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.
Frank and Joe were trick-or-treating on Halloween when they came upon a table in front of a house. There was no one at the table, which was covered with wrapped candy bars.
Frank started picking up handfuls of candy bars and putting them in his bag. Joe stayed back and said to his friend, “Frank, shouldn’t we leave some for the other kids?”
“No one’s looking,” Frank responded. “Plus, what’ll they do if they catch us. It’s not like it’s against the law.”
Joe edged forward. He didn’t like the idea of doing something he felt was stealing. But Frank had a point. The candy was unattended, which made it fair game. After a short wait, he picked up a couple of handfuls and stuffed them in his sack.
Did Frank sin? Did Joe?
Paul says in today’s scripture that both probably sinned. Frank didn’t disobey anyone in taking more than a single candy bar or even two, but he did seem greedy. But his greater problem was that he encouraged Joe to do something that he felt was wrong. Joe believed in his heart that what Frank was doing was wrong, and so when he went ahead and took handfuls of candy, he sinned against what he believed to be true.
In the days when Paul was writing the letter to the Romans, it was common for the pagans in Rome to eat meat that had first been sacrificed to an idol (or a false god). Paul says that there’s no law that prevents even Christians from doing that, but Jews who strictly practiced their law still believed it to be wrong. When they became Christians, these Jews probably still held these beliefs in their hearts, and likely still had problems when they saw others eating the “off-limits” meat. Paul says that if one of those Jews – or anyone else who believed that way – went against their convictions and ate that meat, they would be sinning. And so would the person whose actions led them to commit the sin.
As Christians, it’s not enough to simply do what we think is right. We’re supposed to take other people into account and make sure we’re not encouraging them to do things they believe are wrong.
Today, pay special attention to your actions and think about the impact they have on other people. Pray that the Lord will help you encourage others only to do good and right things, and not to lead them down a path that would lead to sin for either of you.
Reflection copyright © 2015 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.