Posts Tagged ‘stumbling block’

MARK 9:38-50

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

42 “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 hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

The “stumbling block” that Jesus has in mind here comes in three varieties: the hand kind, the foot kind, and the eye kind. We might interpret these as referring to differences within the human community that tend to foster dogmatism, bigotry, and violence between groups.

The hand is the instrument of human work and achievement. With our hands we build the monuments that carry our ideals, the homes that shelter our families, and the institutions that embody our values. We work for what reflects real worth, or at least for what can buy what we feel is worthy in life. What I “put my hand to” may be very different from what you “put your hand to,” which is to say that your appetites and aspirations may be significantly different from my own. Look at the difference between what North Americans “put their hands to” and what Arabians or Africans “put their hands to.” It would be very easy to look across the ocean and decide that our way is better, our values superior, our ideals more noble.

The foot is our natural mode of transportation, taking us down the paths of our lives. Here we are placing the accent on differences in where people see their lives going, on the various and competing life curriculums they live by. Your path or aim in life may be very different from mine, but does that make it wrong or less true?

Finally, there are differences in perspective – in how we see the world and represent reality in our minds. Tantric Buddhists see things differently from Evangelical Christians, and European capitalists see a different world from Cuban refugees. Is it right for us to claim exclusive truth for one perspective or worldview over the others?

Jesus said that if our hand causes us to stumble, we must cut if off; if our foot causes us to stumble, we must cut it off; and if our eye causes us to stumble, we must tear it out. What he means is, if your differences are getting in the way of regarding the humanity of other people and treating them with compassion as children of God, then nothing short of surgery is required!