Before it’s too late

Luke 17:1-4
“Nobody can make you do anything you don’t want to do.”

That was what we heard growing up when we’d try to explain why we did what we did. It was always because “he made me do it.” Whoever he was had done or said something that we couldn’t let slide.

Of course, there’s great truth in nobody can make you do anything. That’s part of living life, learning self-control. You want to develop the patience to be the kind of person you want to be. But Jesus isn’t talking about that kind of influence in Luke 17. No, perhaps no one can make you do anything, but they can lead you to. And when we lead others to temptation and trials, we’ve done just that.

Who among us wants to lead others astray? Have you noticed we have a hard time imagining ourselves as the one Jesus is referring to? Just before this passage, our Lord gave the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. I’ll leave it to you to reread that story in Luke 16, and I’ll offer a few observations.

The rich man probably considered himself righteous and worthy. As they say, he had it all. Surely that meant God had blessed him. He addresses Abraham as “Father Abraham.” So, he has an understanding of faith.

It’s in death the rich man realizes his true spiritual need. For him, it’s too late. But he has five brothers. And he wants them to know their need. Again, it’s too late for him to tell them. He had the chance in his lifetime. His riches and the lifestyle they afforded led him to other priorities. His brothers, too.

Why do we put off obedience and then act surprised to realize we’ve wasted the time God gave us?

The rich man now suffers in agony. Truly, it would have been better for him to jump in the water with a millstone tied to his neck. That’s a striking lesson. The weight of certain death is better to endure than the weight of causing someone else to stumble.

We’ve connected the parable of Lazarus and the rich man to what Jesus says in Luke 17. In doing so, we see just how easy it is for us to lead someone else astray. Put yourself in the rich man’s expensive shoes. Think about his brothers. He never needed to show them the way of God before. Their life was good. 

Yes, we all make choices for ourselves. We have to own what we do with our lives. Nobody can make you do anything you don’t want to do. But it’s also too easy to renounce the responsibility we have to nurture and guide each other.

This is a hard lesson to receive. It means we need to evaluate our walk with others. How are we encouraging obedience to God? What example of faith are we giving? What can we do to lead others to faithful discipleship? These are the kinds of questions we ask to keep ourselves from being stumbling blocks. Lord, help us!

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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