“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
(Matthew 18:7-9 ESV)
Jesus had some very harsh words yesterday for those who cause His children to sin. He continues His harsh tone today by warning the world of the misery to come to those who tempt others into sin.
“Woe” is a word of condemnation. The world is condemned by God because of all the temptations the human race places on each other to sin. Jesus also states that temptations are necessary in the sense that they are inevitable because of the sin that covers the planet. There will be no escaping temptation while on this earth. That is a promise from God.
But God promises something else. The one by whom temptation comes faces condemnation of their own. Jesus has just finished telling us that those who cause others to sin would be better off dead [Matthew 18:6]. Even more, they will also experience God’s wrath.
The Greek word for “temptation” in these verses is σκανδαλον (pronounced: skan’-dal-on). This is a very interesting word. It is the word used for the bait stick that springs a trap when an animal touches it. An animal who falls victim to this deceit is as good as dead. Just like such a stick, sin looks enticing. But in the end we find ourselves entrapped when we fall for it.
There is no end to the temptations that people put on each other. A boyfriend may put pressure on his girlfriend to have sex before they’re married. Or he puts pressure on her to have an abortion. A woman may put pressure on her co-worker to have an affair. Tempting others to sin is a despicable practice because it demonstrates that one has no regard for the other person’s eternal welfare.
But the enticement to sin can be more subtle, such as when the courts declare that same-sex marriage is legal. Such a declaration baits gay people to sin by getting married against God’s commands.
I don’t think there is any entity on earth more responsible for people sinning than the United States government. Our government has not only declared such abysmal practices as abortion, pornography, and same-sex marriage to be acceptable, we have strong-armed other nations into adopting similar stances in order to receive our financial aid.
There can be no doubt that a huge “woe” is coming from God upon the United States. And I fear it may be quite soon; likely within my lifetime.
The way to avoid sinning in the face of inevitable temptation is to take whatever action is necessary to avoid it. Jesus speaks metaphorically when saying we should cut off our hand or foot if it causes us to sin. These words from Jesus are a repeat of an earlier teaching in which we learned that He was not advocating self-mutilation but was beseeching us to be willing to remove anything from our lives (e.g. a person or influence) that tempts us to sin.
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