What does this verse tell us? It's quite hard to understand.
“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
Sin is not something we as Christians should fool around with. The same applies to non-Christians as well, for that matter. Consequently, we need to get tough with sin and tough with ourselves when it comes to nipping it in the bud.
Of course, a man could avoid lusting after a woman by blinding himself in both eyes, but such an extreme measure, interestingly enough, would not cure lust! I suggest that is why Jesus talked about plucking out one eye, not two.
It's pretty clear, to me at any rate, Jesus is using hyperbole, which is a figure of speech which exaggerates deliberately for best effect. If Jesus had said,
His words would not have had the impact as would His words about eye-gouging. He knew that, of course, and He knew His words would cause His listeners to stop and analyze what they'd just heard, and in doing so they would've gotten the message. In essence, Jesus was saying
Very sobering words, indeed, for believers and unbelievers alike. Sinful, earthly pleasures are but for a season, but at God's right hand in heaven, there are joy and pleasure forevermore (Psalm 16:11). In other words, a little pain now will yield eternal rewards. Our rejection of pain now will yield eternal regret in hell. The choice is ours to make.
Allow me to alter Jim Elliot's famous words ever so slightly:
Jim Elliot, a missionary who sacrificed his life attempting to bring the gospel to a murderous tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest, was speared to death by the very people he came to serve (the Aucas). He was an eye gouger.
I could literally mean “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
That's fairly straightforward. Eternal intense, unimaginable, agonizing suffering, or temporary pain and blindness... The choice is yours.
Kind of puts the real requirements for goodness and holiness required of us by God into perspective. We all think "We're not so bad", but if you ever get a real understanding of God's requirements, you realize that there's no way we can attain to that level of perfection. None of us is good enough to get to heaven. Thankfully, He provided the lamb of God to pay the penalty for our sins, since we can't.
However, it is typically used as a hyperbole to make a principle clear:
If you have things in your lift that are causing you to sin, get rid of them. It's better to have temporary loss in this world than eternal loss. Love the things of God, and get rid of those things that are not Godly, that cause you to stumble.
Companion verse: John 12:25.
In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus is covering Salvation and what it means and giving tips on how to live the Christian life.
In verse 9 did Jesus mean to physically gouge out your eyes? Probably not any more than when he told Nicodemus that he must be born again did mean to physically go back into the womb and start all over.
In both these incidents Jesus was referring not to a physical process, but a spiritual process.
Matthew 5:27 and 28 KJV
What would seem more feasible is that Jesus was saying wickedness is not confined to actions, but that we must also clean up our minds. And in order to do that it is not going to be easy. Remember the old saying that it will cost an arm and a leg. The meaning there was that it was going to be really expensive, and in verse nine the connotation is probably similar.