Matthew 18: 6-10 If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
I love how Jesus uses metaphors, analogies and parables so effectively. It seems as though they are delivered spontaneously….kind of “off the cuff”, yet they withstood the 2000 years of scrutiny that followed.
I know that this passage starts off in v. 6, but just to dial it back a little bit…the chapter opens with Jesus instructing his followers to “change and become like little children” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. I’m sure the scripture notes from virtually all of our various Biblical translations (NIV, ESV, King James, etc.) make reference to the fact that Jesus is highlighting the helplessness of a child and comparing that to our total dependence and need for Jesus as a savior. Seems fairly straightforward.
Then in v. 6 He totally changes direction and starts talking about the ramifications of causing a “little one” to stumble. The anger in his tone is obvious.
I guess what stood out to me was that when I read this passage last week, my brain took me in a different direction. When I read Jesus’ words about little children entering the kingdom of heaven, I immediately thought that He was making reference to their innocence, their purity. (I have 4 kids so please know that I am well aware that “little ones” can be quite devious little devils at times…) But regardless, I felt as though I could picture a sweet, innocent child…one that assumes the best about everyone and everything…one that trusts…one that’ll stand on stage and belt out VBS songs without a hint of pride…one that hasn’t been broken down by the world and taught to be jaded and cynical.
The point is that I think that concept works here. And it illustrates what a perfect metaphor Jesus chose. It works from every angle, and the more you think about it the more sense it makes.
Then in v. 6 when Jesus talks about those that cause little ones to stumble; well, we get a pretty healthy dose of truth. It would be better to have a giant stone tied to your neck and dropped into the ocean. That’s terrifying. Mess with a little kid…die a gruesome, terrible death.
I can get behind that level of justice. I like it. I think that innocence and purity are worth fighting for. They’re worth defending with a ferocity that might seem excessive. I find that noble.
So, I guess that when I put it all together I find it comforting that I don’t have to have it all figured out...in fact, the more that I realize that I don’t know, the more I realize that I need something bigger than myself. The reality is…I am weak, I am vulnerable. But I have a king who loves me and will protect me fiercely. And so I can trust in Jesus for purpose, direction, and more than the occasional rescuing.