Did Jesus teach Self-Mutilation?
The question is, was Jesus speaking figuratively? Jesus did love using metaphors when describing spiritual truths. “It’s like a mustard seed”...“it’s like a treasure buried in field”...“its like a pearl of great price.”
Is Jesus using another metaphor when He tells us to gouge out our eyes and chop off our hands. Jesus is using strong words to reveal something about the seriousness of sin but, He’s not teaching self-mutilation, He's teaching "self-denial" says the preacher.
It is common for preachers to sometimes exaggerate to make a point. However, Jesus always meant what He said and said what He meant. He is Truth personified and He never stretched the truth. Yes Jesus spoke in parables so as to conceal truth, not to stretch the truth (Mat 13:13). In any case, the passage above is not part of a parable. The context is the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus has just been teaching about anger and lust. His teaching is plain and clear because the issues are serious and damaging. There is nothing metaphorical in His presentation.
Another flaw with the metaphorical interpretation is that it suggests we can do the do’s and not do the don’ts to maintain our salvation. Maybe we don’t have to self-amputate, but we can do things like confess, tithe, read the Bible, pray, abstain, renounce etc... There may be nothing wrong with these things; however, the error is in thinking we can gain or maintain our salvation by doing them.
Another question is, was Jesus speaking literally? Most people think Jesus was speaking figuratively because they cannot conceive for a second that He meant what He said literally. But what if He did mean it literally? Does that mean He actually wants us to gouge out our eye? I seriously doubt it! We are sanctified by the blood of the Lamb, not by losing a eye or a severed limb (Heb 10:29). Self-mutilation does nothing to deal with sin because sin is more of a heart thing than a action thing (Mat 5:28). Besides, if you gouge out an eye or chop off an hand you’re still left with another. You can sin with them!
So why would Jesus teach us about doing something He doesn’t really want us to do in the first place? So people will realize the absurdity of trying to impress God by the keeping of the Law and the do’s and don’ts of self-righteousness.
He is teaching the crux of the law not so that we will try to keep its do's and don'ts, He is teaching it so that we will give up pretending who we are and stop trusting in our ability and performance to maintain our relationship with Him or with people.