Suppose it is in the middle of the night. You have to go to the bathroom. Everything is very dark with just a little light so that you can make out where to go. You don’t turn on a light because you don’t want to bother anyone else in the house. You are moving along in the dark and suddenly your foot strikes something that you didn’t see, and you fall flat on the floor. Maybe you bruise yourself or sprain your wrist or maybe you break your arm or even your toe. There is a spiritual analogy that we can make to this. To stumble spiritually may mean that you fall so as to commit sin or lose your faith in Christ. Such a stumble or offense may have eternal consequences.
Consider that you can cause someone else to stumble by your words or actions. Jesus called a little child to Him. In referring to this child, 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!” It is a very serious thing to cause someone else to stumble or take offense.
There are several ways that you can cause someone else to stumble or be offended; let us look at a few. First is that you may be convinced that some activity you wish to do is not wrong, whereas your brother or sister in Christ does not have the same faith as you; they believe the activity is wrong. Although you know how they believe, you do the activity anyway, and they see what you do. The example given in the Bible is the matter of eating meat sacrificed to idols; such meat was considered unclean. Romans 14:13-18 “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.” It is highly unlikely that you will eat meat sacrificed to idols today, but the principle is applicable to other situations. You are not walking in love if you do some activity that causes your brother to stumble or fall. 1 Corinthians 8:8-9 “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” Do not exercise your liberty if it causes another to stumble.
You can cause someone to stumble by encouraging them to do something contrary to the will of God. Peter didn’t want Jesus to suffer and die; He encouraged Jesus not to let it happen. Matthew 16:23 “But He (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’” In this case, Jesus did not do what Peter wanted. He went ahead and submitted to God and suffered and died for you and me. But you might encourage a weak brother to sin. “No problem; tell a little lie.” “No problem; take it – no one will miss it.” There are many areas where you can encourage someone to do something contrary to the will of God. Be careful. Don’t do it!
In a similar way, teachers can present false teachings to cause others to sin. Balaam was a prophet to whom God spoke; but he loved financial gain rather than the things of God. You can read his story in Numbers 22-24. Notice what is said about Balaam 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 was a false teacher who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel. False teachers today can do the same thing.
The apostle Paul gave general instruction about the matter in 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.”
Walk in love and be careful not to put a stumbling block or an occasion for offense in the way of your brother or sister in Christ. Also, note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the true teachings, and avoid them.