I deleted Instagram. One of the most popular social networks in the world. A photo sharing platform used by one billion people. And I’m no longer one of them.
Why? Not because it’s bad. I’m not discouraging people from using it. Instead, there’s something about Instagram that causes me to stumble. Let me explain.
A couple of months ago, someone asked me a tough question. It revolved around a statement Jesus made during the Sermon on the Mount. A statement with striking implications. Here’s what Jesus said: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30 NIV).
The young Christian asked me how to interpret this radical statement. Did Jesus really mean for him to physically remove parts from his body?
If you’ve been a Christian for a number of years, you’re likely taken aback by this question. It may seem obvious that Jesus intends for these words to be taken figuratively rather than literally. After all, you don’t find a whole bunch of one-eyed, one-handed Christians sitting in pews. But when you read Matthew 5:29-30 through the eyes of a young believer, it seems quite bizarre.
This week, I’m writing about these two verses. And I’m using Instagram to help me describe what Jesus means.
First of all, it should be noted that God desires to be close to us. I mean, He really wants to be close to us. So much so that He put Himself in our shoes through the person of Jesus Christ to bring us back to Himself.
Therefore, if anything comes between you and Him, it’s a problem. And sin is that problem. In other words, Jesus urges you to remove anything from your life that causes you to stumble.
But don’t miss the practicality of what Jesus says. If a relationship causes you to stumble, end it. If an object causes you to stumble, stay away from it. If an electronic device causes you to stumble, shut it down. If food causes you to stumble, take a fast. I think you get the point. The main idea of what Jesus says in Matthew 5:29-30 isn’t the removal of body parts. Instead, it’s the intense longing God has for you to be close to Him.
It became obvious to me that Instagram had become a stumbling block in my life. I constantly found myself obsessing over the pictures, followers, and likes. I spent countless hours worrying about the best way to construct my bio. And in the end, I allowed Instagram to define the success of my life and ministry. Needless to say, I was greatly overwhelmed and disappointed.
I removed the app multiple times. I took multiple breaks — sometimes as long as a month at a time. But when I logged back in, I continued to stumble. I continued to stress. And I continued to find myself separated from God. That’s why I finally decided to delete it entirely.
I didn’t want to. I needed to. It was painful and freeing at the same time. But I desire to be close to God more than anything else. And I believe that’s what Jesus intends for us to take away from these two challenging verses.
With that being said, what needs to be thrown away in your life? It’s probably not Instagram. But it’s likely something as simple and silly. Often times, your biggest enemies stand in the smallest of spaces.
Now, before I end, allow me to express two important concerns. And they may sound crazy. First, I’m not telling you to walk away from a person to whom you are committed. For example, Jesus does not mean for you to walk away from your spouse. In fact, Jesus speaks out against divorce in verses 31-32. In most cases, there are better ways to handle that kind of stumbling block. Secondly, I’m not encouraging anyone to physically harm or remove parts from the body. However, there may be times when God leads a person to have medical professionals perform certain procedures in an effort to help one overcome sinful desires.
But that’s not my message. I’m no theologian. I’m just a young guy who desires to share God’s Word for all that it’s worth.
Don’t over-complicate this. Is there something in your life that needs cut away? Is there something in your life that needs thrown in the garbage? Maybe it’s replacing Netflix with the Bible. Maybe it’s limiting the time you spend with certain people.
At the end of the day, I desperately desire to be close to God. And my prayer is for you to say the same.
Don’t be afraid to cut it away—whatever “it” may be.
Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.