Causing Others To Sin

We should all be very careful not to cause someone else to sin.  Jesus had called a little child and set him in the middle of His disciples.  He said in Matthew 18:6-7 “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!”  Jesus said that it would be better to be drowned in the sea rather than cause a little child who believes in Him to sin.  He said woe to the person who causes someone else to sin.

What does it mean to cause someone to sin?  Does it mean that you force them to sin and they have no alternative but to sin?  No.  God always provides a way to avoid sin.  1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  Causing someone to sin means that you put a stumbling stone in their way.  Picture yourself walking a familiar path at night in the dark.  If someone put a stone in that path where you least expect it, there is a good chance that you will not see it and you will stumble and fall.  However, if you are very careful, you can avoid the stone and not fall.  Causing someone to sin means that by your actions you influence that person to sin.  In effect, you put a stone in their path and they are likely to stumble and fall.

Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:31-32 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  The husband that divorces his wife puts her in a very dangerous situation.  She isn’t forced to commit adultery, but she is very likely to do so.  Her husband, by divorcing her, has taken away his companionship and his financial support.  In order to fulfill her sexual desires and needs for companionship and financial support, she will likely find another man; whether she marries him or not, she will be committing adultery.  By divorcing his wife, he has put a stumbling stone in her way.  Jesus said woe to the person who causes someone else to sin.  Woe to the husband that divorces his wife and causes her to commit adultery.  If she were already involved in sexual immorality before the divorce, the husband divorcing his wife does not put a stumbling stone in her way, since she has already stumbled and fallen.

Since you should want to avoid causing someone else to sin, let us look at some ways that you can do that.  We already discussed the husband divorcing his wife; by his actions, he has put her in a very vulnerable position.  So the first way that you can cause someone to sin is that by your actions you put them in a very vulnerable position.  If an attractive young man or woman were to show themselves in public with very little clothes or revealing clothes, another person might see their body and develop lustful desires.  I believe this would be a case of putting another person in a vulnerable position or putting a stumbling stone in their way.  I encourage you to be careful to not do anything that would put anyone in a vulnerable position to sin.

Another way that you can cause someone to sin is by being a bad example.  Perhaps you lie or cheat or disobey the law or use bad language and a weak Christian sees you doing so and follows your example.  Or perhaps you have faith that you have liberty before God to do something, but a weak Christian does not have the same faith; if he follows your example, he will be sinning.  The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?  And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”  In this case, the issue was eating meat offered to an idol.  But your case may be something else that your brother considers wrong.  Paul wrote further in Romans 14:21 “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” Have the attitude of Paul that you will avoid any action that might be a bad example to your brother and cause him to sin.

I suppose there are other ways that you can cause your brother to sin.  Two that come to mind are false doctrines and discouragement.  Teaching him a false doctrine might cause him to follow that doctrine and sin. Romans 16:17 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”  You can discourage your brother by your words and actions.  For example, if you forsake the assembly, this discourages your brother; you are not there to encourage him (see Hebrews 10:25).  Your discouragement of your brother could cause him to fall away and sin. 

Realize the influence your words and actions have on others.  My encouragement is to be careful how you live your life so that you do not cause another to sin.  Romans 14:13b “But rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”