I was disturbed when I read Matthew 18:9, “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” I don’t believe Jesus was teaching us that we need to literally pluck our eye out, was He? I assume it had to do with sin in our lives and doing whatever it takes to get rid of it. Am I right about this?
ANSWER: Yes of course you’re right. We need to realize that Jesus used hyperbole in many of His teachings and these images were not to be taken literally. A hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses an exaggerated or extravagant statement to create a strong emotional response. Some familiar examples of hyperbolic statements would include:
“He’s got tons of money.”
“He is older than the hills.”
“I’m so hungry I can eat a horse.”
“His brain is the size of a pea.”
“My feet are killing me.”
In regards to Jesus’ statement regarding “plucking out your eye” (Matthew 18:9), we know the Lord did not intend this to be taken literally. The Bible condemns self-mutilation or inflicting wounds on your body, which is the temple of God. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has encouraged the practice of self-flagellation (imitating the sufferings of Jesus) for centuries on their “Good Friday” holiday. They believe that scourging their backs with whips or placing a crown of thorns on their heads until their blood runs down is pleasing to God, when in fact He disapproves of it completely.
Other examples of the use of hyperbole by Jesus in His teachings are found elsewhere in the gospels. One involves His statement:
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (You vain fellow) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – Matthew 5:22
Although we should most certainly avoid cursing other people or calling them harmful names when we are angry at them, I don’t believe that God would send you to hell for calling someone a “fool.” Neither is the sin of visually or intensely lusting after a woman (or man) the same as actually committing the physical act of adultery with her.
Jesus used exaggerated or extravagant statements (hyperbole) to emphasize the point He was trying to drive home in His teachings. They are not intended to be taken literally, in most cases, but analyzed in view of the essence of the message.
– Luis Josephus
“Another great explanation of God’s Word. As I understand it, the word “fool” as used in the Bible would be best defined as someone who refuses to do as instructed. For instance, the five foolish virgins were foolish because they did not listen when they were told to bring extra oil. (Matthew 25:1-13). By using this definition of “fool”, (someone would have to be foolish not to listen to God’s wisdom), we can better understand what the Bible means when someone is called a fool. When we call someone a fool, it is equal to condemning that person, saying that we believe that person is condemned as a fool for not listening to God’s instructions.”
COMMENT FROM BROTHER LUIS: “Amen Donna. A fool is indeed a fool for not listening to God’s instructions. God has given us His Word to provide wisdom and protect us from making mistakes. If we don’t take His fatherly advice, how foolish is that?”
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
The Use of Extreme Language By Jesus