It is perhaps the harshest statement in the entire Bible: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee.” (Mt 5:29) The command is at the epicenter of the greatest sermon ever preached, spoken by Christ Himself. It’s obviously important. (Mt 7:26) What does He mean?
Context is helpful: sexual sin, lust and adultery. (27-28) The implication is that efforts to avoid sinning, particularly in this area (1Co 6:18), are to be as extreme as necessary, such that if even a part of our own body is compelling us, it’s better to rid ourselves of that body part than live in sin. If our eye is forcing us to break God’s Law … lose the eye.
Yet, clearly, body parts don’t make us sin; they simply can’t offend us in this way: our body does what we tell it. The problem isn’t any part of our body, it’s our mind and heart. Plucking out our eye would only help if our eye were actually the root cause of our sin. It isn’t, so don’t take Christ literally here.
Perhaps there’s a hint in how Christ frames it: “if thy right eye offend thee … “. How could one of our eyes be offensive and not the other? one eye flitting back and forth on its own whether we like it or not? Or our right hand be offensive (Mt 5:30), always getting into things without our permission? He’s speaking in metaphor, using body parts to illustrate heart tendencies.
Point is, nothing physical can make us sin: sin is always a choice of our will (Ja 1:14), a choice to move away from God, from Truth. This is why God holds us accountable, and why sin makes Him angry. (Ro 1:18)
And sin always springs from a lie we’re believing and clinging to instead of God. The only way to root sin out is to supplant our lies with truth and move back toward God. (2Ti 2:25-26) It’s a journey, actually a battle, one lie at a time, and Christ is telling us to be intense about it.