An Eye is a Terrible Thing To Pluck

Sometimes object lessons go just a little too far.

Yesterday, our pulpit minister was preaching on purity and was reading Mark 9:47:

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

To emphasize the point, he brought his hand to his eye to illustrate what “plucking” looked like and to drive home his point. I immediately sensed danger, and I leaned foward at the ready, my professional instincts suddenly on full, red-eye alert. We all watched in horrified fascination as he sharply thrust his fingers toward his orbit in pincer-like fashion. Together we tracked the flying object which now arced through the air, landing on the auditorium floor, rolling, rolling, almost in slow motion now, toward the feet of the man who was to lead the closing prayer. There was an audible gasp from the congregation, followed by a long silence and then…


As it turned out, our preacher had accidentally hooked his glasses frame with his fingers as he illustrated his point, launching them about 10 feet from the podium toward the front pew. In his usual smooth fashion, he recovered nicely, poking a little fun at himself along the way (self-effacing humor is the magic WD-40 needed to extricate oneself from a sticky, public speaking jam). Luckily he appeared to be farsighted rather than nearsighted, so he was able to spot the glasses and recover them, although he did seem to grope a bit once he bent down and got close enough to pick them up.

As the only eye doctor in the house, I felt like it was my duty to do something, but I just wasn’t sure what–I’ve seen some things in my time, but never anything like that. I wondered if I should rush toward the pulpit to see if his glasses were bent or otherwise damaged, hand them back to him and ask him how many fingers I was holding up. Or maybe, “Which is better, one or two?

But it was over with in the blink of an eye, and the sermon went on without further incident or injury. It did get me to thinking that maybe I should start sitting with the “real doctors” in the “Reserved for Medical Personnel” section in case of another ocular urgency or emergency refraction.

If that wasn’t unsettling enough, our Sunday School class afterwards read the following pearl from Proverbs 30:17:

The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.

I’m thinking maybe I should get Eyegal to cross stitch that, frame it and put it on the wall of the boys’ bathroom, or else write it on a sticky-note and place it on the refrigerator door where they’ll be an approximate 100% chance they’ll read it.

Still, enough is enough already! I know we’re talking about rhetorical devices and metaphors here, but all this is enough to give an eyeguy like me a serious case of the willies. An eye, after all, is a terrible thing to pluck.

  1. Nancy

    Yuck. I had to skim over that first part until I knew it wasn’t really his eye.

    Gross. Also, that Scripture is pretty vivid. And, it applies to “less-than-perfect” parents too, it should be noted. It’s a good word of caution.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    Aha! I had you going there. 🙂

    It just goes to show how tightly scripture can sometimes be bound up in ancient Near East idiom and rhetorical techniques like hyperbole. Vivid imagery like this has to be understood in context prior to any modern application.

    Fortunately, I’ve only run into one person in my career who took this “pluck your eye” verse too literally. I was in residency in Nashville sometime in the last century when I encountered a patient whose corneal abrasion just wouldn’t heal no matter how hard I tried.

    I presented the case to my residency mentor, an experienced doc who had seen a thing or two and been around the block a few times. He didn’t say a word, only handed me a sticky note with these words and numbers: Mark 9:47. Needless to say, that one was beyond my area of expertise.

    Yes, good thought on parents. It does indeed work both ways.

  3. Nancy

    y-u-c-k, Dr. Eyeguy. Y-u-c-k. What did you do for that disturbed guy????

    No, I actually meant that we should respect our parents even if they are not the best parents in the world, you know? That respect and honor is not contigent upon them being perfect.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    He was referred to a psychiatrist (he admitted his self-abuse upon questioning). I’m hoping it was someone who was sensitive to the spiritual issues in play there.

    Got it (the reference to parents). And I agree on respect not being contigent on perfection. I just wish fewer parents defaulted in their leadership and nurturing roles these days. It’s been an eye-opening experience seeing what some of the kids at Number One’s public high school have been through. No one to encourage or help them at home–very sad.

  5. Hal

    I sometimes dissappoint myself when I’m faced with an opportunity to say something witty and relavant in a timely fashion, like your incident in church on Sunday. I’ve thought about that since I read your blog yesterday, and I still can’t come up with a witty remark. Oh well.

    When I was stationed at Ft. Jackson, 20 years ago, I had a soldier who was sticking a needle in his eye to imitate a corneal ulcer. His goal was to get himself medically discharged from the Army. He ended up achieving his goal, although it was a psychiatric discharge rather than visual/ocular/medical. I remember facing the same diagnostic/treatment dilemma that you that you faced in your residency. I just could not figure out what was going on for a while.

  6. Mike the Eyeguy


    Keeping trying brother, something will come out eventually! 😉

    Actually, if “brevity is the soul of wit,” as they say, then I’m sunk.

    Oh my, it’s been 20 years? That’s right you are my elder, aren’t you? 🙂 As I recall, Ft. Jackson is a receiving station, meaning the soldier you saw was most likely a raw recruit scared out of his wits. Fear is a gruesome demon, eating away at the souls of men. As I recall, we saw a few psychogenic cases at Fox together, but none that bad.

    You no doubt remember who my residency mentor was (J.P.). That man knew scripture backwards and forwards. Not bad for a liberal Presbyterian!

  7. Donna

    I thought he was going to pull the ole’ glass eye bit….man that would have freaked me out….but you should have asked the “better one or two” question….I LOVE those {not}

  8. Mike the Eyeguy


    If the doctor said instead, “Which is better Alabama or Auburn?” and the Alabama lens was blurry and the Auburn lens was crystal clear, what would you do?

  9. Donna

    I guess I would say…” could you say better 1 or 2?”

  10. Donna

    Or I could say “the sucky one” but that wouldn’t be very nice…..

  11. Mike the Eyeguy


    If asked that question, I’m guessing you would see pretty “sucky” out of your new glasses.

    Roll Tide.

Comments are closed.