What does Matthew 5:30 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
NASB: And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
CSB: 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 the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
NLT: And if your hand — even your stronger hand — causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
KJV: And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Jesus could not be more forcefully clear about the sins of lustful intent or attempted adultery (Matthew 5:22–28). He has indicated that avoiding sex with another person's spouse is good, but not "good enough." There is more involved in God's command not to commit adultery than the scribes and Pharisees have taught. What happens in the heart is equally important. In the prior verse, Jesus quipped that it's better for a person to lose an eye, rather than that eye tempt them into sins that lead to hell (Matthew 5:29).
This verse follows the same pattern of hyperbole—exaggeration for effect—as made clear by the rest of Jesus' teachings. Jesus is not literally telling people to mutilate themselves in order to avoid sinning and going to hell. His purpose is to emphasize how high the stakes are when it comes to sin.
While the prior reference involved the eyes, and implied sins like lust, Jesus' current analogy speaks of one's hand. The overt meaning is that we ought to be in control of our urges—not to let the desires of the body take us over. Once again, the point is that it's better to lose a body part rather than be thrown into hell. Some scholars suggest the words used here might have also been used as a polite euphemism for lustful acts, more generally.
Once more, Jesus is demonstrating how seriously God takes sin. It is not only action, but motivation, which matters to God (Matthew 5:20). Sin starts in the inner places of a person. Along with this, Jesus is demonstrating how impossible it is for anyone to be worthy of the kingdom of heaven, based on their own goodness (Matthew 5:48). Every person is a sinner, based on God's standards.
Matthew 5:27–30 continues to expand on a theme Jesus introduced in Matthew 5:20. True ''righteousness'' is not merely about what a person does but includes what they think and feel. This teaching is meant to explain the reality of sin, and to highlight the need for grace and faith, not good works, in salvation. In this passage, Jesus acknowledges that adultery is a sin, but also declares that attitudes of lust are sinful as well. He does not say that lust is exactly, precisely the same thing as adultery. He does, however, teach that lust is absolutely a sin, even if it never results in physical action.
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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