Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29). Jesus targets the eye because it is the eye that looks at a woman with lustful intent. Job 31:1 says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?”
I read about a story of a man who took pity on a one-eyed man. But what the one-eyed man told him shocked him. The one-eyed man said that the destroyed eye was one of his enemies. He had “lost one of his enemies, a very thief.” This eye would have stolen his very heart. (Guzik)
The eye here is the cause of stumbling. It is the cause of the sin of adultery.
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:30). Jesus also targets the hand. The hand is also the cause of stumbling.
Why does Jesus say, “right eye,” or “right hand”? Jesus mentions the right eye for it was the more valuable eye. Josephus tells of a king who tore the right eye of captured soldiers. Since the left eye is covered by the shield, disabling the right eye makes it unusable. (Morris) Jesus also cites the right hand probably because it is the more useful hand than the left hand. (Hagner)
Do you think Jesus is calling for a literal action? Some sincere religious people have practiced self-mutilation. I read that Origen castrated himself based on this verse. (Guzik) A pope is reported to have flagged his body to control sin. Some people take a fast to control their bodily desires. During Holy Week, some people get their bodies nailed to the cross.
We have good rules against lust, esp. during our church outing (e.g. only girls above 50 are allowed to wear two piece bikinis). We can perhaps require all the girls here to wear only long skirts, no short shorts, no plunging necklines, no see-through, etc. during worship.
But even if we implemented these rules, will it really stop you from lusting after a woman? Tear out your right eye. Do you think you will not sin with your left eye? If you tear out your left eye, and you go blind, do you really think you will still not commit adultery in your heart? Even if you become blind and disabled, you will still commit adultery in your heart. Because the problem of adultery is the problem of the heart
Jesus goes deeper into the command against adultery. He goes deeper into the internal lust of the heart, which is the root cause of the external act of adultery. There in the inner thoughts, lies the problem of adultery.
Lust then can destroy your soul. Since lust can destroy, the solution is to destroy lust itself. Destructive problems call for destructive solutions.
Hence, Jesus uses hyperbole here. Hyperbole is exaggeration. Jesus uses the exaggerated example of tearing out the eye. He uses the exaggerated case of hand-cutting to make a point. The point is that radical sins require radical solutions. There should be no compromise with sin. (Morris)
If you do not cut the cause of your sin, you will be trapped in sin. Many Christians live this way—trapped in sin because they are unwilling to sacrifice their right eye or their right hand. (Guzik)
God requires a higher righteousness in the kingdom of God. Your righteousness should surpass that of religious people. To attain a higher righteousness, you must obey God’s standards. To obey God’s standards, you must resort to radical solutions. You must do the radical thing, to solve the cause of sin. You must be willing to do the extreme, to avoid sin. Thus, tear out your eye if it causes you to sin. Cut off your hand if it causes you to sin. Go deeper into the root cause of your sin. Be willing to cut your sin at the root of it.
The kingdom of God requires it. The kingdom of God is the absolute rule of God requiring absolute commitment of a kingdom person against sin. (Hagner)