Q. My daughter has asked me a question and I don’t have an answer for her. She wants to know what Mark 9:43-47 means. Does it actually mean to cut out or pluck of body parts to avoid being thrown into hell?
A. Here’s a summary of Mark 9:43-47. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
Jesus was only speaking metaphorically here. Our feet and hands and eyes don’t cause us to sin, so cutting them off or plucking them out won’t keep us from sinning. Also, when we enter the Kingdom we won’t be blind or crippled. We’ll have new perfect bodies.
In Matt. 15:19 Jesus said sin begins in our heart, and in Jeremiah 17:9 we’re told that our heart is incurably wicked. These are references to the sin nature we all inherited from our first parents. Therefore, until we receive a new heart we’ll always be sinners.
From James 1:14-15 we learn that each of us is tempted when we are dragged away by our own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
In Mark 9:43-47 Jesus was teaching us that sin is a terrible part of our lives and we should want to do whatever it takes to rid ourselves of it. What it takes is to die to ourselves and be born again. When that happens we become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and from God’s perspective the old sinful person we used to be is gone, and our new perfect self has come (Hebrews 10:12-14).
“For God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).