Have you ever stumbled and fallen? Most likely you have. When I was a child and in a hurry, I would sometimes stub my toe against a rock or the root of a tree and fall on my face. When we are old, it is a serious concern that we will stumble over something in our path and fall and break an arm or a hip. Stumbling can lead to falling and can be very serious. Stumbling and falling in a spiritual sense can also be very serious. We can cause someone else to fall by our words and actions. The word is offense. Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Sometimes we may misuse the word offense. We might say “That offends me”, meaning that we don’t like what someone says or does. But their action is likely not going to make us stumble and fall. The biblical meaning of the word offense is to cause to stumble, to sin and to fall. You can then see how serious it is to offend another Christian. Jesus was speaking of little children when He said in Matthew 18:6 “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.”
There are several ways that you might offend another Christian and cause him to sin and fall. One way is to encourage someone to participate in your sin. Maybe you encourage him to lie about where you have been or what you have done. Or maybe you ask him to participate in stealing and taking what is not his from a neighbor or a business. Or maybe you tell him it is OK to break the law since it isn’t a good law and nobody will find out. Or maybe you commit fornication or adultery with him or her and sin. There are lots of ways that you can encourage another to sin. God knows what you are doing. Perhaps this is what is referred to in Romans 16:17-18 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” Your heart is not right if you persuade another person to sin.
You may remember the story of Balaam (Numbers chapters 22-24). When the Israelites came out of Egypt, Balak, the king of the Moabites, saw the great multitude of the Israelites and he was very much afraid. He sent for the prophet Balaam to come and curse the Israelites, but the Lord did not permit Balaam to do so. When Balak sent to Balaam the second time and Balaam inquired of the Lord, the Lord said to go on, but the Lord was angry that he went. The Lord sent his angel to kill Balaam but twice the donkey Balaam was riding avoided the angel. When the donkey saw the angel the third time, he lay down under Balaam. When Balaam beat the donkey, the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey so that it spoke to Balaam and the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam so that he saw the angel. Balaam proceeded on to king Balak but multiple times he blessed the Israelites and did not curse them. Finally, Balaam returned home. You would think that was the end of the story, but it was not. The story continues in Numbers 25:1-3 “Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.” Why did the Moabites have their women commit harlotry with the Israelites and invite the Israelites to participate in the worship of their gods? We are told in the writing to the church in Pergamos in Revelation 2:14 “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the Israelites. Apparently the church in Pergamos had individuals that did a similar thing as Balaam did by putting a stumbling block before the children of God. Beware of such individuals.
You may somewhat innocently offend your brother by doing something that you think is OK but is contrary to the conscience of your brother. Since they see you do the thing, they are emboldened to follow your example. The case given in the Bible is eating food sacrificed to an idol. 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.” Your situation will be different. There may be something you think is OK to do but your brother sees it differently. The apostle Paul said that if meat caused his brother to stumble, he would never eat meat. You can avoid offending your brother by restricting your actions because you love your brother and you do not want him to stumble.
Causing someone to stumble and fall is very serious. My encouragement to you is to avoid people who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Christ. Also be careful that your actions do not offend others.