Scandalous Stumbling BlocksDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
"But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea."
If you were reading this passage in the Greek original of Matthew, you'd notice the frequent occurrence of words beginning with skandal-. The verb skandalizein and the noun skandalon appear three times each in this short passage. The verb skandalizein is translated here as "cause to sin"; the noun skandalon as "temptation" or "temptation to sin." Literally, a skandalon, from which we get the English word "scandal," was a "cause of offense" or "stumbling block." To "scandalize" someone meant to offend, or, in Christian usage, to cause someone to stumble into sin.
Matthew 18:5-9 warns us against "scandalous stumbling blocks." We should be sure not to lead others into sin, while also watching that we do not stumble ourselves. With typical Semitic hyperbole, Jesus underscores his point by saying that we should cut off the part of our body that causes us to sin.
We live in a day that minimizes the reality of sin. Actions once considered sinful are excused by our society as personal choices. Even the church has often been swept along in the tide of moral relativism. How easily we Christians can excuse or ignore our own sinful behavior!
This passage from Matthew calls us up short. It reminds us that our actions really do matter to God and that sinful actions are greatly to be avoided. Thus we are led, not only to examine our behavior realistically, but also to seek God's grace both for forgiveness and for the ability to live a God-honoring life.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you regard the sin in your life? Do you take it seriously? Do you minimize it? Do you let it sink you into the mire of shame? Do you confess and live in the freedom of Christ?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I'm impressed by how little we are scandalized by sin. Oh, I suppose that certain public sins by public people might grab our attention for a moment as we look down our noses at the offender. But how easily we neglect our own sin. We get caught up in rationalization. Or we wallow in cheap grace. Or we simply give ourselves a free pass, as if sin really doesn't matter.
Help us, Lord, to take sin as seriously as you do. After all, it was our sin that made the cross necessary. Give us eyes to see ourselves clearly. Give us the courage to name our sins before you, confessing honestly and specifically. Help us, Lord, to receive your forgiveness with joy and to live in the freedom you have earned for us by your death and resurrection. Amen.