Treasures from God’s Word and Digging for Spiritual Gems – Carefully avoid Stumbling Yourself and others (Matthew 18-19)
Matthew 18:6-7 (stumbling blocks) (nwtsty)
The Greek word translated “stumbling block” is skandalon. The study notes say about this word “In a figurative sense, it refers to an action or circumstance that leads a person to follow an improper course, to stumble or fall morally, or to fall into sin.”
Interestingly, this word is the basis for the English word, “scandal”, used to refer to the situation when someone is caught acting in a manner considered sinful or unacceptable to the general populace.
The verses warn against stumbling even little ones who have put faith in Jesus Christ. Virtually all witnesses without exception have put faith in Jesus otherwise they would not have made the effort to study the Bible and get baptized. This fact makes the warning all the more powerful.
Sadly, many have been stumbled by the treatment they have received while within the organisation, becoming agnostics, and even atheists. Why might this be the case? It is so, because witnesses are taught to put faith in the organisation. For example:
w02 8/1 Loyally Submit to Godly Authority
How has reviewing the account of Korah strengthened your faith in Jehovah’s visible organization?
When such ones find that what they believed to be the truth has been, in fact, falsehood, and that the Organisation cannot therefore be directed by God, they have nothing left in which to put faith. The Organisation has made itself into the channel or mediator between God and men. Take that away and no perceived path to God remains. Feeling tricked, made out to be the fool, they turn away from all religion and even God himself.
The Bible speaks of a heavier judgment upon those who teach others falsehoods.
“They are the ones devouring the houses of the widows and for a pretext making long prayers; these will receive a heavier judgment.” (Mark 12:40)
Matthew 18:10 (their angels in heaven) (nwtsty) (w10 11/1 16)
This verse is best understood in the light of the following scriptures : Genesis 18, Genesis 19, Exodus 32:34, Psalm 91:11, Job 33:23-26, Daniel 10:13, Acts 12:12-15, Hebrews 1:14.
The Watchtower reference appears to be correct when it says “Jesus did not necessarily mean that each of his followers has a guardian angel assigned to him.” The above cited scriptures suggest that according to need, Jehovah and possibly Jesus, assign an angel to protect and guide a particular person, group, kingdom or country. However, there is no support for an individual guardian angel being assigned to each human as some believe. It seems that Jesus was strongly counselling those listening to treat the little ones, which would include children, with care and respect; the idea being that were such ones harmed, Jehovah would be made aware, and on judgement day it would not go well for their victimizers. This would clearly apply to those who practice child sexual abuse, but would by extension also apply to those who condone, or turn a blind eye to such terrible actions, hiding behind misapplied scriptures.
Never be a cause for Stumbling – Video
The video makes several points:
(1) Pushing someone could cause them to stumble.
The Watchtower Study review for this week highlights an experience of how due to other organization videos, the witnesses now push away those considered ‘weak’.
The video then makes the point that Jehovah could push us, but doesn’t force us to serve him, but rather encourages. How different from the organization which attempts to coerce us into following its particular way of worship. Stephen Lett (GB member) highlights how parents should not coerce their children into serving Jehovah, but the previous two Watchtower Study articles on baptism have been strongly influencing parents to put pressure on children to get baptized, all without one scriptural precedent to justify this course of action.
Lett then highlights that elders should not ‘push’, and gives an example how an elder scolded the congregation because not enough were going to go out in field service the next day, which resulted in even less being willing to do so. I am sure most of us have experienced elders scolding some brothers from the platform along similar lines. At the end of the scolding did you feel like co-operating with that elder’s suggestion afterwards? It is highly unlikely.
Point (2) is putting a stumbling block in front of someone.
Interestingly, Stephen Lett when discussing giving up our personal rights, asks if we would be prepared to give up sporting a beard, wearing heavy makeup, or using alcohol if by doing so we might stumble someone?
Why do we have to give up beards? Why not giving up being clean shaven? One could just as easily say that brothers being clean shaven stumbles us because Jesus had a beard. So should those who object to beards now grow one so we are not stumbled by their clean-shaven skin?
What about asking the question: “Would you decide to grow a beard if being clean shaven could cause someone else to stumble?” Or what about: “Would you avoid eating foods to which your companions are allergic? Would you avoid the heavy use of perfumes, and other chemicals to which many are commonly allergic?”
The answers to these two latter questions are far more important as use of commonly allergenic foods and use of large quantities of certain allergenic perfumes can be life threatening. On the other hand, I have yet to hear of even one person’s life being put in danger because someone else wore a beard.
While wearing a heavy amount of makeup is probably not a good idea for the wearer, it is unlikely to affect someone else’s health.
Only the consuming of alcohol could potentially affect someone else if they then were tempted to copy ones consumption but don’t have the self control.
Lett commits a common mistake by confusing “stumbling” with “offending”. The context of Paul’s words indicate that our actions might lead someone into false worship or into compromising one’s conscience. Unless the culture in which we live associates a beard or makeup with some false religious activity, it is difficult to see how Paul’s words about stumbling apply.
Point (3) concerns failing to point out a trip-hazard.
Given that the organization is creating trip-hazards all the time with its false prophecies causing disillusionment, its shunning policies causing psychological harm, and its mistreatment of abuse victims, perhaps clear warnings should be given to all who contemplate being baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.