Hans Url is a 56 year old husband and father in Austria who had been living primarily on disability since 2003. However, he had an appointment coming up to evaluate his physical fitness for work. If deemed to be fit, then he would risk losing his disability benefits, and would have to take on the work that was found for him.
The thought was abhorrent to him so he hatched a plan to avoid this fate. He waited until his family was away from home so there would be no interference. Then he went down to the boiler room and cut off his foot with an electric saw. Furthermore, he wanted to ensure that skillful doctors would not be able to reattach the foot. So, he threw his severed foot into a wood stove to burn. Finally, in danger of bleeding to death, Hans called an ambulance and was rushed to the hospital.
I am not going to use this as an opportunity to talk about political issues like entitlement attitudes and welfare. What Hans did was horrible and brings his mental faculties into question. It might be described as the height of laziness, but my purpose today is not to bash him. Actually, I think that there is a positive lesson to be learned from this man. I want to focus on Hans' determination to avoid a future that seemed most objectionable to him. He would rather proceed through life maimed than continue on able-bodied to a destination he detested.
It reminds me somewhat of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:8-9 (NKJV), “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”
There are few practical instances where literally cutting off our foot would keep us from sin, but we do need to be very serious about getting rid of things in our lives that make it more difficult to be holy. That might mean amputating certain freedoms and privileges from our lives. . If the internet is causing you to stumble then you need to amputate your private access to it by installing accountability software. If you have been using money to finance your vice, then you may need to amputate you credit or debit card access. If a job is tempting you to be unethical, then you may have to amputate that job. If a person or group is pulling you toward sinful activities, then you might have to amputate those people from your life. Getting serious about avoiding sin, means taking drastic steps to get rid of those things that have been temptations to you. The righteousness you will achieve will be very much worth any inconvenience you incur.
You might suggest that it would be better to just develop the strength to resist those temptations. After all, that seems much less drastic and more reasonable. I would respond by pointing out that it is better to be holy than to be strong. It is better to enter life lame or maimed than to rely on your own strength, and risk falling to the everlasting fire. Consider the repeated admonitions to flee sin:
1 Corinthians 6:18 - “Flee immorality…”
1 Corinthians 10:14 - “…Flee idolatry”
1 Timothy 6:11 - But you, O man of God, flee these things [the love of money] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:22 - Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
We learn the value of avoiding temptation from Jesus’ instructions on prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he included the line, “do not lead us into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). When they were in Gethsemane shortly before Jesus would be crucified, he again admonished his disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). Jesus was not instructing his disciple to pray for the strength to resist temptation, but rather for the avoidance of temptation altogether.
The point is that it is better to flee from sin and avoid temptation than to try to stay and fight. Even the oft quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 (No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.) speaks of escaping temptation rather than defeating it. If you are on a diet, and you have cookies within easy reach all day relying on your willpower to resist the temptation, then you are likely to fail to maintain that diet. For a better chance at success, it would be best to have no cookies in the house at all. If you are seeking righteousness, then it would be better to remove temptations as far away from you as possible.
So, how serious are you? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to pursue righteousness? Or just whatever seems reasonably convenient?