Personal Influence - Beware!
Personal Influence—Beware! (Matthew 18:6-14)
Strong influences bombard our lives on every side. Media, peers, Madison Avenue, and music all bend our minds. Every one of us lives in a sphere of our personal influence over others. Jesus warned in explicit terms of the danger inherent in our influence on others, as well as influences on us. Every believer must live with discipline in the face of the dangers of influence.
Jesus Warns About the Danger of Influence on Other Believers
The designation of Christians is "little ones." This does not refer to babies or children. At the point of personal trust, every believer is the same, like a little child. However sophisticated the professional, worldly-wise the business person, or brilliant the theologian, each must come to the same trust in God of a little boy or girl.
The destruction of a Christian results from negative influence. The warning rests on "tripping" another Christian into sin. The suggestion is that of a baited trap, set with the premeditated intent to entrap. Every single "one" of the believers is of ultimate value and must never be the object of our negative influence.
The destiny of one who so trips a believer into spiritual destruction is terrible. Actually, Jesus contrasted two terrible destinies, one preferable to the other. The thought of being weighted with a huge millstone and dropped into the open sea would strike terror into anyone. Yet, that is preferable to the destiny awaiting those who deliberately trip Christ's little ones.
Jesus Calls for the Discipline of Influence on Ourselves
We discipline our bodies in the face of temptation. Our organs of mobility (hands, feet) may take us toward sin. Our organs of perception (the eyes) may dwell on objects of sin. To refuse to discipline is to invite spiritual disaster. We are to deal with the first line of resistance, not the last avenue of escape.
Cutting off limbs and gouging out eyes are extreme cases not likely to occur. If the only alternative one faced was habitual sin or amputation, the latter would be better. But that is not the only alternative for a believer. We may discipline ourselves into subjection (1 Cor. 9:26-27). Jesus is comparing two courses of action to make a strong point. Actually, a blind person can lust and a footless person can move toward sin. The only course open is dedicated discipline empowered by Christ.
Jesus Presents the Dignity of Every Humble Believer
Every humble believer is the object of angelic observation (v. 10). Angels minister to God for the benefit of the saved (Heb. 1:14). They protect God's servant in danger and difficulty (Ps. 91:11; Matt. 4:6). In some way they observe our worship, and our conduct in worship should respect their observation.
Every humble believer is the object of divine preservation (vv. 12-14). There is a further reason why we should do no harm to childlike believers. A single, humble believer may seem insignificant and unimportant. Not so, says our Lord. The Father Himself takes pains to preserve every single one. We should discipline our influence with a sense of the dignity of every humble believer.