Defeat Lust & Pornography A group of surgeons around an operating table.
Defeat Lust & Pornography 6 minute read

Radical Amputation: Finding the Right Treatment for Porn

Last Updated: February 27, 2023

If you search online for “radical amputation,” you’ll find a list of articles about dealing with lust and porn, mostly for men. That’s because the Bible used the metaphor of “cutting off your hand” to demonstrate the radical measures required to overcome sexual temptation.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

You’ve probably heard it before. Maybe your pastor has been bold enough to preach about this from the pulpit.

But if you scroll down the list, you’ll see non-metaphorical entries—medical journal articles talking about the literal removal of body parts. I won’t go into the gruesome details here, but suffice it to say some serious conditions call for these procedures.

I get it…porn is really serious, so I have to do whatever it takes to stop watching it. I know.

I think we sometimes lose the force of Jesus’s metaphor because of its familiarity. But strip back the metaphorical meaning for a moment and think about the literal meaning.  

What is radical amputation?

We should not seek to hurt or damage our bodies. Although some fringe movements have glorified self-harm, we know that self-harm is a real problem for many. You should never intentionally cause yourself harm; this is not radical amputation.

(If you feel compelled to harm yourself, you should seek professional help.)

However, there are rare cases when it is necessary to damage a functioning part of your body to prevent worse damage—usually to remove malignant cancer cells. In order to prevent the spread of a tumor, a surgeon might remove part of the patient’s arm, neck, etc.  

The word “radical” in popular vocabulary just means “extreme” or “far out.” But originally, it meant “going to the root.” Unlike other forms of treatment, which target only the affected area of the body, radical amputation goes deeper, beneath the problem itself.

So a radical amputation isn’t just an extreme amputation; it’s one that goes to the very root to eliminate the problem.  

When is radical amputation necessary?

Going to the root is an extreme measure. By definition, it means sacrificing a working part of your body to eradicate the disease. A good doctor won’t pursue this unless other options have been exhausted.  If the cancerous tumor on your leg can be effectively treated with chemotherapy, he won’t chop off your leg completely.

This informs our understanding of the metaphor, as we’ll see in a moment. Nonetheless, if the disease is serious enough, a good doctor will recognize the need to sacrifice part of your body to preserve your life.

Some things can’t be amputated, but most can.

Another key aspect of radical amputation is that it’s only useful if you can live without the body part in question. No one would advocate to radically amputate your brain to cure a tumor, regardless of how malignant it is.

However, if it’s an arm, a leg, a shoulder, or even a major internal organ that can be replaced surgically, the amputation can go ahead as the last resort. We often don’t realize just how much we can live without until we’re faced with life or death.  

How should we understand the radical amputation metaphor?

So, having taken a step back and looked at radical amputation in the literal sense, how does this inform our understanding of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5? What takeaways do we find from the difficult procedures of quitting porn and overcoming lust?  

Radical Amputation Means Sacrificing Something Good

The radical amputation metaphor really isn’t about quitting porn or learning self-control with lustful thoughts—even if you love porn and it’s tough to give it up. Lust and porn are like the malignant cancer cells in your body. If you can, you’ll remove them without giving up anything else.

Radical amputation has to do with the good parts of your life—what are the good things, the convenient pieces of technology, or the relaxing past-times that might lead you to porn? For example, having a phone by your bedside table is a very normal part of being a functioning adult in our society. But if it leads to porn, you might need to “cut it off” by removing the phone from your room. Or, if it’s not just your room where you experience temptation, you might need to find ways to eliminate your phone altogether—purchase a “dumb phone,” or have a close friend lock it down to restrict web and app access.

OK, now that’s pretty extreme—I need those features for work and school!

Right, that’s the point. Radical amputation recognizes the dangers of the disease and chops off something good and useful in order to keep you alive. Try asking these questions:

  • Is there technology I need to sacrifice to keep myself porn-free?
  • Are there entertainment options I need to eliminate to avoid temptation?
  • Should I stop going to certain places that bombard me with sexual images?

Radical Amputation May Not Be Necessary

Just like chemotherapy may treat cancer cells more effectively than amputation, often the temptation to watch porn can be treated by less extreme methods.

For example, you can keep your smartphone with web access, but use Covenant Eyes to monitor your screen. On an iPhone, you might need to lock down other apps, but you can still browse your favorite (non-pornographic) websites, knowing that your ally will get the report of what you look at.

Know the Difference Between What You Can and Can’t Amputate

The application of the metaphor may get really subjective here. But just like there’s a difference between chopping off an arm and chopping off your head, there are some temptations that you can eliminate and some that you can’t.

