The Hammer of Truth
Matthew 18:6 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea… woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
Years ago, I walked into the office of my campus pastor and quoted this verse to him. I suggested that he was the one Jesus was speaking to in this passage. He had, in my estimation, been leading his children astray and I told him as much. I informed him that I thought it would be better for him to have a millstone fastened around his neck.
I am not proud of that story. I was even more arrogant and brash back then, convinced in my faith that I knew everything. Of course, I still think I was right regarding the issue at hand, but I handled it terribly. I was a jerk. I used Jesus words as a weapon against another, not considering the possibility that my own behavior mattered as well. I carried the truth like a hammer and I smashed him in the head with it.
I tend to read the bible this way. I read a passage like this and I think about how it applies to everyone else. I can think of a few people who need to read this… It is so easy for me to see the defect in another while remaining blind to my own. This is particularly true with destructive behavior that I do not understand.
If I see someone wrestling with a gambling addiction, for instance, I just do not get it. How stupid. Why would you do that? I have never been tempted by such a thing so it just bewilders me how someone could be so dumb. I know people look at my destruction this way.
It is just so easy to see defect in others. The challenge of Jesus’ words however, is to be introspective and to see how they apply to me. When I read the bible, it does me little good if all I do is apply it to the lives of those around me. God’s word is his communication with me. My relationship with him is to be my primary concern.
So, when I read this passage now, I am not thinking of how I can bash someone else over the head with it. I am to ask what God is trying to say to me. How does this apply to my life? Am I causing someone else to stumble? Jesus commanded that I am to follow him and encourage others to do the same. So, am I drawing others to him or do I just follow self and urge others to do likewise?
In college, when I confronted this pastor, my life was not about following Christ. It was about following self. It was a time when I was arrogant in my faith and used grace as an excuse to do whatever I wanted.
Now, I am to read Jesus words and apply them first to me. Am I following Christ? I may, at times, need to lovingly carry the truth to others, but I am not asked to bear the burden of their millstone. My concern is my own relationship with God.