“Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:7, N.K.J.V.)
The Greek word translated as “offenses” in this verse is skandalon, and it’s a word that refers to stumbling blocks. Anything that tempts/causes a Christian to sin can be labeled as this type of stumbling block. Therefore, the teaching is that as long as we Christians live in this fallen world, we will inevitably have to overcome stumbling blocks that are designed to trip us up spiritually and get us to sin. Since the English word “scandal” derives from skandalon, we are right to say that these stumbling blocks (these temptations, these inducements to sin) can be bad enough and public enough to result in the Christian being scandalized by their outcome.
Jesus says of anyone who places these spiritual stumbling blocks in the paths of those who believe in Him, “…woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” While that is certainly an ominous warning sent out to anyone who hinders a Christian’s walk with the Lord, it’s not the part of Christ’s quote that I want to hone in on for this post. Instead, I want to draw your attention to those words, “For offenses (stumbling blocks) must come.” My question is, “Why must they come?”
First, spiritual stumbling blocks must come because of Satan and his fellow fallen angels. Spiritual warfare is real, Christian, and there isn’t a fallen angel out there anywhere that wouldn’t love to see you get tripped up and scandalized by some sin. As Ephesians 6:12 says to Christians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (N.I.V.). Likewise, 1 Peter 5:8-9 describes Satan as ravenous, roaring lion who must be resisted. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, the apostle Paul even expresses his open concern that Satan had already corrupted the minds of the Christians of Corinth.
Second, spiritual stumbling blocks must come because of all the people who do Satan’s bidding. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, we learn that Satan (i.e. “the god of this age”) has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Jesus took this idea even further when He said to a group of lost religious leaders, “You are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does” (John 8:44, N.L.T.). You’d better realize, Christian, that some of those things involve those children of the devil placing spiritual stumbling blocks in your path.
Third, spiritual stumbling blocks must come because of our own sinful nature. Putting it simply, the Christian’s own inborn Adamic nature of sin, which the Bible refers to as “the flesh,” makes him or her a prime candidate to trip over a stumbling block that has been placed in the path either by Satan, some other fallen angel, or a lost unbeliever. Even though the Christian has God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside his or her body, the indwelling Spirit doesn’t obliterate the Adamic nature (the flesh). Instead, an inner civil war is created between the two. Galatians 5:17 says of this war: “For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want” (N.A.S.V.).
In closing, Christian, let me leave you with a couple of takeaway applications. Application #1 is: Don’t ever join the ranks of the enemy in placing some stumbling block in the path of a fellow believer. Remember, your job is to help your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ run well spiritually, not place obstacles and landmines in their running lanes.
And then Application #2 is: Start recognizing the stumbling blocks you’ve been tripping over for years and start avoiding them. Imagine a runner who lap after lap comes upon a certain chuckhole in the track and steps into it and stumbles every single time. It wouldn’t make any sense for a runner to do that, would it? Well, before you judge our hypothetical runner too harshly, you might want to examine your own life and see if there is a certain chuckhole that has caused you to spiritually stumble time and time again. The truth is that most of us have one and we don’t always do a good job of avoiding it.