At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands and two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the hell of fire.”
To me this is one of the more challenging things Jesus said. You know, we spend our whole childhood wishing we were grown-up, but once we are grown-up we wish we were children again. What is it about children that is so holy? They aren’t free from sin; they lie, they hurt others, they are disobedient. So what? Jesus mentions their humility, which I think in this case means they aren’t trying to be better than anyone else. They are just trying to do the right thing because it’s the right thing. No ulterior motives. Children also have such an easy time with faith. They don’t worry, or plan their lives to the second, or try to get ahead. They live in the moment. That’s how we should be too. God’s got us.
The stumbling block part is even harder. Jesus is perfectly clear on what to do: is causing you to sin, remove it from your life. But that is so hard to do! Often things that cause us to sin surround us when we leave the house. For example, I am often tempted to be vain about my clothes. I don’t keep magazines in the house and I rarely watch TV in order to avoid the commercials. But outside there are billboards, there are magazine covers EVERYWHERE, there are fashionable people, and I can’t do anything about those things! And I can’t very well just stay home.
Yet I feel like I’m just saying all this to avoid the actual truth. Often I am unwilling to give up something that causes me to stumble, especially if the thing isn’t inherently bad. I think, “Well, I’ll just teach myself to enjoy that without the sinful part.” Yeah, right. There’s a reason Jesus told us to remove it, and the reason is that we are probably not strong enough to do what I try to do. Giving something up is easily going to give you a lot more success. Is it hard? Yes. But is it worth it? Double yes.