Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lesson 31: Causing Stumbling Blocks

Brief 4-to-5 Minute Teaching Lesson

Why? and What is the Purpose? in My Life SERIES

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Lesson 31 of the Discipleship Making process.

I left you last time with this question, “What are some ways that you can cause a believer to stumble?”

Jesus began His teaching on offenses by seating a child in front of the disciples. He told them that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven people must be converted and then become like children. By saying this Jesus was equating that all believers are children. Then Jesus took the child in His arms indicating how He lovingly accepts all believers as children and treats them accordingly. During His entire discourse on how to treat fellow believers Jesus holds the child in His arms. It is a visual reminder to the disciples of how He expects them to treat each other.

Read: Mark 9:42-48, Matthew 18:6-9

Jesus here begins His lesson on stumbling blocks with this statement: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” When people read this passage of Scripture most think Jesus is talking about children, however upon rereading the passage it actually says these little ones who believe. The proper application is to all Christians since He just got through telling the disciples no one could enter the kingdom of heaven unless they become like children. It is from this perspective that the lesson is taught.

“The Greek word for stumbling block is ‘skandalon’ from whence comes our English word scandal. The word can also be interpreted as 'occasion to fall', 'offense' or 'thing that offends'. It denotes a snare, an entrapment or something that trips up. It is used in the Scriptures to refer to something that entices a person to sin, apostasy or cause displeasure to God.”

Jesus declared that anyone who placed a stumbling block in front of a believer would suffer dire consequences. In fact, it would be better if the man died rather than cause a believer to stumble. From Scripture we find a perfect example of people who caused others to stumble: Numbers 22:1-25:2. The two men involved in the plot were Balaam, a prophet and Balak, king of Moab, who plotted to entice the men of Israel to commit sexual immorality and then they would be able to lead them into idolatry. The same stumbling block occurs in the Church of Pergamum, one of the seven churches of the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:14).

Perhaps we can gain a better understanding of Jesus’ teaching when we reflect on how stumbling happens. First, a person can only stumble when he is walking or running (2 Corinthians 5:7, Romans 8:4, Hebrews 12:1-2). Secondly, people stumble because they don’t see the obstacle. This can occur for any of the following reasons: 1) they are blind (1 John 2:11, Revelation 3:17-18), 2) it is dark (John 11:9-10), 3) they are not paying attention to where they are going (John 8:12), or 4) they step into a hidden trap (Galatians 5:7). Third, every stumble constitutes a change in direction of the body (Galatians 1:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 2 Peter 3:17).

One of the things that make Jesus’ teaching interesting is that He approaches the subject of causing stumbling blocks from two different perspectives: 1) what one person does to another and 2) what one does to himself. As incredible as it sounds, believers can trip themselves up and they suffer the same fate as those who set stumbling blocks for others.

Jesus cautions His hearers that stumbling blocks can be created by: 1) what you do (hands), 2) where you walk (feet), and 3) what you see (eyes). His command is to simply get rid of (or “cut it off”, which is the Aramaic idiom) anything that causes you to stumble.

The point of the lesson is don’t be a stumbling block to anyone, including yourself.

With that, allow me to leave you with this question to consider, along with a little homework assignment until my next posting:

What is the goal of dealing with an offending believer?

. . . and the homework assignment . . .

Reflect on what things in your life are offensive to other believers. Confess them and repent.

Until next time . . . Godspeed!

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