Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. 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. Mark 9:41-42
We have the power to encourage or discourage.
We can give a “cup of water” to someone,” and God is fired up! In our fellowship of churches, our mantra has been to “encourage one another daily. . . so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb 3:13) We know very clearly that we personally can have a positive impact on our brother or sister. We can keep them from sinning.
But this passage also makes it clear that we can cause people to sin, and God HATES that. A millstone is a huge heavy thing. This is a strong statement.
Actually, the Greek says we cause people to “skandalizo,” to stumble. The word refers to a trap or snare. I get the picture of a person walking along, and then their foot is caught and they can’t move forward.
Our actions and words can trip people up, distract them, get them off track. This can even happen when we are well intentioned. I think that’s the point of Romans 14. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. . . make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. ”
The God’s Word Translation phrases it as causing them to lose faith. This makes sense. People get tangled up, pulled into sin and away from God.
They get discouraged instead of encouraged. And we can be the cause.
Am I strengthening or weakening? Strengthening should be the goal of every interaction. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29
Consider these verses:
- Not many of you should presume to be teachers. For we all stumble in many ways. . . . And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:2a, 6
- See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Heb 12:15
A lot of wisdom is needed in our dealings with others. We can’t be careless. Instead we need to be very careful.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Matt 12:36
We also need to be very careful with our hearts. We will not only give account for our words, but for our inner thoughts and attitudes. (Hebrews 4:2)
Because our attitudes DO affect others. The careless words referred to in Matt 12:36 come from the fact that, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matt 12:34)
Cleaning our inner selves is like cleaning the refrigerator. You think you have it spic and span, and then you find another container in the back with something rotten in it.
In our support group, I’m finding more and more in my character that I need to work on. It’s a good thing! But it’s sobering.
We’ve been learning about perfectionism. Our book quotes John Wesley, who said that having a “scrupulous conscience” is a “sore evil.”
What? Evil? Surely not! I would think it is great to have a tender conscience. It would drive us to be our best for God, and to help others more.
But Wesley describes those who carry it to an extreme, “condemning themselves without cause, imagining something to be sinful where Scripture nowhere condemns it, supposing other things to be their duty where Scripture nowhere enjoins it.”
Wow, now I understand.
I understand because I can be too much of a perfectionist and tie myself in knots. A friend was in need this past weekend, but I wasn’t comfortable with the way I could help her. I felt guilty and wretched. “Jesus would do it, what about the Good Samaritan?” I told myself. “I should be willing to help her.”
Then I went to a family reunion, and already out of sorts, I fell victim to more feelings of guilt. My conscience said, “You should have talked to your father in law more. You should have . . . ” Once I start down that path, it can go on and on.
And then later in the week I had a talk with a friend that was intended to be righteous, but ended up being a downer for us both.
We get tangled up. Snares abound.
And Satan wants us to be part of the process.
Fight him by realizing how precious each person is.
Fight him by being careful with our words and actions.
Fight him by avoiding unnecessary arguments.
Fight him by dealing with our heart.
Fight him by praying earnestly for wisdom and guidance.
Fight him by seeking to strengthen and encourage, to LOVE!
Because we need each other to get through. How we need each other! And we carelessly sabotage that without even realizing.
Let’s give very careful thought to how we interact. Is it going to build someone up or weigh them down?
There’s so much to do. There’s a world to be won! There’s a race to win, with heaven as the prize! Satan wants to trip us up, get us off track, use us to get others off track.
Let’s foil him, with God’s help.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:1-4