I remember years ago in a Bible study, we were going through Matthew and got to the famous passage in chapter 18 about plucking out your eye and chopping off your hand when those organs cause you to stumble.
As per usual, we opened up the floor to allow for discussion when one of the guys in the group said out loud, “Come on guys, you know what Jesus is talking about here with the hand stuff… masturbation.”
Most of the group was kind of taken back by his comment, but there was a definite sense of consensus that ran through the room that indeed Jesus was talking about sexual sin and the like when he said those words.
This type of thinking and conversation is nothing new in the church.
I’ve heard multiple pastors and speakers allude to the same sort of thing. And while I’m not going to say that Jesus may not have had some of that stuff in mind, the passage itself carries with it a much deeper and broader message.
The message being that we should take care not to hurt people and cause them to stumble even though it’s inevitable because that’s what broken people do. Yet, at the same time, that reality does not give us license to keep on hurting others, and we should take extreme measures to try to prevent ourselves from doing so.
Hence, pluck out your eye and cut off your hand or foot.
Gotta love Jesus. He was never one to pull punches.
Granted, when we objectify others or watch porn, we are stumbling and hurting someone in the process. But the eye and foot symbolism in a Jewish context carried far more significance than simply serving as a metaphor for lusting and masturbation.
Yet somehow, this attention-grabbing passage has over the years turned into the go-to solution for many Christians when talking about sexual sin and pornography. This idea that if you are prone to lust or have sexual fantasies about others, your primary and foremost responsibility is to remove the that source of temptation from your life.
This may mean taking extreme measures like…
- Destroying your computer Kirk Cameron style.
- Getting a dumbphone
- Installing filtering and blocking software on every device you have.
- Adding parental controls on your computer, phone, and Netflix account.
- Avoiding the beach or the side of the mall that Victoria Secret happens to be on.
- Bouncing your eyes every time you pass a pretty woman (thank you Every Man’s Battle)
But is this advice accurate or even helpful?
Yes, and no.
While I would never argue that a good early step when dealing with sexual sin (like pornography viewing) is to limit your exposure, it’s by no means the solution to your problem and just a needed measure to help gain some initial control over your unwanted behavior and lack of sobriety.
But if limiting access or removing an eye is your best option, then you will most likely be struggling with this stuff for the rest of your life, and with only one eye to complicate matters (which is great if you always wanted to be a pirate).
Because your struggle is not what you see, it’s what you feel and think. It’s what you believe about yourself, God, and the world around you.
Removing your source of struggle only mitigates your issues, it will not solve them.
Your heart and mind still need healing.
Your shame still needs to be dealt with.
Your secrecy still needs to be shed and left behind.
Your betrayal in the case of a marriage still needs to be owned and dealt with.
And to be honest, I wouldn’t even say that removing or limiting your access to porn is the best first step. Because if you really want to get serious about dealing with your sexual integrity, you need to invite others into your life and get real about your struggle.
Yes, if you are trying to establish some sobriety so that your brain can heal from all the messy wiring you’ve added over the years through your repeated porn use, then by all means add the filters, burn the porn stash, and erase the hard drives, but please don’t stop there.
That is just a half measure and not even a very effective one.
In fact, it’s a lazy one if that’s where you draw the line, because the real work, the difficult work, is being truly honest about who you are and where you fall short and seeking the help you need to get out of the sexual hole you’ve dug yourself into.