Read Matthew 5:29-30.
“The Devil made me do it!” At least, that’s what comedian Flip Wilson used to say. The blame game is nothing new. It started in the Garden and has never ended.
What’s funny to me, though, in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, is that Jesus seems to be letting his followers get away with blaming someone, or in this case, something else for their sin. He was talking about the sin of adultery. All those listening knew that it was a part of the law — don’t do it. That was easy enough. Then he says,
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Wow, that’s kind of harsh. I mean, who can keep the mind from jumping to conclusions about what the eye sees? That takes a massive amount of control. So, Jesus gives an out:
If you right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.
Nip it in the bud…Jesus style.
He doesn’t just let the eye take the blame for sin, but the hand too.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
While I appreciate the fact that Jesus would rather we eliminate parts of our anatomy rather than allow our entire body to be thrown into hell, I find his illustration a bit painful. Then it comes to me: I can’t blame anyone or anything for my sin but me.
If I took this illustration to the next level and said that I stole a car because my friend talked me into it, then by applying Jesus’ solution, I’d have to break it off with my friend and let them pay the consequences — jail or hell. After all, I would never have stolen the car if they had not encouraged me or talked me into it. By pointing the finger at them, I save myself from a stiffer punishment.
The world today is all about blame. The courts are full of “mitigating circumstances” that get penalties or sentences reduced or eliminated altogether. No one takes responsibility for a mess up, a fight, a deal gone bad. There’s always someone else to blame.
Jesus’ tough illustration tells me that I first need to get rid of all that’s in me that I might be tempted to blame for my sin. If it’s a bad habit, a kitchen stocked with the wrong food, a revealing wardrobe–whatever it may be. I can’t use them as crutches for the crux of the problem. The condition of my heart. I need to wipe my slate clean–heart, eyes, hands, habits, mind, and things, so there’s nothing left to blame or tempt me from living the life that’s pleasing to God.
What are you blaming these days? Let’s nip it in the bud for Jesus.