|How many of us have done the same thing?
We’re up in the middle of the night, walking around in the dark at home. Right before we make it back to bed, it happens. Although we’ve walked that room thousands of times, this night the dresser found a way to jump out and stub your toe.
That is a special kind of pain.
Whether you yell or muffle your strong feelings, I’m sure very few of us have thrown the dresser out afterward. That’d be silly. Yes, it was a stumbling block between you and the rest of your sleep. I’ve known people who have broken toes because of their midnight stroll with the dresser. That’s a once-in-a-while occurrence. The stumbling block still has its use and we probably never even thought to get rid of it.
But Jesus went another direction with stumbling blocks.
As Matthew tells of this exchange, the disciples had a question to ask Jesus. They wanted to know who was “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The answer was two-fold. In the first place, you can’t even enter the kingdom of heaven if you don’t change and become like a child.
That was a striking admission point.
But Jesus went further. To be the greatest, you have to be humble. Now, humility can be an abstract idea. So, Jesus didn’t only say to be humble. He made his answer more direct and concrete. “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Let’s appreciate how much a reversal of common sense this was. Jesus is saying that to be great means to take on the form of the lowly. That’s how the culture regarded children.
Now, let’s see how Jesus stomps on our other toe.
Children and those other people on the margins are, in a sense, throw-away people. That is, the culture disregarded them so much, their lives seemed to matter very little. Imagine, then, what the disciples feel when Jesus tells them they must become as one of those people. Then he says their lives are the ones better thrown away if they make the children stumble.
Of course, Jesus isn’t speaking literally. If he was, there wouldn’t be enough huge millstones to use for everyone who deserved to be in the sea. We do well to realize how much our lives can impact others. Chances are, even if you are the one stumbling, you’re involving someone else with you.
The greater lesson is that stumbling happens. That’s called being alive. It happens to us all. But being a stumbling block seems to mean something else. A stumbling block stays out of place. Its function is to disrupt the path of those walking by them. To be sure, Jesus doesn’t want stumbling blocks to lose their lives. He wants us to make sure we’re not becoming stumbling blocks.
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