“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
Strong words. Mary Donovan, in her sermon Sunday, called them “parental.” Another good word might be “hyperbolic.” Just as Jesus assuredly could see a situation in which divorce outside of adultery would not only be reasonable, but necessary (such as in the case of one partner being physically or emotionally abusive to another), I find it difficult to think that Jesus is actually endorsing the maiming on oneself as a prophylactic against sin.
Instead, what I think Jesus is trying very hard to convey to us is the importance of struggling against all kinds of sin, not just the “big stuff.” He references murder, for example, in verse 21 as on obvious example of a sin all of us know to avoid. But lying, insulting other people, or holding grudges—things we do with some regularity, have dire consequences, not just in the realm of spiritual judgement, but in our immediate lives. These actions can lead to incalculable harm to ourselves, our loved one, our communities, and our relationship with God.
So hopefully no one is severing hands these days, but hopefully you are asking yourself how far you would go to avoid the things in your life that can lead you to sin, because it is too easy to just casually dismiss the small things which can lead to much bigger problems down the road.