Stumbling blocks and offenses

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stumbling blocksIn Matthew 18:6 Jesus taught His disciples about the danger of becoming a stumbling block, he warned:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Are we to seriously think that Jesus was just seeking to use some eloquent poetic language devoid of any seriousness?  Should we take the words of Christ as vain and toothless? He effectively taught in this verse that to offend or cause someone to stumble (become a stubling block) is more serious than being drown and casts into the sea.  Imagine for a minute what a horrible death that would be.  For what, . . . offending someone?  Seems like a drastic punishment for such a small offence don’t you think?  Yet this reflects the attitude of God.  He is such a lover of the weak and vulnerable that the punishment for leading these “little ones” astray seems tremendously harsh in comparison.  Apparently among human disputes God is inordinately against aggressors.  In verse 7 He continued,

“Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Whoa! I think I’ll stay away from offending others, what about you?

In the next verse the Lord moves in even closer with His penetrating judgment showing that it is not only a serious sin to cause others to stumble but even for you yourself to stumble.  Verses 8 and 9 say,

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

Remember the Lord had been speaking to His disciples all this time beginning with the question they asked in the first verse of chapter 18.  Of course, He used metaphor and didn’t mean for us to take the suggestion of cutting off members of our body literally. When someone cuts off their hand or foot,  they can still sin.  If you cut off a foot you can still walk with crutches or travel by car.  If you cut off a hand, you can still sin with the other one.  Cutting off hands and feet and plucking out eyes cannot prevent us from sinning.  So the Lord wasn’t speaking of literal hands and feet and other body members, but of dealing with the sin within us and of not making provision for the flesh but removing any provision for it.  He did mean to arouse fear of adverse consequences.  If you can’t seem to control the members of your body then you need to begin eliminating them.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed and incomplete than to remain whole and be cast into hell.

Only Christians can sacrifice body members to enter into life.  The unregenerate cannot enter into life no matter how many limbs they cut off.  In any case they will have their part in the Lake of Fire and their only hope of escaping hell is to be born again.  But Jesus wasn’t speaking of the Lake of Fire which is eternal damnation when He spoke to His disciples here.  However in this age, a Christian may have to sacrifice very precious things in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

This means that those who deal with their sins and lusts in this age having voluntarily sacrificed things as precious as hands or eyes will enter into life.  While those who refuse to deal with their lusts and who are unwilling to sacrifice their precious hands or eyes will be cast whole into hell.  Hell here is the Greek “Gehenna” (the place of the future punishment call “Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”).  This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.

Although this Gehenna is a fire, it is not what is generally considered the definitive hell or the “Lake of fire” which is eternal damnation.  If a person has become a Christian but his hands and feet are constantly yielded to sin, he will suffer the punishment of Gehenna in the kingdom of heaven.  He will not suffer this punishment forever, but will suffer it for a time in the age of the kingdom.  Such is the fate of every Christian stumbling block . . .or do you imagine that God will somehow reward those that cause the brethern to sin and place them next to the Apostles Peter, Paul and Matthew and put a crown on their head?

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