In Mark 9:42 -50 the Lord uses two figures of speech, a metaphor and a hyperbole, to drive home an important point with His disciples.
Here they are (Mark 9:42 — 43) … “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea (metaphor). And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off (hyperbole). It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
What was it that Christ was communicating through this metaphor and hyperbole?
Jesus was clearly communicating the enormity of this particular matter to His disciples so that they would not walk away with different ideas and a watered down approach toward it. He wanted them to take the causes or predispositions of sin in their lives very seriously indeed. He desired to shape their view and carve their approach toward the causes of sin educating them on how to correctly address them in terms of the steps that required to be taken.
Whatever it is and whoever it is posing a risk to, being or allowing a cause for sin to remain unchallenged, is a very serious matter indeed. It is not one to be taken lightly or dismissed offhandedly but addressed decisively and conclusively. One would even say radically. But definitely not gently or with a softly softly approach.
Causing others to sin and/or not taking radical and decisive action against the causes of sin in one’s life but allowing them to remain unchallenged poses a grave risk with fatal consequences. If risks that lead to sin are not taken seriously and managed appropriately by wholesale removal, they carry the potential to derail us from our destinies. All known risks are to be eradicated. Leniency toward perceived and/or known causes of sin (omitting, neglecting or excusing their continued, unchallenged presence in our lives) will have disastrous consequences for us. And to drive His point home further, the Lord employed an established expression His listeners would have been familiar with from Isaiah 66:24 to communicate the extent of these consequences: And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
Let’s not try watering it down – this is how bad it can get.
Dealing decisively and conclusively with all known causes and triggers of sin that pose risks to our holiness and the sanctification process being tirelessly carried out by the Holy Spirit is not an option but a necessity. Not doing so (in other words, disobeying God’s word) is resisting and subverting the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in our own lives.
Addressing (and doing so in the manner prescribed by the Lord) the causes of sin that pose risk to ourselves and others around us is our responsibility and the Lord will hold us accountable for it. Drastic, immediate and conclusive action is required to rid ourselves of the causes of sin in our lives. This includes ensuring that any weaknesses or dispositions toward sin in our lives are not obliged or encouraged in any fashion but rather consistently and decisively deprived of any stimuli that would lead to the committing of sin. The supply lines to these dispositions are to be permanently and irreversibly cut off.
Many have an accommodating and excusing approach to the causes of sin in their lives and why they need not be viewed or addressed as Christ prescribed which is in part caused by the sin’s own deceitfulness. Sin (and its ways with us) are deceitful, not straightforward or direct. Hebrews 3:13 speaks about the deceitful nature of sin and warns against it, “…that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Sin has been deceitful in its nature since day one. Deceit is inherent to sin. Genesis 3:1
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The serpent sowed seeds of doubt questioning the integrity and veracity of God’s words to Adam and Eve while at the same time tiling the ground in preparation for his own lies. He first sowed the seeds of doubt in God’s word before craftily sowing his lies in its place. Eve fell for it and was won over without much effort, convinced by the deceit resident within sin (which is basically lawlessness/disobedience or disregard of God’s laws/His Word). Her views were now aligned with that of the enemy and not God’s. She now viewed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in a totally different light. She saw “…that the tree was good for food (really?), and that it was a delight to the eyes (not so sure), and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (oh yeah?)…” Genesis 3:6
The rest, sadly, is history.
It is the same with us. Whenever we doubt and alter God’s words to accommodate our agenda and serve our ends under the guise of reason and rational, we fall for sin’s deceit. From there it’s only a matter of time before the “crime” is committed.
But not only is sin inherently deceitful in itself but our own reasoning and rationalising is coloured and biased by the deceitfulness of our very own hearts. Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Only God is able to discern our hearts and its motives and desires exposing them through the working of His word and judging us by them too (and not only by our actions). Jeremiah 17:10
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
This is why we need to prioritise obedience to scripture (God’s word to us) in our lives over our own reasoning and rationalising prowess.
Obedience to scripture (abiding in Christ’s words leading to personal discovery of truth) is what frees us from the deceitfulness of sin and heart.