Matthew 18:7–9 (ESV)
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And 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 crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
These verses qualify as a tough saying. In these three verses Jesus makes a profound warning against being lax in how we deal with temptations to sin.
First of all, He reminds us that we live in a world that is fallen where temptation will come. We live in a world where there is poverty and hunger, and with those, temptations to rob and to steal. We live a world with fallen people who do not share our values, and through them, temptations may come.
But one thing a disciple should never be is the source of temptation. It would be easy to talk about modesty in dress here, but it would be wrong to limit the idea to sexual sins. A person can tempt another with juicy tidbits of gossip. At a Bible study (or on a blog), a believer can tempt others to anger by pressing a controversial point just to see the reaction or make things more interesting. We can tempt one another to gluttony or to lust or to any number of things.
Yet, Jesus does not relieve the one being tempted from responsibility. Verses 8-9 are intensely personal as Jesus speaks in the second person singular.[i] Some believe that Jesus had Judas Iscariot especially in mind as He said these words of warning.[ii] Jesus uses hyperbole, which is intentional exaggeration, to convey the danger of sin and the radical discipleship it takes to avoid temptation. If we know what our weaknesses are, we should avoid those things that tempt us in those areas. Sin is a danger to our walk with Christ.
We, therefore, should do what is necessary to avoid it. Ask the hotel to take the TV out of the room if tempted to watch inappropriate shows that poison your thinking while you travel alone. Use the Internet filters. Avoid certain radio stations. Avoid certain aisles in the store. Do whatever is necessary to keep from falling into sin. Jesus states things so strongly to show the radical discipline needed in our battle with sin. It is what Jesus expects from His disciples.
[i] Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005, 738.
[ii] Blomberg, Craig. Vol. 22, Matthew. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992, 275.