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Luke 17 v 2. “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

Coming from the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we now find, once again, that the Lord confronts us with the value of our souls. Luke so arranges his materials that he places this solemn warning of Christ right after the story of the rich man and his poor neighbour Lazarus, so that we will never forget that the eternal is far more important than the temporary.

True saving faith is of utmost importance. Therefore it is a serious thing for anybody to interfere or destroy by word or deed anyone who is seeking to follow the Lord. If our behaviour in some way causes another human being to break his faith in Christ, or ceases to believe in the authority of Christ’s Word; if it causes him to devalue his redemption or throws doubt on the reality of his salvation, it is a very serious offence indeed.

We know that our world is imperfect so that “things that cause people to sin are bound to come” (v 1) but that in no way lessens its seriousness. You yourself reading this may recall times when you were greatly discouraged by friends and family to keep following Christ. Why did you not give in? Because of the great sovereign faithfulness of our Saviour toward those he has called. But think of the many who being very weak in the faith, only beginning to catch a glimpse of its true meaning, who were turned away forever by other people who subjected them to ridicule or humiliation.

Think of the millions of children discouraged by their own families from being Christians. You can think about those philosophers, teachers and even in some cases preachers, who do not hold to the true faith, who have discouraged thousands because of their opinions, talks, speeches, sermons and books.

Jesus says it is inevitable that such things will come in this world. But the consequences for such people are very severe. Jesus simply says it would be better for them to be sunk into the deepest sea, where they would be out of the way forever. Think of that. They do more harm than good on our planet and the world would be better off if they were dropped into the deepest ocean with great stones around their necks, than for them to go on discouraging people from trusting in Christ. That is the gist of Jesus’ words.

Now look at verse 3. “So watch yourselves”.

There can be no sterner warning than this.