Causing to Sin
July 1, 2021
Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 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 (Matthew 18:5-6).
Literally the text reads, “But whoever causes one of these little ones believing in Me to offend, it is better for him that a millstone turned by an ass be hung on his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.”
The word ‘to offend’ or ‘to sin’ is skandalizo from which we get the English word ‘scandal’ or ‘scandalize’. Literally it means ‘to set a snare or trap’ or ‘to cause to stumble and fall’.
To offend a child of God is a sin, period. It doesn’t matter if the one offended is a mature Christian or an immature one, and it doesn’t matter if the offending person is a Christian or not. From the text it is clear that God will hold the offending party accountable for his/her actions. It is also clear the judgment for offending is severe. Why? Again from the text we understand that to offend a Christian is to offend Jesus Christ, and to offend Jesus Christ is to offend God the Father, and He takes that very seriously.
John MacArthur takes 6 pages in his commentary on Matthew (pp 104-109) to explain all the ways in which Christians can be offended by others, and the ways in which Christians can offend other Christians.
1. Direct and intentional causing to stumble. Satan tempted Eve in Eden and she turned and tempted Adam to follow her in her sin. Aaron cause Israel to sin by making a golden calf and leading the people to worship it. The elders of Israel caused Israel to sin through their hypocrisy, false teaching, and oppressive laws.
2. Indirect, yet intentional causing to stumble. Parents can cause their children to sin by their favoring one child over another, or spoiling the one child they have. Parents can be harsh, cruel, indifferent, unsupportive or uncaring toward their children, causing them to rebel, lash out in anger, be demoralized, depressed, etc. Paul warned against this (Ephesians 6:4).
3. Setting a sinful example. This can be intentional or unintentional. Christians need to be on guard against causing new and weak Christians to stumble by not being sympathetic toward their ignorance, inexperience, or immaturity in the faith. Mature Christians are to disciple others, not discourage others by being harsh, critical, or uncaring toward their weaker Christian brothers and sisters.
4. Failing to disciple those younger or immature in the faith. Such discipleship takes time and patience, yet it is easy to grow impatient with those who do not grasp the deeper things of the spiritual life like the more mature Christian has.
“Lord Jesus, lead me by Your Holy Spirit to be patient and understanding toward my brothers and sisters who struggle in their walk with You. Help me help them as You have been patient, understanding, and compassionate in helping me to grow in faith. Amen.”