Session #115 Oops
Scripture Matthew 18:6-9
Summary Matthew 18:6-9 is about scandals, stumbling stones (oops!) and sin. The King is very serious about righteousness in the kingdom community. And about protecting His people from unrighteousness. Jesus clearly warns against stumbling others. We are instead to look out for one another.
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. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! “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. Matthew 18:6-9
Have you ever been affected or offended by another Christian before? What does Jesus have to say about offences in families, churches, workplaces, among different relationships? More critically, what does it have to do with us as His kingdom people? Matthew 18:6-9 is about scandals and offences.
Scandal (Skandalon) is mentioned six times, translated as “offence” (Matthew 18: 7a,7b,7c) and “cause to sin/stumble” (Matthew 18:6,8,9). In ESV, it is “temptations” or “temptations to sin”. A scandal is something that is considered shocking or disgraceful. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a scandal is a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it. It’s not that people are offended but a moral code or standard has been offended and violated. The question is: What is the moral reference? Who gets to define this? A person whose conduct offends propriety or morality is discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person. There is a connection with religion (or the Church). The conduct causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another. It affects others.
It refers to a TRAP or STUMBLING BLOCK. OOPS! In Leviticus 19:14, “You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the Lord”, we are to look out for the unsuspecting and vulnerable and not cause them to trip or fall or get hurt.
“Stumbling” is extended to being idolatrous or sinning against the Lord, to fall in the way of righteousness, which is sin. “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Ezekiel 14:3
Who is This Passage for? Kingdom Community
In Matthew 18:6, the “little ones who believe in Me” are the people of the kingdom community. Little ones are weak, dependent, impressionable, and easily influenced. The kingdom is about righteousness and the King wants to protect His kingdom community from unrighteousness. If you are guilty of a stumbling stone (small), you get the millstone (large). Millstones are not small ones by hand but large ones pulled by animals. You will be thrown into the depth of the sea, death by drowning. This is serious business. Jesus is serious about righteousness in the kingdom community. Jesus is also very serious about sin in the kingdom community. It is not just about struggles with sin but living with no regard to Him, to the point of walking away from Him, with eternal consequences. To receive Him means to receive righteousness. To reject righteousness, to cause others to sin, to walk away from Him, is to reject Him
Sources of Stumbling (Trips & Traps)
The WORLD (Matthew 18:7)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
In the world, with greed, materialism, consumerism, sex, lust, adultery, promiscuity, pornography, power, control, abuse, personal rights, freedom, etc, we see many examples of politicians, business leaders, prominent names involved in scandals (usually sex and money; and power). Scandals are not just the big names and big news ones. Woe to the man by whom the offence comes. Anyone can influence another to live wrongly. Do not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2).
The ‘world’ has crept into the church. There is also greed, materialism, consumerism, sex, lust, adultery, promiscuity, pornography, power, control, abuse, personal rights, freedom in the church. Our tendency is to justify and rationalize. Just google “church scandals” for the list, past, and present. Prominent ministers are involved in sex and money scandals. There are cases of power abuse, control, and manipulation. Megachurch pastors are caught in adulterous affairs. High-profile worship leaders and pastors are divorcing and remarrying almost immediately; and back in ministry. The present trend of deconstruction of faith is where established ministers boldly announce their decision to walk away from Jesus. These are what is reported. What about those that go unreported in the body of Christ, which we just accept as normal? Are we no longer even surprised, much less offended?
A scandal is when a moral code has been violated or offended. What’s our reference point for alignment? If the church becomes more and more like the world, we will be less and less offended by the scandals. Oops!
What about false apostles, prophets, and teachers? These are harder to spot and discern because they seem to be preaching the truth using Scripture which warns that these will face destruction; as well as those who follow these false and wrong teachings! Heed the words and warnings of Jesus. Look out for one another. Look out for stumbling stones. Look out for traps and trips.
Serious Situation Seeks Serious Solution (Matthew 18:8)
Generally, the warning is for all sins. What are you looking at (eye)? What are you doing (hand)? Where are you going (foot)? But did Jesus intend a more specific and precise application?
