Salt, Light and Little Children
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It didn’t take this morning’s Scripture reading to remind me of all that is going on in the province I live in, but what I read was certainly a reminder of how seriously the Lord takes causing the weak to sin. We can’t expect Christian behaviour to characterize those who are not Christians, though sometimes we are surprised when it happens. But we certainly should expect those who claim to be believers to watch their lives closely to ensure that they are not causing a weaker believer—or a child—to fall into sin by following our bad example.
Jesus was addressing the issue of stumbling blocks and spoke words that, even if not meant to be taken literally, do show the importance of the issue.
“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” (Mark 9:42-47). This followed a discussion among the disciples as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom, at which time Jesus had taken a child from the crowd as a living example of the humble dependence that characterizes great faith (Matthew 18:1-5).
While we say that the Lord’s words were an overstatement, it strikes me that these words should not be taken lightly. Anyone whose own sin influences another to sin is worthy of death, says Jesus. Sin in our lives is to be dealt with swiftly and permanently so that it has no chance of leading someone else astray. If what we do or say damages a child or a weaker believer, the consequences rest squarely on us.
Matthew records this: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
John MacArthur comments: “These angels are pictured 'always' watching the face of God so as to hear His command to them to help a believer when needed. It is extremely serious to treat any fellow believer with contempt, since God and the holy angels are so concerned for their well-being” (One Perfect Man, p. 240).
There is another question that arises here. While we might agree that, as believers, our lives need to be exemplary for the sake of the younger believers who are watching us, what responsibility do we have to try to defend all those children out there beyond our direct sphere of influence, who could be tainted by the evil of others?
We must lead our own children and youth in the Jesus way, and lead by example. But what about the others? It’s interesting that this discussion about children and the importance of example is followed by this statement: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again” (Mark 9:50). This partners with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” We are the world’s preservative, but if we aren’t acting as that, what good are we? None at all, says Jesus. The need to sprinkle our “salt” out there is evident, particularly when the message in Matthew is followed by: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).
I’d guess that if nothing else, we ought to let our local MPP know what we think. You just never know what good might come of it. Let's get out of the salt shaker.