As I approach the text this morning, the thing that puzzles me is right up front. Jesus famously takes a child and says, "...whoever takes in a child like this one, he's greatest in the kingdom of the skies." which is a scene that is depicted in a million places in hundreds of different ways. In fact, I think something like it was on the cover of my first Bible as a kid. We are absolutely comfortable with the Jesus that says this kind of thing.
What's odd to me today, however, is the talk about traps. Jesus says that whoever "sets a trap" in Ruden's translation, would find it better to jump in a lake with cement shoes on. Once, again, famous and comfortable words from Jesus. But then Jesus immediately, like in thee same breath, starts talking about traps that can be set for me and then he returns to the theme of traps for children. So the movement is "Don't set a trap for vulnerable people. Also, don't let your hands or eyes set traps for you. Don't look down on the vulnerable people."
I don't know if there was special significance to hands and eyes in Jesus' time--like was the hand associated with a certain sin like striking people? That would be a good point of research. In any case, on a surface reading, as I meditate this morning, the meaning would seem to be that traps have a lot to do with looking down on or neglecting vulnerable people. That would make sense of the "Don't set traps. Don't fall into traps." movement of the teaching. The way we set traps for "little ones" is by sneering at them (v. 10) and not realizing that our Father would spend time and energy looking for them if they ever got lost (11 ff.). And also, this is a trap for us--ignoring or holding in contempt the marginal in our society.
I've often heard the cut of the hand, gouge out the eye passage referred to in light of sexual sin, but this morning I find myself challenged to think of it in terms of compassion for the vulnerable. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?