‘For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, also able to bridle the whole body (James 3:2).’
As the above text affirms, we ALL stumble. The Greek verb here for stumble is offend [ptah’yo], and it is used figuratively to mean trip up. We know full well there are times when we can be careless and unthinking and we say things that may offend others, even causing them to stumble.
To state the obvious, this is not good, and Paul warns us: ‘So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block [pros’-kom-mah] or a cause to fall in our brother’s way (Romans 14:12, 13).’
He follows this with an example of how we might avoid causing our brother to stumble: ‘It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak (v.21).’
Addressing the Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 8:9) he warned them: ‘But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.’ He went on to say: ‘Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (v. 13).’
The liberty he referred to was freedom from the Levitical laws (Leviticus 3:17; 7:26 ;17:10-14; 19:26) of the Old Covenant; for they were freed (Romans 8:2) from them in Christ under His New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15).
Jesus, the Stumbling Stone
The only Person who never said unthoughtful words was Jesus (cf. Hebrews 4:15), and yet a good many hearing His words were offended by them (Matthew 13:57: Mark 6:3). Even now when people read His words in the Bible they are offended by them (Matthew 15:10-12).
Romans 9:32, 33 declare that Jesus is a ‘stumbling stone’ to those who do not believe in Him: Why? Because they do not come to Him in faith (v. 32). They prefer doing their own thing – even relying upon their own works (Ephesians 3:8, 9), which of course is futile and leads to destruction (Philippians 3:18, 19).
Paul adopts and modifies Isaiah 8:14 to make his point that Jesus is a refuge to those who believe in Him, but at the same time He is a stumbling stone to those who don’t believe in Him: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).”’
In 1 Corinthians he says, ‘For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1:22, 23).’
Peter likewise, but quoting from the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:14: 28:16), explains that Jesus is ‘a stone of stumbling’ to the ‘disobedient’, and at the same time He is ‘precious’ to believers: ‘Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” They stumble being disobedient to the word, to which they were appointed (1 Peter 2:6-8).’
Take note that Peter doesn’t mince his words; he didn’t acquiesce into being *politically correct. He boldly stated the truth – the ‘disobedient’ [unbelievers] are ‘appointed’ to stumble!
However, we should bear in mind that Jesus keeps His faithful ones from stumbling, as Jude’s prayer affirms: ‘Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24).’
Stumbling is Serious
We shouldn’t take stumbling lightheartedly; for the LORD destroys stumbling blocks: ‘I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” says the LORD (Zephaniah 1:3).’
Speaking to Ezekiel the LORD said, “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul (Ezekiel 3:20, 21).”’
This message was specifically for the prophet Ezekiel, but if we apply it to ourselves we would do well to make every effort not to become stumbling blocks, and if we see a brother sinning we should warn him (Matthew 18:15-18; Galatians 6:1) and help him get back on track.
‘And one shall say, “Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, take the stumbling block out of the way of My people (Isaiah 57:14).”
“I create the fruit of the lips; peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,” says the LORD, “And I will heal him.” But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked (vv. 19-21).”’
“Lord, We are in Your hands. Keep us from stumbling and being stumbling blocks I pray. Amen”