Treatment of Those Who Are Stumblingblocks
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 11 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)
Matthew 18:7, "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" Notice the word "offence." Simply stated, an offence is a stumblingblock. It is the leading or attempting to lead another to do wrong, or to prevent another from doing right. This may be done purposely or it may be a stumblingblock that is dropped by negligence or carelessness. In any case, our Lord plainly teaches that to leave stumblingblocks is a fault. In some cases, it may be a grievous fault; in other cases, a slight one. Nevertheless, it is wrong to lead another into sin or to prevent another from doing good. These are called stumblingblocks.
These obstacles to good are found in every church in America and every organization of every church. They are found on Sunday school faculties, on Christian school faculties, on deacon boards, in Christian school classrooms, church choirs, church staffs and even in Christian colleges. Those who place purposely or carelessly drop these stumblingblocks will attempt to lead the Christian into wrong by offering them everything from a joint of marijuana to a juicy bit of gossip. Let us notice how they operate.
1. They will lead you to do wrong when they know it is wrong. This is the worst form of stumblingblocks. There are those who know something is wrong, who will attempt to lead you to do that wrong. It is done most commonly by those who are doing wrong themselves and do not want to be alone in their wrongdoing. The tragedy of it all is that it is often done in the name of friendship, which God meant to be one of the greatest blessings of the Christian life. What a tragedy when such a great blessing is perverted into a curse!
Sometimes the tempter will even demand the price of losing his friendship if temptation is rejected and resisted. He is leading you to believe that you may purchase his friendship at this ridiculously high price! If this were possible, such is far from being worth the purchase! A so-called friend who wishes his solaced friend to do wrong in order to keep his friendship is no friend at all! When you attempt to purchase friendship, it is always counterfeit. This tempting may be done by someone who is addicted to narcotics attempting to ensnare another in his habit. It may be done by a young person demanding proof of the love of a member of the opposite sex by insisting that person join him in immorality. It may be done by one who is disloyal to leadership attempting to lead another to share his disloyalty.
Nearly every week I receive phone calls from pastors having internal problems in their churches. The story is always the same; it never varies. When a pastor tells me he is having trouble in his church, I can write the script. For that matter, the script is already written. Some man of prominence in the church is attempting to hurt the pastor, his ministry and his leadership. He is not satisfied with his own sin; he wants others to join him and so he places stumblingblocks in the path of the loyalty of others. Many sincere people have stumbled over these blocks and have been caused much grief in days to come.
This behavior is as old as mankind. Moses and Aaron faced the same thing that the sincere pastors face today. Numbers 16:1-3, "Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: and they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?"
Notice in verse 2, "And they rose up before Moses." Notice in verse 3, "And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron."
Now notice in verse 2 who they were. Look at the words, "two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown." The Devil hasn't changed his methods, has he? The same thing happens today as it did over three millenniums ago.
Now notice their charges in verse 3, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy." Notice later on in verse 3, "Wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?" Everything that goes around comes around, and Satan is not very original. His methods are the same from generation to generation.
2. They will lead you to do what they do not think is wrong but what you think is wrong. They want to convince you that you should go against your conscientious convictions, and they want to persuade you to disobey your scruples. "Nothing is wrong with that!" is never spoken by a true friend. A true friend will allow you to have your own convictions and will want you to abide by them and live by them. He will respect your convictions and not attempt to lower yours to his.
3. They will lead you not to do right. It is wrong if we make Christian duty and the Christian life difficult to our fellow Christians when we should do our best to make it easy We have tremendous power over each other. Our personalities, our conversation and our habits are almost sure in some degree either to help or hinder each other. One may encourage and tempt another to do wrong by good-natured behavior when his friend is doing wrong, or he may prove his friendship by being disagreeable when his friend is about to do wrong. What I am saying is that we may try to help a friend in such a way as to provoke him or perplex him, so we are not only to refrain from leading another to doing wrong, but we should actively encourage him to do right.
