“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
How we impact the young people around us can have eternal consequences. Jesus is talking about creating conditions where our actions lead young people away from the faith and eventually into hell. Sometimes, in the case of college professors too numerous to count, it is a deliberate act. More often than not, it is more subtle, and can come from people who are much closer to the child…even within their own family.
The facts are clear and devastating according to Barna research: up to 75% of church youth walk away from their faith by the time they finish college. Yes, some of them choose to do that despite having Godly parents and pastors and friends in their lives. However, I’m sure there is an alarmingly high percentage that were actually led away by another person or persons, and that is what Jesus is referring to in today’s passage.
Perhaps it was an unbeliever and/or skeptic that was able to dismantle an already frail belief system by asking questions that the young person couldn’t answer. Perhaps it was a aggressive college professor who belittled them and made them feel “stupid” and “ignorant” for “believing in fairytales”. Or, perhaps most disturbing, it was a Christian whose witness was laced with hypocrisy, judgmentalism, and a lack of love and compassion.
Whichever the case, Jesus is telling us that their fate is worse than being dropped into the sea with a large weight hung around their neck. My ultimate point today is more subtle and perhaps more terrifying: What are WE doing that might lead a little one into sin? What are WE doing that might push our own children away from the faith? If we are acting like Jesus then the answer is NOTHING. But when we are not? The answer should drive us to our knees in confession and repentance…for the sake of the “little ones” in our lives who are watching our every move and listening to our every word.