By Kendall Lowe
On April 26, 2003, a man named Aaron Ralston went hiking alone in the mountains in Utah. As he was hiking through a canyon, a boulder came loose and fell on him, pinning his arm against the canyon wall. He hadn’t told anybody that he was going, so no one would have known where to look for him. He had a little bit of food and water that lasted him four days. At the end of those four days, he video taped his goodbyes to his family and carved his name on the canyon wall, along with his date of birth and the date of his presumed death. When he woke up the next day, still alive, he knew that the only way he was going to survive was by cutting off his own arm. He had a small pocket knife with him and he began to cut through his forearm. He succeeded, and he was freed. He began to hike back to where he had parked his car; three miles away. Thankfully it was discovered that he was missing, a search team was sent out, and he was helicoptered to a hospital and survived.
This is graphic imagery for us to think about. I can only imagine how hard it would be to cut off someone else’s arm. But imagine how much more difficult it would be to cut off your own arm. You would have to be in a very serious situation to do that.
The Bible tells us that we are in a very serious situation. And that situation is sin. Jesus tells us in Mark 9, “If your hand causes you to stumble… if your foot causes you to sin… if your eye causes you to stumble… cut it out. It would be better for you to enter life maimed, crippled, or blind than with two hands, feet, and eyes to enter hell.” Don’t misunderstand this teaching. Jesus is not implying that our physical body parts in any way cause us to sin. Cutting them off would not fix the problem that is in our hearts. However, God knows that there are things in our lives that do cause us to sin. And Jesus is telling us to cut those out, because they are not worth it.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus to ask how he might get eternal life, Jesus’ response was to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Why? Was it because he had stuff? Was it because there were some poor people down the street who needed his money? Jesus told this man to sell his possessions because he knew that those possessions were what were holding him back. He knew that this man’s possessions were the boulder pinning him down, and the only way he was going to be free was by cutting them out of his life.
What is holding you back? What is pinning you down? Is it sin? Is it possessions? Is it habits? Jesus asks the question, “Which is worth more? Death or life? Greatness or servanthood? The world or your soul?” The answer is obvious. The question is, what are we willing to cut out?