The Bible has a way of using powerful imagery to convey essential spiritual truths. One such image that we often encounter in the Scriptures is that of the “stumbling block.” Throughout the Bible, the concept of a stumbling block is used as a metaphor for anything that may hinder or cause someone to stumble in their walk with God. Understanding what a stumbling block is, why it is important, and how we can avoid becoming stumbling blocks ourselves is crucial for any Christian who wishes to grow in their faith and be a light to those around them.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the concept of the stumbling block as presented in the Bible. We will discuss the various ways in which stumbling blocks can manifest in our lives, and explore the importance of avoiding these pitfalls for the sake of our spiritual well-being and that of others. Lastly, we will offer some practical advice on how we can identify and remove stumbling blocks in our lives, as well as help others to do the same.
Biblical References to Stumbling Blocks
The term “stumbling block” appears numerous times throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, stumbling blocks often refer to practices or behaviors that lead people away from God and into sin. For example, in Leviticus 19:14 (NKJV), the Lord commands the Israelites, “You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” Here, the term is used to signify anything that causes harm or impedes someone’s progress in their spiritual journey.
Similarly, in Ezekiel 14:3-4 (NKJV), the Lord condemns those who have “set up their idols in their hearts” and “put before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity.” In this case, the stumbling block is idolatry, a sin that draws people away from the worship of the one true God and leads them into spiritual ruin.
In the New Testament, the concept of the stumbling block takes on a more specific meaning. Jesus often uses the term to describe actions or attitudes that hinder the faith of others. For instance, in Matthew 18:6-7 (NKJV), Jesus warns, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Here, Jesus emphasizes the importance of avoiding behaviors that may cause others to falter in their faith.
How Stumbling Blocks Manifest in Our Lives
Stumbling blocks can take many forms in our lives, and they can arise from both external sources and internal attitudes. Some common examples of stumbling blocks include:
- False teachings: When individuals or groups promote teachings that contradict the clear message of the Bible, they create stumbling blocks for those who may be led astray by these false ideas. In Romans 16:17 (NKJV), Paul warns believers to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
- Hypocrisy: When we profess to be followers of Christ but do not live in accordance with His teachings, we can become stumbling blocks to others who may be discouraged or disillusioned by our inconsistent behavior. In Matthew 23:13 (NKJV), Jesus rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
- Legalism: Imposing strict rules and regulations on others that go beyond the teachings of Scripture can create stumbling blocks by focusing on outward appearances rather than genuine faith and love. In Colossians 2:20-23 (NKJV), Paul warns against being drawn into legalistic practices that lack any real spiritual value.
- Inconsiderate behavior: Sometimes our actions, even if they are not inherently sinful, can become stumbling blocks if they cause others to stumble in their faith. In Romans 14:13 (NKJV), Paul urges believers to be mindful of their actions, saying, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
Removing Stumbling Blocks and Encouraging Others
In order to avoid being stumbling blocks ourselves, and to help others navigate the challenges of their spiritual journey, we can take several practical steps:
- Cultivate self-awareness: We must regularly examine our own hearts and actions, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas where we may be causing others to stumble (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Embrace humility: Recognizing that we are all imperfect and prone to stumble can help us approach others with grace and understanding, rather than judgment or condemnation (Philippians 2:3-4).
- Prioritize love: The greatest commandment is to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). When we make love our primary motivation, we will naturally seek to avoid causing harm or offense to others.
- Promote unity: Strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit within the body of Christ, focusing on our common faith rather than on divisive issues (Ephesians 4:3).
In conclusion, the concept of the stumbling block serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of our actions and attitudes in the lives of others. As followers of Christ, we are called to be lights in the world, guiding others toward the truth and love of God. By recognizing and addressing the stumbling blocks in our lives and the lives of others, we can help to create an environment where faith can flourish and believers can grow in their relationship with God.
Let us commit ourselves to being mindful of the impact our actions and attitudes have on those around us. In doing so, we can be instruments of God’s grace, helping to remove stumbling blocks and to build one another up in love. As Paul encourages us in Romans 14:19 (NKJV), “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
May we strive daily to live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, seeking to remove stumbling blocks and to be a source of encouragement and support for our fellow believers. In this way, we can contribute to the growth of the kingdom of God and experience the joy and fulfillment that come from living in harmony with His will.