posted on Apr, 8 2016 @ 05:00 PM
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better to
have a great millstone tied round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea”. Matthew ch18 vv5-6
This is a statement about two different kinds of behaviour, and their results.
First, “receiving such a child in my name”.
What does this mean?
In the previous verses, a child had been brought onto the scene, as an example and a role-model for the disciples.
They were told that if they wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven, they needed to become like children themselves.
In other words, they should be approaching their God in trusting obedience.
But when Jesus speaks the words quoted above, is he still talking about literal children?
And what is meant by “receiving in my name”.
We can understand these words better by comparing them with remarks made elsewhere in the gospels.
When Jesus is sending his disciples out around the country to teach and preach, he says to them;
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (ch10 v40).
A moment later, he gives an example of what he means by “receiving”;
“And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his
reward” (ch10 v42).
And in Mark’s version, this is “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink” (Mark ch9 v41).
So the “children” or the “little ones” are the disciples, all those who follow Jesus.
So called because of their trusting faith, as recommended in vv1-4.
And “receiving” or “not receiving” these children “in my name” is about the way that people treat the disciples of Jesus.
Jesus will recognise their treatment of his disciples as the sign of treating himself in the same
Where it is appropriate, these people will “receive their reward”.
(Just as, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the sheep are commended for their treatment of “these my brethren”, which may mean the same
The alternative action is “causing one of these little ones to sin”.
We’ve already established, by comparison with ch10, that “these little ones” are not literal children but trusting, childlike disciples.
What is meant by “causing them to sin”?
That is the wording of the RSV, which is my standard quoting Bible.
But I’m not sure that “cause to sin” is the best translation here.
The Greek word is SKANDALISE, which really means “make someone stumble”.
The AV translates it as “offend”, in this verse and elsewhere.
Thus the Pharisees “were offended” by the declaration that a man is not defiled by what enters his mouth (ch15 v12).
The same word is used about the seed that falls upon stony ground (ch13 v21). This represents people who have no deep-rooted faith, so that when
tribulation arises they are “offended” (in the AV), or they “fall away” (in more modern versions).
So a man “is made to stumble”, when something happens which undermines his faith.
In fact the English language has adopted the word with much the same meaning. When people are “scandalised”, the implication is that they have
lost faith in, or lost respect for, the person involved in the scandal.
In this case, the people affected are “these little ones who believe in me”.
So “causing them to stumble” will surely mean “causing them to CEASE believing in me”.
Thus Jesus defines his followers as those who trust him as the one sent from God, and he takes them under his protection.
Anyone who undermines the faith of a believer, “making him stumble”, will not have a millstone tied around his neck before being thrown into the
But Jesus says the guilty party would have found that preferable.
Anything to escape the wrath of God against those who undermine his work.
The faith of believers can be undermined accidentally, as the side-effect of misconduct, when they are “scandalised” in the sense of the English
word; “I’m not going to belong to a church if that’s how the leaders behave”.
But there are people in modern society (and even on this forum) who seem to have the conscious purpose of undermining the faith of believers and
bringing themselves within the scope of the warning which Jesus gives.
Perhaps it should be brought to their attention.