All of Me

In Carl Reiner’s 1984 comedy, All of Me, a dying heiress played by Lily Tomlin informs her attorney that she intends to return from the dead with help from a guru specializing in the transmigration of souls. “And what makes you think you can do that?” the attorney asks incredulously. “Because I’m rich,” Tomlin replies. The plan is to implant her freshly departed soul into the beautiful daughter of her stable hand. However, at the critical moment the guru botches the job, and Tomlin’s soul winds up inside her attorney, played by Steve Martin. Thereafter, Martin and Tomlin engage in a fierce tug-of-war for possession of Martin’s body, often to hilarious effect. Tomlin has seized control of the right side, while Martin remains in charge of the left. But it quickly becomes apparent that even the simplest bodily movements can get hopelessly bollixed up when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing – or, more to the point, when the left foot and the right foot are headed in different directions.

I am reminded of this film when I read St. Paul’s famous lament, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” All of Me notwithstanding, we are unaccustomed to the notion that body parts have a mind of their own. Granted, they may be up to no good -- but usually only after our mind has already resolved on some bit of mischief. Our conscience may be bothered, but not because our bodily extremities have gone rogue.

Jesus does St. Paul one better in the Sermon on the Mount, when he tells the crowd, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” And in case anyone doubts they have heard him correctly, he continues in the same vein, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Funny, you don’t often hear of people amputating their own body parts because they are afraid of winding up in hell. There is a mental aberration known as body integrity identity disorder in which sufferers come to believe certain body parts don’t belong with the rest of them. They may seek to amputate the offending limb or organ, although I don’t know they have done so believing Jesus told them to do it. This is an instance where Jesus probably should not be taken too literally. It he were, I’m not sure cutting off an arm or a leg would get at the root of the problem. No, you’d probably have to cut off your head.

Romans 7:23-24
Matthew 5:29-30

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