September 29, 2021
Matthew 18:6-9 NIV6 “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. 7 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! 8 If your hand or your 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. 9 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.
GOD LOVES US ALLThere are many things that cause us to stumble. When it affects only us it is bad enough. When our actions, or failures to act, cause others to stumble, to sin, it’s even worse. When we think of people who have caused sin, we tend to think of people such as Hitler and Stalin, and the evil things they did. Those people we label as monsters are not the only ones who stumble, or who can cause others to stumble. None of us is without sin.
Matthew 18 says the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child to come to him, and with the child in their midst said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This was a question regarding their status, and Jesus told them to have a child-like innocence.
Elizabeth Johnson points out in her commentary that children had no status in ancient times. She says, “A child in the ancient world was without status or rights, completely dependent on the goodwill of others to care for him or her.” Johnson, E. (n.d.). Job's Tribulations. Elizabeth Johnson. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://teacher.nicholas.kyschools.us/ejohnson/art_dept/elizabeth_johnson.htm. Jesus further tells the disciples, in verses 4 and 5, that “whoever humbles themselves like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and furthermore, whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Jesus is telling us his desire that we must welcome those without power or status just as we welcome others. Jesus identifies with the powerless, the needy, and the marginal persons of society. He reminds us that our response to them is essentially our response to him.
In verses 6-9, Jesus instructs us to look after and protect the powerless, and to help them keep the faith when they see those in power sin against others. Elizabeth Johnson remarks that, “Throughout Matthew’s gospel Jesus places a special burden on those who would be leaders in the community. Woe to those who, instead of embracing little ones, cause them to stumble or lose their faith.” Johnson, E. (n.d.). Job's Tribulations. Elizabeth Johnson. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://teacher.nicholas.kyschools.us/ejohnson/art_dept/elizabeth_johnson.htm. Jesus tells us that those in power are responsible for their actions (or inactions) and the effects that they have on others. As a former child protective services worker, I investigated parents and caretakers who allegedly abused or neglected children in their care. Some of the things I saw and heard were almost beyond belief, especially considering the helplessness of the little ones. There are others we must look after and protect—the homeless, the mentally ill, the refugee, the abused spouse. The list goes on and on. We are responsible for our actions toward others. All people deserve our prayers, and whatever we can do or say to help them, because it is what God wants us to do as his disciples.