Jesus’ words mean business
You read these words of Jesus and immediately sense that this very serious business. The force of Jesus’ words is not at all casual! You get the sense that this is a life and death issue with Jesus! There is no doubt that he wants to get our attention.
Jesus is talking to His closest followers. These are His disciples to whom He is preaching. It is as if Jesus is talking to directly to believers! This is us! It is as if He gathers us together and looks us straight in the eyes – and He delivers this message.
The Death Stick
Now the word that is used which has been translated “to cause to stumble,” or “to cause to sin,” has also been translated as “offense, to offend or to give offense.” The word used literally is referring to the “death stick” that is used to set a trap. It is like the stick used to set a “mousetrap.” When that stick is properly placed, and it is moved – the trap springs shut! This is intentionally set. We’re not talking about something done by accident.
In fact, Jesus’ words describing the consequences for “causing this little one to stumble” are so severe that we understand that He is talking about an action that is intentional and done with the purpose of persuading someone to follow in their footsteps.
Now in verses 6 to 9, Jesus says how you treat “one of these little ones” has eternal significance both for you and for the “little one.” A “little one” could be a child or really anyone who is watching our lives.
What might it look like to set a trap?
Someone new in their faith comes to you and begins to tell you how a certain person has taken advantage of them and is talking behind their back…and they want to know if they should exclude them from their next dinner party. And you say, “If they do that to you – they don’t deserve to be invited. You have to stand up for your own rights!” *SNAP!*
Someone comes and says to you, “I’ve been offered a job where I can make more money, but it will mean being away from my family and church more? Should I take it?” And you say, “Make a spreadsheet with the pros and cons and do what seems best to you.” *SNAP!*
Jesus says we must not cause this little one to stumble. We must not be the DEATH STICK in the trap that keeps them from following Him. He goes on in verse 7,
“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! ”
I’m not surprised when someone tries to take advantage of me and get the upper hand in a business deal – when I’m out there in the world. But what I don’t expect is when it takes place in the Church – and in my home!
If I sin, I can receive forgiveness. But if I cause my brother to sin by my actions, that offense goes on and on and it can’t be taken back. Jesus says: “Woe to you through whom that offense takes place.”
Our little ones watch our lives
They see the values that we live by. They don’t even need to ask us the question of what is most important to you. They recognize it by the way we spend our time, our money, what we invest in, and what we pray or don’t pray about. They learn how important God is by what we let rule our lives.
We cannot tolerate a self-centered, lukewarm heart that puts ourselves first above God and above others. Jesus is saying this is serious. Carnality is death – and it will spread to others! Don’t let it take root in your own heart. Not only is your life at stake, but your spirit is also affecting those around you!
Jesus went to a cross to set us free – to cleanse this kind of heart – to change our passion for living – and to fill us with his love. Will you let Him?