We’re continuing to study the Gospel of Luke. We’re now starting chapter 17. Jesus makes a comment that many people think is just a random exhortation.
That’s because of the way our Bibles were put together. Remember, originally there were no chapters and verses. They were added later to make it easier to find things. This is one of those places where they mess things up.
Jesus is continuing His same thought from chapter 16. He has just told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This comment refers to that story.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”
Luke 17:1-3a NIV
The phrase, things that cause people to sin, actually means things that cause offense. It means things that could possibly trap you in anger and bitterness.
Going back to the rich man and Lazarus, we can see the connection. Everyday Lazarus was placed at the rich man’s doorstep. Everyday, Lazarus watched the lavish lifestyle that was lived out in that house.
Everyday he longed for the scraps that were carelessly thrown away, but he was denied from getting them. This means that everyday Lazarus was given an opportunity to be offended and become angry and bitter at God.
These offenses are not isolated incidents. By His language, the Lord makes it clear that they will come upon us regularly. Like it or not, you will be given the opportunity to be offended. It’s how you handle that temptation that matters.
Sometimes this word, offense, is translated as a stumbling block. The rich man was probably oblivious to the fact that he was laying down stumbling blocks, everyday, in the path of Lazarus. The implication is that Lazarus had to watch his attitude everyday.
That’s why the Lord said we need to watch ourselves. I don’t think Jesus is talking about us watching out to not offend people. He offended multitudes. His focus is that we don’t pick up bitterness and anger when given the opportunity.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
Luke 17:3-6 NIV
The disciples were having a hard time with this. The Lord taught that if someone offends you seven times in one day, you must still forgive them. That means you have to release any bitterness and anger against them.
The disciples tried to sound holy to get around it. “We don’t have enough faith for that yet!” Jesus made it clear that you don’t need faith, you only need obedience to His word.
It’s good to see that the Apostle John grabbed hold of this truth. He wrote about it in one of his letters.
Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.
1 John 2:10 NIV
If you walk in the love of Christ, then you’re walking in the light. This verse literally say that in that case, you have no offense – no stumbling blocks – inside you.
We need to live free of bitterness. Release your offenses to God. Walk in forgiveness, the same forgiveness that was shown to you on the cross. Only then can you walk in the peace and joy of the Lord.
Question: How free are you from offense and bitterness?
© 2022 Nick Zaccardi