It is an interesting term – stumbling block. I seriously doubt if anyone ever set out to purposefully make an actual stumbling block, and I am quite certain that none of us have ever seen an object that we would recognize as a stumbling block. We have never walked through a museum looking at historic artifacts, and seen a display of a block of some sort with a little identifying placard that said “Stumbling Block.”
Nevertheless, despite this lack of experience, none of us have any difficulty knowing what is meant by the term. It is not difficult for us because all of us have stumbled over something or another at some time in our lives. We know what a stumbling block is.
Stumbling Blocks in the Bible
I believe that the expression stumbling block is strictly a Biblical term, and to be technical about it, the word block has been added by the translators in an attempt to clarify the meaning for us. I do not know of any other literature that uses this idiom. The meaning, of course, is quite clear. It first appears in the book of Leviticus (19:14) where there is a prohibition of putting a stumbling block in the path of a blind man in order to trip him.
By the time the phrase appears in the New Testament, this “tripping someone up” came to mean anything that would lead someone else to fall into sin. In Matthew 13, for instance, it is put into the context of the Kingdom of God as being the evil tires (or weeds) that had been planted among the good wheat, causing harm to the wheat crop.
We can often see these sorts of stumbling blocks in churches today. These are the people who truthfully do not have any interest in knowing the way of the Lord, but instead consider the church as just another organization to belong to. In doing things and making decisions in the church, they do not consider the Word of God, but rely only upon their own opinions or the present culture of the day.
Or, these people have certain things about their lifestyle that is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible. This causes confusion to those who are sincerely trying to learn how to walk with Jesus. The people who mislead these Christians are the stumbling blocks to the true believers.
In this story about the wheat and the tares, Jesus talks about “the end of the age” when he will send his angels to gather all of these stumbling blocks to cast them into that place that place of punishment where there will be endless weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is the fate of those who live their lives as stumbling blocks.
A Special Consideration for Children
In Matthew 18, Jesus again brings up the subject of stumbling blocks, this time in the context of our influence upon children. He told the disciples, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).”
We can see that Jesus took this issue of being a stumbling block seriously indeed. This is especially so, it seems, when it comes to our influence upon children. Children naturally look to adults as role models. They look to their parents in particular, but they also look to all of us.
It is understandable why they should do this. They know that they will one day be adults, so to whom else should they look? It is the adults in their lives that give them a guide as to what they should be like.
To many adults, this is a frightening thought. It is frightening because they know that they themselves have certain things in their lives that should not be there. In order to ease our conscience about this, we often will say to ourselves, “This is my personal affair and it is not the business of anyone else.” We tell ourselves, “There are many adults that do this same thing, so why should it bother me?”
Well… that may work for us for a while, were it not for one thing. That thing is the Holy Spirit. If there is something in our lives that is not according to the way that God wants us to live, the Holy Spirit has a way of letting us know. He points these things out to us and he does not let us rest.
The Holy Spirit Confronts the Stumbling Blocks
The truth be told, there are many things in all of our lives that are not as they should be, but the Holy Spirit does not simply say we are evil people, list all of our faults, and then tell us to change. It may be that this is how it is before we become believers in Jesus. We saw our lives as heading in an entirely wrong direction and understood that we need to change everything about it. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and convinces us that we need to turn to God in our lives.
This is the way that we become Christians after having lived only for the world and for ourselves. However, after we are believers, the Holy Spirit deals with us in a different way. It is not that our entire lives are heading in a wrong direction any more, but there are still things about our lives that are not right.
These the Holy Spirit points out to us one at a time. He convicts us on one area of our life that we need to bring before Jesus, confess it to him, and ask him to help us in it. When we have victory in that area, the Holy Spirit shows us something else about our lives that we need to deal with.
Does that sound like a lot of work? Well, it is…sort of. But more than work, it is freedom; it is growth. Freedom is sometimes difficult to obtain. Growth inevitably comes slowly, but it is worth the effort. It is worth the time.
Continued in a few days