How then should the one be treated who becomes a stumblingblock and who places stumblingblocks in our path of righteousness?
1. Do not become a stumblingblock to him by stumbling over his stumblingblock. The tempter sins against the tempted, but when the tempted yields, he likewise sins against the tempter. He has placed a crown of evil on the other man's sin of being the tempter. He has completed the job attempted by the tempter, and just as the one who is tempting him has aided in his sin, his committing the sin has also added to the sin of the one who tempted him.
If we refuse to stumble over the stumblingblock, we save the one who placed it there from committing an even greater evil and, for that matter, another evil. The tempter cannot become the accomplice to a crime that has not been committed, so in a sense when we yield to his temptation, we sin against him, even as he sinned against us. The tempter sins when placing the stumblingblock in the path of the tempted. The tempted sins when he stumbles. He also causes the tempter to sin twofold because the tempter's sin is now completed and doubled.
Let us illustrate. A man who is drinking offers another a drink. He has sinned in so doing because he has placed a stumblingblock in the path of righteousness of the one who is offered the drink. When the one who is tempted takes the drink, he sins; but he has also sinned against the one who offered him the drink, who sinned in drinking, who sinned in tempting his neighbor to drink, and has now become an accomplice in his neighbor's sin of drink. He now is guilty of three sins instead of two.
A young man tries to seduce a young woman into immorality He sins in so doing, but the young woman who yields has completed his sin and the seducer's sin is now twofold.
2. Refuse immediately. Psalm 119:60, "I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments." The easiest time to refuse evil is NOW. It is often very hard not only to do what is right, but to do it at the time that right should be done. This Psalm not only exalts the doing of right but the doing of right immediately Every Christian is bound not only to be obedient to the call of duty but to be instantly obedient to that call. There is a tremendous difference between the beauty of obedience, which has the spontaneity of a little child running to do something for Mother who finds a delightful pleasure in the sense of obedience, and that obedience which comes unwillingly and which is done slowly as if it is no more than an absolute MUST.
In practically every case of obedience, delay makes it more difficult. Nothing can be gained by cautious procrastinating obedience. That obedience does not become easier but harder. There is no obedience as delightful as ready obedience. It brings a charm with it. It prevents many temptations by simply giving them no time to do their work. It conquers many difficulties by its own impulse, and it leaves us with a warm awareness that we belong to God and we are wanting to please Him. It also saves us oftentimes from committing sin because as has been stated, the easiest time to refuse is NOW!
When such instant refusal is performed enough times, it will become instinctive. It will become a part of the subconscious and hence, becomes character. Character is the subconscious doing of right. It is the doing of right by reflex. It is resisting temptation by instinct.
3. Do not travel with those who carry stumbling blocks. In every church and church organization, there are such people. It is not difficult for us to know who they are. If we are wise, we will be nice to them, courteous to them and gracious to them, but we will not travel with them.
There is a divided four lane interstate highway leading from the Hammond area to Indianapolis, Indiana. It is Interstate 65. This highway goes through no towns, has few if any stops and is, of course, divided four lane all the way. Then there is the old highway that leads to Indianapolis. It is Highway 41. Leaving the Hammond area on Highway 41, one must go through Highland, Indiana, Where there are at least five or six stoplights; Schererville, Indiana, where there are two more stoplights. He must then go through St. John, Indiana; Cedar Lake, Indiana; and other small towns and cities along the way. The person who wants to take the fastest and safest trip to Indianapolis will certainly choose Interstate 65. He will not condemn Highway 41, criticize Highway 41 or gossip about Highway 41; he will simply forget Highway 41. Highway 41 will not be a part of his thinking processes as he journeys to Indianapolis; he simply takes the road without the stumblingblocks. The wise Christian will do the same thing. He will take the road not traveled by the one who lays stumblingblocks in his way. He will not criticize him or attempt to hurt him; he will simply not be aware that he exists. He is too busy traveling with those who want to help him in righteousness and not be his accomplice in sin!
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