“Eunuchs for the Sake of the Kingdom of Heaven” (10/31)

Thought from today’s Bible reading from Matthew 19; Mark 10.

After Jesus explained that there was no lawful cause other than fornication for one to put away his spouse and that one’s subsequent marriage would constitute adultery (Matthew 19:9), His disciples concluded that it would be better not to marry.

The disciples said to Him, ‘If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.’ But He said to them, ‘Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it’” (Matthew 19:10-12).

Eunuchs were familiar to the people of that time. They were “emasculated men” (ISBE) who would, therefore, be unable to engage in the “one flesh” relationship that Jesus spoke of as being part of marriage (Matthew 19:5).

Jesus mentioned three types of eunuchs: those who were born in that condition, those who were made such by men (a barbaric practice that was common then), and those who “made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

The last type – those who made themselves eunuchs – is not referring to those who physically mutilated themselves for the sake of the kingdom. Rather, it has the same meaning as what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Interestingly, both passages are discussing how to avoid some sexual sin – lust (Matthew 5:28) or adultery (Matthew 19:9). Jesus’ point is that we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid sexual sin and remain pure and right in the eyes of God. If that means ending an adulterous marriage, we must be willing to do that. If that means remaining unmarried because we have unlawfully put away our spouse for a cause other than fornication, we must be willing to do that, too.

This may seem extreme to those in the world. And Jesus acknowledged that not everyone would accept it. But if we truly want to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), we will not allow anything to stand in the way of our faithful service to God.

Tomorrow’s reading: Matthew 20-21

[I’m using the Chronological reading plan on the Bible Gateway website if you’d like to follow along, too.]

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