The CNN headline read “Man sees ‘mark,’ cuts off hand” or in the Seattle PI, “Man cuts off, microwaves his own hand.” The headlines were both pretty eye catching but is was the same sad story regardless of which version you read.

HAYDEN, Idaho — A man who believed he bore the “mark of the beast” used a circular saw to cut off one hand, then he cooked it in the microwave and called 911, authorities said.

The Book of Revelation in the New Testament contains a passage in which an angel is quoted as saying: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury.”

The book of Matthew also contains the passage: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, 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.”

It’s pretty rare that I see biblical references in AP news stories. It is also pretty unfortunate for the world that when the Bible is referenced, it is in this type of story rather than the overwhelming number of charitable acts that are done everyday as a result of God’s word and in his name. That being the case, I didn’t expect any interpretation or explanation and I was not disappointed. So here’s a look at the references and my shot at an explanation.

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
(Matthew 5:30 KJV)

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
(Revelation 14:9-10 KJV)

Two things come to mind when I read these passages: first that Revelations is allegory and symbolism and second, that Jesus had a penchant for hyperbole. Anyone recall this passage?

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
(Matthew 19:24 KJV)

An alternate interpretation has this as a rope rather than a camel through the eye of a needle. But either way it is not about stuffing anything through the eye of a needle. It is about love and worship of wealth. It is about not getting into heaven because you love and worship wealth more than you love and worship Christ.

In a weird and sad way I can admire this man for his conviction. He believed so strongly in what he was doing that he both cut off his hand and he microwave cooked it, presumably so it couldn’t be reattached. But did this man really have to cut off his hand to please Christ? I’d say probably not, although he and Christ may be the only ones who know that for sure. I do feel that our message from this scripture is that we must make whatever sacrifices and take whatever risks necessary to gain eternal life. It means that if you continually sin when hanging out with certain people then quit hanging out with them. It means that if you get satellite for football, but can’t stop watching the porno channel then ditch your dish and suffer along without football. Do whatever it takes to put Christ in the forefront of your life.

And the mark? Again, Revelations is symbolism, but whether or not the mark is physically there doesn’t really matter. The message is the same. If you prefer living in an ungodly manner and worshiping ungodly things then you will be in trouble.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
(Matthew 10:32-33 KJV)

Christ is the bouncer at door to club heaven. If you spend your life disrespecting him then don’t expect to be on the VIP list. And you don’t necessarily have to cut off your hand to get on the list. You do however have to acknowledge your sins, believe that Christ died to forgive your sins, and confess Christ as your savior.