What to do when the Bible says disabled people can’t come close to God?

I’ve got a pretty disgusting passage of scripture to look at today. One we don’t like to look at because it doesn’t really paint God in a particularly politically correct lense for the 21st-century world.

But first, let’s look at this humdinger from Jesus in Matthew 5…

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.”

Ever struggled with how extreme this statement is from Jesus?

I was once attending a meeting where a guy was found in the bathroom bleeding profusely. He had attempted to cut his own penis off after hearing a message on this verse because he was addicted to pornography.

It breaks my heart that someone could preach on this verse in a way that would lead someone to physically harm themselves.

But Jesus wasn’t asking people to maim themselves. Far from it. Rather he was addressing the common belief that God was far from the disabled.

It was simple.

Black and white in their scripture…

God didn’t want to be close to the disabled.

When outlining the rules for people who were to serve Him on behalf of the people God said…

“No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles.” Lev 21:18-20

Let’s just look at that again for a second. Nobody who is blind, in a wheelchair, has been maimed or wasn’t fully developed in the womb, nobody with a bad leg, foot, arthritis, scoliosis, dwarven, wears glasses, has a serious skin condition or… well as a guy let me just say… ouch.

What do you think about that?

Take a minute and genuinely think about it.

Do you believe that those things should on any level hold people back from connecting with or serving God?

And don’t give me the “but that was before the cross” answer because God never changes and I don’t want you telling me that God doesn’t like disabled people but thankfully because of Jesus He can tolerate them.

So what’s going on?

Thankfully plenty of people saw this not to be God’s true heart throughout the Old Testament.

And He frequently showed it not to be His heart throughout the Old Testament.

But it was still a very prevalent belief by the time Jesus came along.

People associated sickness, disease and disability with sin.

This is why when Jesus’ disciples see a sick man they ask Jesus “why is he sick? Did he sin or was it his father?”

Why am I saying this?

It’s because I want to talk about that initial passage from Matthew 5.

When Jesus gives us this “hard saying” He’s not telling people to mutilate themselves.

He’s making a radical statement on disability.

He’s saying that God would rather you were disabled and holy than “normal” and sinful.

He is validating disabled people and that we can’t see sickness or what we may see as an abnormality as evidence of sin. (Which thankfully most people don’t do these days)

But He’s also doing something else big. He’s massively critiquing the spiritual leaders. He’s saying quite bluntly…

There are people who will say to have a perfect body without any defects and have their lives all squeaky clean is the grounds God uses to pick leaders (which to be fair is what the scripture clearly stated.)

But God is not like that!

He’d rather you had no limbs if it meant you were without sin and obedient to Him.

So what’s the point?

Like I said, most of us today know that to be disabled is not grounds to be treated any worse than anyone else.

It’s to highlight what we’ve been discussing again and again here on this blog, on Facebook, over on The Grace Course, the podcast and many other places.

What the Jews attributed to God was often times completely wrong. Jesus showed up and said – “nope.”

  • When they said God kills their enemies. Jesus says love your enemies.
  • When they said God can’t be close to disabled people. Jesus comes in close and touches them.
  • When they said God can’t be around sinners. Jesus came and did nothing but hang out with sinners.
  • When they said God told them an eye for an eye. Jesus came and said turn the other cheek.
  • When they said God told them to give sacrifices. Jesus came and declared God does not want our sacrifices.
  • etc. etc. etc.

    It’s just another lesson in reading your Bible through the lens of Jesus. Knowing that He is the perfect image of the invisible God and what He clearly says and demonstrates trumps man’s attempts to label the invisible God.

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    1. If that passage from the old testament is not accurate then how do we know which are God and which are not? Asking out of genuine curiosity. I really appreciate things I have read from your site thus far.

      • Hi Katelyn,

        I have a whole video series going into that you can watch for free on http://www.thegracecourse.com – it’s called “Is God Really Good?”

        It’s about 3hrs but honestly – you need to commit that sort of time to do this subject justice. If I gave a quick answer on here it would probably only raise more questions!

        But what the heck I’ll do it and you can check out the videos if it does is … you read the passages through the lens of Jesus. If Jesus perfectly represents God then when God doesn’t look like Jesus in the OT we know that his image has been warped in one way or another. It’s not that it isn’t necessarily God – it’s just it’s not a perfect representation of Him like Jesus is.

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