OFFENCES. IF YOUR HAND BE THE CAUSE OF AN OFFENCE, CUT IT OFF
11. Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost (Matthew, 18: 6-11).
And if thy right hand offends thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of they members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, 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: 30-29).
12. In its most usual sense the word offence means any action which goes ostensively against morality or decorum. The offence is not in the action itself so much as in the repercussion it may cause. The word always implies a certain amount of commotion and dispute. Many people are content if they avoid causing offence in public, because this would cause them to suffer loss of prestige, so hurting their pride. They do their best to hide their mistakes as this is sufficient to quieten their consciences. They are, as Jesus said: "As white sepulchres which are full of rottenness, like vessels which are clean without, but dirty within."
But in the evangelic sense the accepted meaning of the word 'offence', used so repeatedly, is very much more generalised and this is why in certain cases its meaning is not understood. It becomes not only that which affects the conscience of another person, but also everything which is the result of vice and human imperfections, every bad reaction from one individual to another, with or without repercussion. In this case the offence is the effective result of bad morality.
13. Jesus said: It is necessary that offences exist in the world, because due to the many imperfections of those on Earth, humanity shows itself inclined to practice evil and also because bad trees only bring forth bad fruits. From these words then, we must understand that evil is the consequence of Man's imperfections and not that there exists an obligation to practice evil.
14. It must needs be that offence comes so that humanity, being in atonement here on Earth, may punish itself by contact with its own failings, thus becoming its first victims, from whence it will finally come to understand the inconvenience of this way of life. When people are tired of suffering due to evil, they will seek a remedy in goodness. Therefore the reactions caused by these failings serve for some as a punishment and for others as a test. This is how God gets good out of evil and how humanity makes use of badness.
15. It could be said then, that evil is necessary and that it will last forever, seeing that if it disappears God would be deprived of a powerful means of being able to correct the guilty. It could also be said that it is useless to try to better mankind. However, if we ceased to have culprits then it would be unnecessary to have any kind of punishment.
Let us suppose that mankind was transformed, so becoming composed only of good men and women, then no one would think of doing evil to his neighbour and all would be happy to be good. This is the condition found in the elevated worlds, where evil has been banished. This is what will come to pass here on Earth, when Man has made sufficient progress. But new worlds are populated by primitive Spirits and also serve as places of exile, places of atonement, for those Spirits who are imperfect, rebellious, persistent in evil or who have been expelled from worlds which have become places of happiness.
16. But woe to that man by whom the offence comes. That is to say, that evil always being evil, the person who without knowing serves as an instrument of Divine justice, whose bad instincts were utilized, commits no less an evil and so deserves punishment. In this manner an ungrateful child is a punishment or trial for the parents, who are forced to suffer by its attitude. This is because the mother or father had themselves been bad children and made their parents suffer. So they pay the penalty. But the circumstances should not be an excuse for the child's behaviour, who in return will have to pay the penalty through his or her own children, or in some other manner.
17. If your hand be the cause of offence, cut it off. This is a very strong statement and it would be absurd for it to be taken in its literal sense. It should therefore be understood that each one must destroy within themselves everything that might cause offence, that is to say all evil, by rooting out every impure thought and every tendency towards violence, corruption or depravity. It also means that it is preferable for a man to cut off a hand rather than use it to commit an evil action, or better still, to lose one's sight rather than allow one's eyes to conceive bad thoughts. For those who take the trouble to discover the allegoric meaning of His words, Jesus never said anything that was absurd. Nevertheless, many things cannot be understood without the key to decipher them and this key is offered to us through Spiritism.