Summary: Jesus talked about bad and good offenses to submerge His disciples into "kingdom thinking".
Ill. Years ago a boy had a crush on a girl, Laura Mae. Everyone in that community planted gardens and protected them with scarecrows made as lifelike and original as possible. Riding the school bus one afternoon, they rounded the curve near Laura Mae’s house, and her parent’s garden came in to view. In the middle of the rows, was a figure dressed in an old straw hat, ragged overalls, and a faded checked shirt. A hoe was stuck under his right arm, adding authenticity. In an effort to gain favor with the girl he loved, the boy said, “Laura Mae, your daddy never has to worry about crows in his garden; anything that ugly will keep everything away.” And right at that moment the scarecrow began hoeing. Laura Mae is married now, but not to that boy. (1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking by Michael Hodgin)
Jesus was desperately trying to submerge the disciples in "kingdom attitudes". He taught that the Christian life must be approached with serious focus. The disciples asked, "Who is the greatest?" and He answered, "The servant of all."
The taught that we must be accepting to all of God's children, especially those working for His name. He told them even the little cup of water to help someone was blessed beyond imagination. He promised that others will be blessed if they assist our work for Christ in the smallest way also. Now, Jesus shifts the subject from blessings to curses, or offenses.
Ill. There was once a man in a Church that was greedy and selfish, desired power, influence and prestige. He tried to rise in power in the Church, attacked those he viewed as the competition, and tried to control the treasury.
A dear, sweet old lady came to him after a business meeting and gently told him that his actions and attitude were offensive to God.
This hurt this man deeply. He was offended. He shouted, "You offended me. That hurt. You need to apologize!
Should this woman go to him, hat in hand, confess evil and ask for forgiveness?
James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
This is something that we are going to cover today, and it requires a lot of prayer and wisdom. I want you to keep something in mind. There are good offenses and there are bad offenses.
I. Offending Others. (42). "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
It is believed that Jesus was still holding the little child. The phrase "causes to sin" is translated "offends" in many translations. The root Greek word is same as our word "scandalize", which means to trap, offend, make one sin.
One writer describes "scandalizo" ."This word “skandalon” originally described a small piece of wood that was used to keep the door of an animal trap propped open. A piece of food was placed in the trap and when the animal went into it to get the food, it would it the wood and the trap door would close shut trapping the animal. In the New Testament times this word was also referred to as a “stone or obstacle that causes one to trip, to stumble, and to lose his footing, to waver, to falter and to fall down.”
For the record, this is a bad offense. If you do something that interferes with the spiritual growth of a believer and hinders their walk with God, look at the serious consequences. Jesus said, "it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."
Interestingly, there were two types of millstones familiar to these people on those days. One was a home version, used by women. It was small and crushed grain into flour in small portions.
And then there was the industrial version, so to speak. In the Greek, it was called a donkey stone, indicating a woman could not turn it, it took a beast. The idea is, if one of these where tied around your neck and you were cast into the sea, you would have no chance of survival. According to the writings of Josephus, this was a common "death sentence" method known to the people of this area.
II. Offending Ourselves. ( 43, 45, 47, 48) "And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."