Regulating Temptation: How to Cut Off Your Own Hands


I have a new post at Common Sense Concept discussing Jesus’ advice on dealing with temptation. Specifically, I look at how Christians like to implement such teachings using political force.

I focus on the following passage, which is Jesus’ response to his disciples’ inquiry on “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”:

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.  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.

So if we do try to look at this passage politically, what can we gather from it, if anything?

Here’s an excerpt of my response:

We are tempted to act on Jesus’ words by rashly rolling out some kind of policy to deal with people’s junk. We don’t try to channel human nature through incentives or think about public sins vs. Biblical sins. Instead, we rush to seize the objects of our temptations, and in our attempts to do so we instantly rob Jesus’ message of everything that makes it unique.

This is not the Quranic message of “cut off his or her hands.” We are not called to put our sisters in burqas just so the men won’t have to deal with their lust. Jesus’ message is the entirely different, non-political, non-coercive message of “cut off your own hands.”

To read the full article, click here.

Note: Photo provided by supersonicphotos.

, , , , , , , , , ,

  • Julia

    BRILLIANT! Just read full version.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Regulating Temptation: How to Cut Off Your Own Hands «Remnant Culture -- Topsy.com

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/27355605479 Remnant Culture

    Jesus told us to cut off our own hands and gouge out our eyeballs. Why do so many people want to do this for us? http://bt.io/G9zv

  • http://twitter.com/officialremnant/status/27372581312 The Remnant

    RT @RemnantCulture: Jesus told us to cut off our own hands and gouge out our eyeballs. Why do so many people want to do this for us? http://bt.io/G9zv

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/27466696734 Joseph Sunde

    Jesus told us to cut off our own hands and gouge out our eyeballs. Why do so many people want to do this for us? http://bt.io/G9zv

  • Anon

    “We are not called to put our sisters in burqas just so the men won’t have to deal with their lust.”
    This is a cultural issue, not an issue in Islam. To state it with the clear implication that Muslim=burqa as you did is patently offensive. It also demonstrates a willing ignorance of Christian history. Remember when Christian women needed to cover their heads in church? Or during the Inquisition, when disagreeing with the church meant persecution? Different motivation, but the same result of forcing people into a certain mold. I should state that I definitely appreciate it when people critically examine other religions, but only when the person criticizing demonstrates knowledge of similar aspects in his/her own religion. Cf Matthew 7:3.

    On the other hand, I did really like your first quoted paragraph where you talk about public vs Biblical sins. That's most definitely a more productive discussion than discussion how much we should be pushing one's morality onto others. I think history would show that forcing a particular moral code onto others isn't usually successful; rather, living that moral code and demonstrating its power to others is the way to convert others.

    It's especially relevant in light of all the homosexuality and DADT discussions going on. There's not really any secular reason to forbid same-sex couples from the same benefits (if we're going to give those benefits, which is a different question) as heterosexual couples. There's no reason that churches can't deny marriages based on their own believe systems, but if benefits are denied in the secular realm we're forcing one group's morality onto another which is wrong.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    I was using the burqa as one example of how Islam deals with sin. Some aspects of modern-day “cultural” Islam can be disputed as being either part of (or not part of) “true Islam” (even within the Islamic community), but if we're arguing about what Islam itself says, I would say the root way Islam tries to deal with sin is as mentioned. THINGS like the burqa are natural byproducts of the root Islamic outlook toward temptation meets politics. And I would argue that is TRUE Islam.

    I'm not sure bringing up the Inquisition and other stuff helps much. Since I already mentioned that both *Christian* social conservatives and economic liberals are also trying to deal with sin this way, I obviously don't think all Christians are approaching things the right way (according to TRUE Christianity). Christians have skewed Christianity plenty in their time, but if you look at the root beginnings of each, Islam is far more political. That was my point.

    But alas, if one believes that religions are defined holistically by their histories rather than by their teachings, I will probably disagree with them.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    I was using the burqa as one example of how Islam deals with sin. Some aspects of modern-day “cultural” Islam can be disputed as being either part of (or not part of) “true Islam” (even within the Islamic community), but if we're arguing about what Islam itself says, I would say the root way Islam tries to deal with sin is as mentioned. THINGS like the burqa are natural byproducts of the root Islamic outlook toward temptation meets politics. And I would argue that is TRUE Islam.

    I'm not sure bringing up the Inquisition and other stuff helps much. Since I already mentioned that both *Christian* social conservatives and economic liberals are also trying to deal with sin this way, I obviously don't think all Christians are approaching things the right way (according to TRUE Christianity). Christians have skewed Christianity plenty in their time, but if you look at the root beginnings of each, Islam is far more political. That was my point.

    But alas, if one believes that religions are defined holistically by their histories rather than by their teachings, I will probably disagree with them.

  • Anon

    “THINGS like the burqa are natural byproducts of the root Islamic outlook toward temptation meets politics. And I would argue that is TRUE Islam.”
    I've met enough Muslims who don't believe in this outlook that your point doesn't really hit home. I do concede that the idea of needing an Islamic state is much more ingrained in Islamic theology than in Christian theology, and I think that's where you would need to go to make any real argument about Islam being more politically-based than Christianity.

