doing the shitty stuff. At a basic level, doing shitty stuff for your work causes a special kind of hell in your heart.
“Enter life lame” refers to your motivation. If your motivation comes from a rotten place, if your motivation is spite, is anger, is vengeful, it’s better to have stumps below your ankles than the living hell those feelings incur.
“If your eye causes you to stumble” refers to your worldview — if your worldview is so horrible, that you aim to hurt people, it’s better to be one eyed. That hot, burny feeling of wanting to take away from others is a hell in itself.
Now I’m not going to argue theology with anyone. I have a spotty church record, and as I mentioned above, I quit that particular church. But I like where Jesus was going with this because it resonates so strongly with me.
- Work/Power – Having to come up with ideas to sell products I strongly oppose is awful. Yet, I can come up with excuse after excuse about how this is what I need to do to support my family (Uh, no it’s not).
- Motivation – I’m ashamed to say that spite TRULY is my main motivator. I find the extra wind beneath my wings by wanting to stick it to someone. Even more oomph comes if they really did me wrong. Spite is an effective motivator, but wouldn’t it feel better if I chose to go after my own goals? Enemies be damned? (Yes, yes I would.)
- Worldview – That hollow, hot feeling of wanting to watch someone lose everything? It’s something I’m well acquainted with. Especially as I watch the election stories this year, I see a lot of other people are cheering for others to lose too. Not lose a political race, but lose in life. And that feeling… that’s hell. (Who am I rooting for to lose? Why?)
Three cheers for this undefined spiritual lady applying some of that age old wisdom to herself. Avoiding hell, especially the hell in this world, has everything to do having a good life. I aim for a good life.
* Usually, when you quit going to a church, you just quit going. No one mentions it again. But this church had good, curious people who wanted to know why. And so I told them. It rarely goes well when you tell anyone why you won’t do their thing anymore, much less church people. And that’s for another day.