For example, if you know that a popular social media site is kryptonite for you—Instagram or Youtube, for example—then you can (and should) cut these off. Use Covenant Eyes’ custom block list to remove your access to them completely.

However, if you have sexual images in your mind from porn you saw long ago, or if the women you see walking down the street are prompting lustful thoughts, you can’t just chop that off. Even if you locked yourself in a padded cell, you can’t perform surgery on your mind—only God can do that.

Accountability Is Not Amputation

Lastly, remember that making yourself accountable to other believers is not a form of amputation. Not according to the Bible! From the biblical perspective, it’s not even like chemotherapy treatment. Biblical accountability is a way of life for Christians.

Biblical accountability may include some amputation measures—limiting your access to certain areas of temptation and other restrictions. But we need to get out of the mindset that being accountable to other Christians is some kind of loss.

Instead, it’s the healthy way that God has provided for His people to live in community with one another—regardless of what other practical methods of treatment we pursue. It’s bearing each others burdens and encouraging one another daily. It’s confessing our sins and finding true healing grace in Jesus.

  1. Jason

    A monk in the Buddhas time removed his genetal organ, the Buddha on hearing of this said” the follish man, when he should have cut of one thing, he cut of another.” What he should hav cut off was lust, which arises due to contact brining feeling, then thirst, and attachment, followed by volitioanal action that renenforces the whole train for the next arising….Jesus pointed to cutting off contact, and rightly so, and to being monomaniacle in the effort to aviod sin/death….that kind of volition is the begining, without it success in anything is well…… then how to cut off contact? Its starts with the eyes, or hands, but then needs memory to tell your mind what the eye sees, or hands feel…..those memories are reinforced as you’ve written, porn weve seen, running through the mind, ….and that makes them easily brought forth the next time the eyes see form….so train your memory, see the skelleton, flesh bones, dead body, train your mind to bring these images up when the eyes see form, give it a try, cut off the root, investigate your own body whats it made off? Etc…….food for thought..;-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

Editor's Picks

Close-up portrait of male student with head on knees sitting by wall in college

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Sin Owned Me

I have long struggled with lust, first giving in to pornography as…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young boy praying in a Catholic church.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Was an Altar Boy Addicted to Porn

Since I was young, I’ve battled with a deeply personal struggle: pornography…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man embracing his wife.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Overcame My Fear of Abandonment

My struggles have been with pornography, masturbation, fanaticizing, objectifying, and lying. It…

3 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Young man taking a break while hiking.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Imperfect Journey

My journey to overcome and avoid the temptation of pornography has been…

3 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Close-up on the hands of a group of people learning to trust one another.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

How to Trust People

After helping people overcome pornography for more than two decades, one thing…

7 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man training for an endurance race.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Running the Race With Endurance

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…

4 minute read

Read Post

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

Close-up portrait of male student with head on knees sitting by wall in college

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Sin Owned Me

I have long struggled with lust, first giving in to pornography as…

I have long struggled with lust, first giving in to pornography as a 6th grader. As I approach my junior year of college, I see the destruction that my addiction has caused and the further…

4 minute read

0 comments

A young boy praying in a Catholic church.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Was an Altar Boy Addicted to Porn

Since I was young, I’ve battled with a deeply personal struggle: pornography…

Since I was young, I’ve battled with a deeply personal struggle: pornography and masturbation. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this addiction took hold of me, but that first encounter remains etched in my memory.…

4 minute read

0 comments

A young man embracing his wife.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Overcame My Fear of Abandonment

My struggles have been with pornography, masturbation, fanaticizing, objectifying, and lying. It…

My struggles have been with pornography, masturbation, fanaticizing, objectifying, and lying. It started after dealing with intense feelings of loneliness following my graduation from college and first job in ministry. I was spending a lot…

3 minute read

0 comments

Young man taking a break while hiking.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Imperfect Journey

My journey to overcome and avoid the temptation of pornography has been…

My journey to overcome and avoid the temptation of pornography has been a long and difficult one. It started at the age of 8. Some of my friends came over to my house one day…

3 minute read

0 comments

Close-up on the hands of a group of people learning to trust one another.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

How to Trust People

After helping people overcome pornography for more than two decades, one thing…

After helping people overcome pornography for more than two decades, one thing has become clear: Defeating porn requires trustworthy relationships. Pornography develops a powerful grip on people that can’t be overcome in isolation. We need…

7 minute read

0 comments

A young man training for an endurance race.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Running the Race With Endurance

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). This passage has been the one I’ve been able to…

4 minute read

0 comments