42 "If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43-44 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45-46 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where " 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."
Thoughts: This passage is about punishment. For some, punishment and God or Jesus just don't jive together. But Jesus was concerned about those who would cause a child to stumble for eternity- the ultimate child molestation. Jesus never questioned the right of God to hold us accountable. For him the question was-- for what are we accountable. Jesus believed in an ultimate and eternal punishment. There are many who believe that heaven is eternal but hell is temporary- but the same adjectives are used for both places, and here hell is described as a place where the worm does not die or the fire is not quenched. Jesus shifts a little here to salt in a sacrifice (an allusion to Lev. 2:13- "add salt to all your offerings"), and to the antisceptic/conservative nature of salt. After talking about hell in the life to come- and having a purpose (losing hand, foot and eye to obtain heaven), he now speaks of losing our meaning- our saltiness. This passage is a warning to escape eternal punishment, and temporary uselessness/meaninglessness. Many in our day are much more concerned about temporary comforts and offenses than permanent ones. Christians are called to do the opposite- endure temporary pains in this world (our crosses) to gain a permanent award.
Prayer: Lord, give me a heart to follow you and escape the punishment out of love and service to you.
John Calvin abridged: "Millstone...thrown into the sea"- When our Lord alludes to this punishment, we are enabled to perceive how dear and precious those
persons are in the sight of God, who are mean and despised in the eyes of
the world. We ought to be so constant and so zealous in opposing offenses, that we would rather choose to pluck out our
eyes, or cut off our hands, than give encouragement to offenses; for if any man hesitate to incur the loss of his limbs, he spares them at the risk of throwing himself into eternal perdition. What dreadful vengeance then awaits those who by offenses shall bring ruin on their brethren!