“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, 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” (Matthew 18:8).

No person or thing can do our characters as much harm as we ourselves can. Others may put millstones in the way, but we make them stumbling blocks. While our Lord has issued a solemn woe of divine judgment on anyone who causes His followers to stumble, let us ourselves be the executioners of the judgment upon the things in ourselves that alone give the millstones their fatal power. Hand and foot and eye are regarded as organs of the inward self and symbols of its tastes and capacities. Our Lord takes an extreme case.

But note the “if.” The powers are natural; the operation of them is perfectly innocent, but a man may be ruined by innocent things. It means that anything that draws me away from my relationship with God, however innocent it may be, must come under the knife. Jesus does not say we are to abandon all things that are susceptible to abuse, for everything is so. Nor does he mean that we should abandon a duty that causes us to stand in positions full of temptation and danger. But He does mean that we are to suppress capacities, abandon pursuits, and break with whatever may be damaging our spiritual life. We have to empty our hands of earth’s trivialities and weights if we would grasp Christ with them. We have to turn our eyes from earth if we would behold the Master.

Adapted from In His Presence