“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42, ESV
Jesus warns in this very severe statement that before you would lead another believer (represented by a little child) to sin, you would be better off dying an awful death by being drowned in the depths of the sea.
Such a death was considered by the Jews an offensive manner of death invented by the pagan Gentiles. So it was also offensive to these disciples who first heard this teaching, and yet it graphically illustrates the point Jesus is making.
Our Lord is talking about a radical fight against sin. The sin covered in verse 42 is to lead into impurity or temptation any believer in Jesus Christ… those who believe in Jesus.
To lead a Christian into sin is a heinous violation of God’s revealed will.
This warning reveals the protective love that God has for His people. He doesn’t want anything to bring harm or scandal to His people. All sin is deadly and destructive.
The word used here for “sin” is skandalizomi, “to be caught in sin, or to be trapped in sin; entrapped, “Whoever causes one… not a group, just one, and the one is emphatic…
It would be better (a comparative descriptor), it would be better for him if a great millstone (a mulos onikos) were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Mulos is a mule, and onikos is a stone. They used to grind grain using a mule.
There would be a massive stone and on top of that a round stone like a wheel that would roll around and crush the grain and be pulled by a mule. The stone would weigh tons.
So it would be better for you to have one of those stones tied around your neck and you be drowned in the depths of the sea than to lead another Christian into scandal or sin.
And this “causing a believer to sin” could happen in any number of different ways… both actively or passively. Therefore we must take active steps to help believers avoid sin.
It’s a horrifying comparison our Lord is using here about purity in our relationships.
In the parallel account of this teaching in Matthew 18, judgment is declared on the world for its stumbling blocks that led people into sin. This world is already under judgment.
And that same judgment is extended to anyone else, even to professing believers, who would lead another believer into sin. This warning is the strongest threat that Jesus ever made to those who are following Him or those who are called by His name.
So this is about radical purity in our relationships with other people, but especially with other believers. The consequences of leading another believer into sin are horrifying.
- Are you maintaining purity in your relationships with other people, especially other Christians?
- What actions can you take to promote greater delight among Christ’s people and greater freedom from impurity and temptations to sin?
The consequences of doing nothing are severe. The temptations around us are radical; so our fight against those temptations must also be radical.
For the supremacy of Christ,