Verse of the Day Devotion. Mark 9:42
“And 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
In our focus verse, we read what Jesus thinks of those who cause one of His people to sin. This does not necessarily refer to little children regarding age, but of those who belong to Him, His disciples, and followers, essentially Christians. If a small act of kindness towards others done in Jesus’ name will be eternally remembered, so will any cause for stumbling. And the punishment is severe: it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. In other words, it would be better if he drowned. Mill stones in ancient times were either turned by hand or by beasts, chiefly by mules. These last were of the larger kind, and the original words denote that it was this kind that was intended. We see this is Matthew’s gospel. “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6. This was one mode of capital punishment practiced by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and some other nations. The meaning of Jesus’ word is, it would be better for him to have died before he had committed the sin. To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded by Christ as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.
Then in the next verses, Jesus speaks of being ensnared by sin ourselves. “And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,” Mark 9:43. And also “And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell,” Mark 9:47. Tragically, some have taken these words literally. He did not intend anyone to cut off their hands or pluck an eye out. Bodily mutilation doesn’t do anything in controlling sin. Sin is more a matter of the heart than of any particular limb or organ. If I cut off my right hand, my left hand is still there to sin. If I pluck out my left eye, my right eye is still there to sin. Or if I completely dismember my body, I can still sin in my mind and in my heart. Jesus was not talking about mutilating ourselves, He was speaking about sacrificing what is necessary not to sin.
Now, in both instances above, He says it is better to have only one eye, or one hand, to enter the Kingdom of God then to have both and be cast into hell. The idea here is what we see in the following verses. “And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, if anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” Mark 8:34-35. As said above, this was not a demand for physical self-mutilation, but of the costliest sacrifices.
We must do whatever is necessary to avoid temptation to sin. If reading certain books tempt us to sin, we must get rid of those books. If listening to certain songs tempts us, then we must stop listening to that song. And as I learned the hard way, if certain people tempt us to sin, then we must avoid those people unless we are able to witness to them without being tempted. We must be willing to sacrifice those things that causes us to sin, whether by actions or thoughts. It is better to give these things up and enter eternal life, then to hold onto them and enter eternal torment in hell.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.