    “but if you look at the root beginnings of each, Islam is far more political. That was my point.”
    If root beginnings being more political was your point, I'm not sure it was clear at all. Your statements in the post read like comments on the current state of of the religions. Also, what specifically is more or less political about Islam? There are a number of statements by Jesus that were likely very political in nature, and in fact politically subversive. Turn the other cheek and carry the pack an extra mile are examples of these – on the surface, carrying a pack an extra mile seems like an extremely gracious response to being forced to labor, but scholars have commented that carrying a pack an extra mile was actually illegal on the part of the authority forcing the carrying and by carrying it an extra mile a person would be getting the authority in trouble. This interpretation would also mean that Jesus was making a subtle statement that nonviolent subversion of unjust laws was ok. Reading the passage without understanding Roman history possibly loses an entire layer of subtle meaning that is ultimately political. Another political aspect to Christianity is the book of Revelation – it can easily be read as an allegory of the end of Roman rule. Those are pretty early, very political aspects of Christianity. You also can't deny that trying to establish the “Kingdom of God” on earth is something political in nature. Or that going forth and making disciples isn't political. Maybe it's not a state forcing citizens to believe a particular way, but grassroots politics can be just as powerful as state politics.

    “But alas, if one believes that religions are defined holistically by their histories rather than by their teachings, I will probably disagree with them.”
    That's a very strange response, and it doesn't seem to follow from what I was talking about, though I could have been writing in an unclear manner. Nothing I stated had anything about religions being holistically defined by history over teachings. Instead, the history of a religion is important in putting teachings in context and making sure that one properly understands those teachings. History of a religion and the surrounding culture at key times seems very crucial to a proper understanding of the holy books, and to how we should interpret the writings.
    It's also a little weird to make this statement right after you were commenting that your point was dealing with the root beginnings of each religion, which is obviously a part of the history of the religions. And that you were basically arguing that the root beginning of Islam was political in history, and thus it defines an aspect of Islam still today. Maybe not defining it holistically, but you were still arguing that Islam has been more political at its core throughout its history.

    I would say that part of my reason for bringing up things like the Inquisition is that you were contrasting the “Christian” social conservatives and economic liberals with the image of Muslim women in burqas, which I felt was inherently biased against Islam – the burqa issue brings up much stronger negative emotional reactions than the respective actions of soc-cons and econ-libs. Your two examples of how Islam deals with sin (burqas and cutting off hands) were both issues that American culture responds in a strongly negative manner, and so I don't think you're making a fair or reasonable comparison. The reason it bothers me so much is that your core point is really important, and you effectively ruin it by what I think are bad examples. Since your point can be made without resorting to emotion-based attacks, your use of emotional tactics is in bad taste. You're talking about contrasting the closely held belief systems of billions of people, so being respectful and measured is quite important if you want to get your point across.

    I'd also add that the difference between cutting one's own hands off and cutting off the hands of another could easily be attributed to the particular cultures in which the respective books were written, and the different responses necessary to the society in which each was written. I'll use Levitican law for my Bible analogy on changing cultures. That law was written to bring more order to a society that was overrun with corruption. The people at that time needed lots of laws to provide that order and help them focus on being good people and on God. By the time Jesus came, the society needed less strict laws but more focus on treating the neighbor as oneself and on loving God. So, most Christians don't observe much of the Levitican law anymore because the specific laws aren't needed for proper focus on God and our fellow humans. However, it's still a critical lesson on the need for general societal laws that we all agree to follow. The letter of those laws isn't important but the idea of structure behind them is still relevant. We respond differently to God's call now than by following strict religious laws. Maybe the society in which the Quran was written needed stricter laws of punishment than the society to which Jesus spoke; in both cases, though, the implication of doing what is right is the key point.

  • Modocrider1

    I think that the entire issue is that we are responsible for our own behavior. We are to “take up our cross and follow Jesus”. To take up the cross means different things to different people. But first of all, we need to stop blaming others for our sin. If someone watches pornography, he or she can't blame the TV or movies or magazines etc. for their sin. They've made the active decision to watch. If one has a habit of deceit, don't blame it on the culture that says, “Whatever it takes”. We are responsible for our choices.
    Too many Christians think that if they vote for the right people, and all of “our” rules were put in place, then everything will be fine in our country. Not so. We are called to spread the Gospel of Christ, not make it our political framework, for one main reason. People who aren't saved aren't likely to want what we force on them. How likely are they to change their hearts when all of us are sinners and aren't perfect? Our obvious flaws would be thrown in our faces. The unsaved would see lust for power, hypocrisy and maybe deceit in our lives. What does that say about how we view our God? How likely are they to want to come to know Him?

    We are responsible for helping people change their hearts and minds. If we live what Christ taught, we embody His grace and His forgiveness. We aren't called to be the judge of people. We aren't called to force people to our religion. That's the difference between Islam and true Christianity. We aren't called to make nations under our “religion”. We aren't called to force obedience to our political views. I never read in the Bible that God wants political nations to be forced converts to Christianity. That is because Christianity is about a personal relationship with God, not creating a politically Christian nation.

  • Anon

    Relevant article from Cal Thomas, someone I usually don't agree with much but who here makes some sense: http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/cal_thomas/2010/10/separation_claim_meant_to_keep_religious_people_out_of_political_life.html

  • Pingback: Legislating Morality: We Can’t Help It! «Remnant Culture