Bible Reading: Mark 9:43-47
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Mark 9:43
This next story actually happened. Really.
Two police officers spotted a young man staggering along the road with a Bible under one arm. His other arm was tucked tightly under the Bible in an attempt to stop some heavy bleeding—bleeding caused when the man whacked off his own hand!
Yes, you read that right.
The guy had cut off his own hand. He said he lopped it off to obey Mark 9:43: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” Apparently his hand had touched something or taken something it shouldn’t have, so he took Jesus’ words literally and removed the misbehaving hand. The story did have some good news. The police officers found the severed hand in a trash can. Doctors were able to sew it back on.
It’s really important to know what the Bible means, not just what it says. But Jesus really did speak those words about cutting off a hand. If we read Jesus’ commands in this section without understanding what he meant, we would all need to get in line for several amputations! Who hasn’t ever sinned with their eyes, hands, or feet?
Jesus was exaggerating for effect and emphasis. People do this all the time: “I’ve told you a million times.” “I was so embarrassed I could have died.” “I could eat a horse.” “Don’t have a cow.” The statements aren’t literally true but are meant to drive home the point that we were really annoyed, embarrassed, hungry, and so on.
Jesus doesn’t want us to whack off body parts, like a hand that snuck into a cookie jar. But he does want us to know that we have two ways to use our physical body—for God’s purposes or against God’s purposes. If our goal is to serve God and we let our body do things that don’t please him, our body has become our enemy.
Jesus wants you, his follower, to give to him not just your soul but your eyes, hands, feet, and every other part of you. Paul put it this way: “I plead with you to give your bodies to God” (Romans 12:1). God isn’t interested in watching you chop yourself up until you can’t sin anymore. But he does want you to take charge of your physical body and live for God’s purposes. It’s not a lot easier, but it’s a lot less bloody!
TALK: How are you using your body to serve God?
PRAY: God, we want to honor you with our body. Help us use our eyes and our hands and our feet to glorify you.
ACT: What are some ways you may have used your body to sin? Can you see the seriousness with which Jesus is saying, “Stop it!”? Make a plan to avoid sin and use your body to do good.