In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus discussed the law “thou shalt not commit adultery.” The problem with the letter of any law is that it gives excuse to use loopholes as long as the specific forbidden act is not done. Jesus addressed that problem in principle by the example of looking on a woman lustfully. As with anger possibly leading to the act of murder, so too can lust lead to the act of adultery. Both begin as a wrong thought in our hearts. In fact, Jesus challenged us to see the premeditated thought as essentially the same as the act. As with murder there is a positive alternative. However, this time Jesus shocked everyone by suggesting self-mutilation. He was not encouraging the wrongful practice of self-harm but exaggerating to make the point of taking drastic steps to avoid tempting situations.
Why did Jesus often speak in exaggerations? Hyperbolic language is a melodramatic way of teaching that emphasizes the lesson. Just as sensationalism sells news stories, so too does embellishment make illustrating principles more memorable. In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus dramatized the efforts one ought to take to avoid adultery. Cutting off a body part to avoid stumbling into lust emphasized the amount of effort needed. The opposite would be a careless approach. Such foolhardiness might include spending too much time with or being alone with a member of the opposite sex who is married to someone else. Because we are all weak, we cannot be so naive as to think that we are immune to lust. Stay as far away from temptation as possible by taking diligent steps to avoid being in a situation where we cannot control our lusts.