Personal Stumbling Blocks: Matthew 18:7-11
““7) Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! 8) “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9) If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. 10) “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11) [For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.]” Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭7‬-‭11‬
Jesus now talks about a subject that many Christian’s never consider. He zero’s in on personal stumbling blocks. He encourages every believer to identify the tripping stones in their life and walk with God.
I use to think this referred to those things that cause other people to stumble, but the text clearly points to self. Verse 8 says; “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble.” The verse 9 says, “If your eye causes you to stumble. In other words, “What things have you allowed in your life that are tripping you up, hindering you, holding you back or causing your heart to lust and fall into sin?” Be courageous enough to identify them and remove them!
In these two verses, Jesus talks about your hand, your foot and your eye. I believe He is using them as an illustration of how serious we are to take stumbling blocks. He is saying; “No matter how important or valued a source of personal temptation may be, if it trips you up… get rid of it!”
This might include friends, entertainment, social habits like alcohol or even a cherished hobby. The list might change from person to person, but be courageous and thorough in setting your standards. Value your relationship with God more than your pleasures in life.
Early in my Christian life, I had to end some friendships because they caused me to stumble. A few of them meant as much to me as my own hand, foot or eyes. Ending them was painful but retaining them was going to be disastrous for my walk with God.
I also decided early on in my Christian life to remove all alcohol, because it was a family iniquity. I could not afford to leave that door open. It has destroyed countless lives and left some ugly marks on our family tree.
By far the hardest personal stumbling blocks for me to remove related to the television, movies and entertainment. I loved them! But they sucked away my time and fed inner lusts, worldly values and a bent toward anger, revenge and violence. I could not manage them, because they controlled me. They empowered my flesh and weakened my spirit. Occasionally, I would lose track of time and watch movie after movie both day and night for hours. Finally, I had to remove them completely.
Several times I thought I had them mastered and brought them back into my life in moderation. It wasn’t long before they took control of my time, thoughts and emotions all over again. Through every episode of introducing them back into my life, the Holy Spirit was grieved and my walk with God suffered. The spiritual fruit in my life dried up. I had no choice, I had to “cut them off from my life.”
The problem with a stumbling block is that in and of itself, it is not sin. In most cases they have innate value. My friends were all valuable to God. Jesus turned water into wine. There are some great Christian movies. “Value” is not the issue with a stumbling block. The issue is “what harm is it causing in your life and your walk with God?” “Is it causing you to stumble?” “Is it taking control of your life?” If so… then it is a stumbling block to you! Be bold and courageous and remove all stumbling blocks from your life.
A number of years ago, I made a shocking discovery. It related to a common denominator among the most godly and fruitful Christian leaders that I studied. Surprisingly, they were not “super saints”, rather they had courageously identified and removed personal stumbling blocks from their lives. They made their walk with God easier by removing tripping stones from their own pathway.
I recently discovered an amazing illustration of this principle. As I am working on improving my aviation knowledge for my biannual flight review, I read the FAA booklet on risk management and setting personal minimums. It is designed to make flying safer by eliminating emotional or random decisions about flying in questionable situations. It essentially minimizes risk by removing emotional “gray area’s” in decision making that contribute to both negative incidence and tragic accidents. It is based on the same logic Jesus used in this context.
The secondary consideration in this text is found in verse 10. It deals with placing stumbling blocks in the life of children. Adults have the power to set the course of a child’s entire life! The book of Proverbs was written as curriculum to lay a solid foundation under the life of children. Embrace this amazing book for yourself and the children under your influence. Children learn morals, values, ethics and attitudes toward God from key adults in their life.
It goes without saying that every parent needs to beware of the teachers they put in charge of the education of their children. The selection of a tutor by orthodox Jewish families for their children was taken very seriously in Bible times. This was so vital that Paul used it as a biblical illustration of the role of the Law in Galatians 3:23-29.
Not to deviate from the the text, but the whole contemporary discussion about “school choice” comes down to this conversation about stumbling blocks. At some point, the department of education in the United States shifted its focus away from quality education to social engineering. According to verse 10, God takes this very seriously.
Do yourself a favor and ask God to reveal your personal stumbling blocks. If you are honest with yourself, you know exactly what they are in your life. Then pick them out of your path and throw them in the ditch. Get rid of them. It will make your life easier and will be much safer for the little ones walking in your shadow.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global