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Matthew 5:27-30
The emphasis is on adultery, lust, and sexual sins. What is the world saying today? What is the church saying? Notice the increase of relationship issues in the kingdom community. Whilst we must be sensitive and gracious, have we begun to accept and condone sexual sins? Are we closing our eyes to adultery? Are we encouraging divorces?
Personal & Corporate OOPS
My inability to deal with sin in myself has the ability to trigger sin in others, tripping and trapping them. I stumble others without even realizing it. Oops. To prevent stumbling to others, deal with me. What am I looking at? What am I doing? Where am I going? Watch our entire life and conduct. It flows from the heart. This is an Alignment Check. What are my reference points? Am I a stumbling stone or am I aligned to Jesus the Cornerstone? To help others check alignment, I must check my own alignment first. Before judging others, judge me first (Matthew 7:1-6) Am I setting a good example for others to follow? Paul says Imitate him as he imitates Christ. To love others, consider their interests above my own. Don’t stumble others. Don’t cause them to sin. Don’t cause others to compromise in their walk with Jesus.
My inability to deal with sin affects and infects the kingdom community. Paul uses the body of Christ image in 1 Corinthians 12:12. To protect the community, we should purge sin (or the person who is causing others to sin). A little leaven leavens the whole lump Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6). Deal with and remove sin in the kingdom community. Be a living stone not a stumbling stone. Live in relation to the Cornerstone. We are a HOLY nation, royal PRIESTHOOD, God’s special people. Associate with other living stones, not stumbling stones. Hang out with the right crowd, with kingdom hearts serious about the things of the kingdom.
Great peace has those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble. Psalm 119:165
Learn from those who walk according to the Spirit of the law (life); not the letter of the law, which kills.
The Place of Humility in the Kingdom Community
It is all too easy to become self-righteous, judgmental, and condemning: hence, the place of humility in the kingdom community.
I Need Jesus. In order not to be a stumbling stone to others, I must first not be stumbled by the Cornerstone; but to submit to Him. Those who prefer and take pride in self, law, religion, and institution are stumbled by the Cross and a Messiah who had to die. They are stumbled or offended by faith and grace, by how righteousness can be attained by simply believing and receiving. In humility, I admit that I can’t deal with sin by my own strength. I need God’s help and salvation, by faith according to grace. The old me must die. Jesus defeated the power of sin, sin has no dominion over us. The new me in Christ has dominion over sin. I don’t rely anymore on myself but on the Holy Spirit. To do this, humility and reliance are required, again and again.
I Need Others. We need one another. We need to look out for one another, to look out for stumbling stones and blocks, point them out, and remove them. I can’t do this by myself. I need others, the kingdom community. Pride looks down on others. Humility looks out for others. Humility is needed to admit we are all one step from sinning, from causing someone else to sin. I am not to judge others critically with pride. But we evaluate one another honestly with humility. I am willing to confess to others, to be open, real, and authentic, but there is no false humility. I learn to receive correction and alignment with humility when my misalignment is pointed out to me. I learn from others and their breakthroughs and victories over sin. There is no competition or comparison, but mutual encouragement.
Have you ever been affected or offended by another Christian before? Have you ever affected or offended another Christian before? Matthew 18 is about relationships in the kingdom community. 18:6-9 is about preserving righteousness in this community. Trips and traps are aplenty in the world. Sadly, they are plenty in the church too. Too many have stumbled along the way. Oops. We are to be awake, alert, and aware of these sources of stumbling from without and within. No excuses. No pleading ignorance. No place for complacency. No “oops” allowed. Ensure that we are not the ones stumbling others or causing them to sin. We have a personal and collective responsibility as the kingdom community. Look out for one another. Pride looks down on others (it’s all about me). Humility looks out for others.
Look out for stumbling stones so that “the little ones” will not trip and fall, especially those younger and weaker in the faith. Be careful that we are not the ones causing the stumbling or providing permission (when there is none) to live or not live in a certain way. Humility is needed in kingdom community and relationships. Finally, remember that righteousness is founded in Jesus and all He has done for us.
If we forget that, in trying to remove stumbling stones, we end up stoning one another with our own self-righteousness and pride. Oops!