What is a Stumbling Block?

In many of the current discussions among Christians, I’ve heard it said that we should be careful not to be “stumbling blocks” to unbelievers. This is especially true in the origins debate. Many professing Christians that hold to evolution are concerned that Creationism, particularly the Young Earth variety, is a “stumbling block” for young people coming to the faith. This use of “stumbling block” made me curious about how Scripture uses the phrase. So, I did a search of my ESV bible and found the phrase used in three ways.

First, in the Old Testament prophets, the stumbling block is used to describe the sin of the people who have rejected God:

For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. Ezekiel 14:7

Or, it is something used by God as a punishment for sin:

Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will lay before this people stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble; fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’” Jeremiah 6:21

Second, in the New Testament, believers are warned about allowing their freedom to become a stumbling block to other believers, causing their brothers to sin:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:13-17

Lastly, also in the New Testament, Christ himself is described as a stumbling block:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

What was interesting to me in this study, albeit not an exhaustive one, is that the current preoccupation with making Christianity as unoffensive as possible isn’t a concern found in Scripture. Of course, we are commanded to be at peace with everyone as far as it is possible, and we should not be intentionally offensive to unbelievers. But I don’t believe we should soften the truth or reinterpret what Scripture teaches in order to accommodate those outside the household of faith.

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