Jesus Gives a Death Sentence: Matthew 18:7-11

Focus Passage: Matthew 18:7-11 (NASB)

In Jesus’ teaching, probably the greatest warning He ever gives is to those who cause others to stumble or lose faith. When addressing this group of people, Jesus shares some pretty harsh remarks.

Matthew records one of the statements Jesus made. In this statement, Jesus warns us that challenges are destined to come, but we should strive to not be the source of those challenges. Matthew tells us Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (v. 7)

This statement does not mean that we should not challenge other believers regarding sin in their lives. That is a separate issue. This statement has more to do with those who share cynical statements regarding faith and belief in an attempt to shake someone’s faith in God. This warning is directed to the atheist or cynic who is actively trying to break a Christian’s faith in God.

Matthew also includes Jesus’ follow-up statement a few verses later. To add to this warning, Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (v. 10)

Mark’s gospel even shares this idea in a more extreme way where He describes Jesus saying, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

When I read the phrase “little ones”, my first reaction is to think of children – and this is one very valid way of reading this statement. When someone commits a crime against a child, they should receive little to no sympathy from the courts or jury.

However, another way to read the phrase “little ones” is to think of the brand new Christ-followers. In some ways, this aligns with Mark’s version of Jesus’ statement because Mark included the idea of belief attached to the phrase “little ones”. Regardless of their body’s age, understanding the phrase this way describes people who are starting their faith journey and who are on fire for God.

When understanding that this statement could be applied to brand new Christians, it makes even more sense that there would be those who would “despise” (hate) them. Not many adults truly despise children, but plenty of people who hate God despise those who claim to follow Him.

Jesus tells us that people will challenge our faith, but just because challenges come, we shouldn’t focus on the challenge. Instead, in some ways, we maybe should feel sorry for the person who is giving the challenge. It is the person who challenges another’s faith that Jesus gives this warning to. Our response when challenged is to stay focused on Jesus and to share His love with others – even towards those who despise us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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