What Did Jesus Mean When He Talked About Causing “Little ones to Stumble”?

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. ” – Luke 17:1-2

I am teaching Luke 17 tonight in our Basics class. This phrase jumped out at me because it seemed really random and didn’t really seem to fit the context very well. Jesus hasn’t been talking about children in the teachings leading up to this. Instead, he has been teaching about divorced women, the Rich man and Lazarus, the stragglers invited to a great banquet, and lost things/people. Does this connect with the rest of the Gospel or is this just a random teaching about making kids sin thrown in for good measure?

The Greek word behind “little ones” is the word “micron” which can mean something that is small in size but can also mean something that is insignificant. Context tells me Jesus is not talking about little kids here. Jesus is talking about the people the world saw as “insignificant” or “small” from a social perspective. These were the people used and abused by the Pharisees. They were objects of disdain in the eyes of many in Jesus’ day. It makes so much more sense in context than having Jesus give a random teaching on making kids sin at this point in Luke and fits so much better with the overall theme and emphasis of Luke’s gospel (interest in the outcast and downtrodden).

Just thought I would share that as I will never hear or read that verse the same again.

3 Responses to What Did Jesus Mean When He Talked About Causing “Little ones to Stumble”?

  1. Jr says:

    I would concur with this take. Well put. I think in Mark, Jesus uses children as an analogy for the “insignificant” or “outcast” as well. Though it is interesting when looking at Matthew’s uses of micron, we can go further and say Jesus is talking about disciples, specifically and exclusively. (I did a study on that here: http://jrsheets.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/stopping-textual-abuse-identifying.html )

    Grace be with you -
    Jr

  2. […] Learning to read scripture in context is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself in Bible study. When the books of the Bible were first written they had no chapters numbers, verses or nifty headings. Those three things were not inspired and, although helpful to get us all looking at the same words at the same time, can be detrimental to us really reading and understanding some of what we find in scripture. I used to hear people say that context was reading the verse before and the verse after. That is insufficient. The meaning that context helps us to discover can run across chapters. It can even run across entire books of the Bible. I have gotten to where I have started ignoring the chapter breaks to read the books of the Bible as they were originally written and what has jumped out at me has been a rich blessing to my study and to my relationship with God. Here is an example of the fruit of this approach in case you didn’t read it – What did Jesus mean when he talked about causing “little ones to stumble”? […]

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