Offending others or being offended
In Luke 17:1-2 Jesus declares that “offenses will come,” but then adds, “but woe be to the one who cause offenses”. In Matthew 18:1-10 we learn that Jesus particularly warns Christians of the dire consequences that will befall those who offend little children or young Christians. In Acts 24:16 Paul testified that as a Christian, his desire was to live in such a way that he kept his conscience pure, void of offense towards God and towards men.
Don’t offend Uncle Sam!
For one thing, it’s not wise to offend the government by refusing to pay our taxes. Jesus taught Peter a lesson about that in Matthew 17:24-27. Someone had come to Peter and asked if Jesus paid His taxes. Peter affirmed that He did. Shortly after this exchange, Peter came to where Jesus was staying that day. Before Peter could bring up the subject to Jesus about his conversation concerning taxes, Jesus introduced the subject with a question directed to Peter. “Do kings collect taxes from their own children, or do they collect from strangers?” Jesus was referring to the fact that this is our Father’s world. We are children of the King. Peter correctly replied, “They collect them of strangers.” Jesus continued, “Then the children are free from paying taxes, are they not? Notwithstanding, lest we offend and upset those government officials, and get ourselves into needless trouble, we pay our taxes.”
Then before Peter could ask Jesus where they were going to get the money to pay taxes, Jesus showed His humor about such weighty matters as paying taxes. He directed Peter, the Master Fisherman, to go throw a hook and line into the sea and catch a fish. When Peter unhooked the fish, he found in the fish’s mouth enough money to cover both his own taxes and the taxes Jesus owed.
Note, in this true story that though this earth belongs to Jesus who will one day rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and as such, He and His family owe no one any tax; yet, in order to avoid offense, He teaches Peter and us to just pay our taxes and be done with it. Don’t argue about it and raise a big fuss over something so trivial.
The Bible is clear in Romans 13:1-8 about the obligation of Christian’s to submit themselves to governmental authority and pay our taxes. But I like Jesus’ attitude about this weighty matter. Taxes? No big deal! Just pay them. God will provide the money to do what you ought to do. I like His humor about the whole matter. Go fish for it.
Let’s get back to our text in Luke 17:1-2. From this text learn the following lessons.
1. WE ALL OFFEND
In James 3:1-10 we learn that we all offend others by the careless things we say and sometimes by the way we say them. Most of us don’t mean to offend. It just happens as we speak without thinking. Sometimes we are careless, thoughtless, insensitive, calloused, self-righteous and even rude. Sometimes in our pride we boast that “we don’t pull any punches, but tell it like it is!” That’s fine. There is nothing wrong or unloving in speaking the truth in love and humility. But those who like to boast about it often develop a calloused attitude about offending others.
We offend by our selfishness and lack of consideration of others. Some of us lack empathy, the ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes, and so offend others.
We offend God and we sin when we speak and act in the flesh, not understanding the truth of God’s Word. Peter had that problem more than once, as you can see in Matthew 16:21-23 and also in the 17th chapter when he was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.
2. MOST OF US ARE OFFENDED AT TIMES
This is especially true if we are self-centered and concerned more about our own feelings than the feelings of others and for the glory of God. Some people are touchy and must always be handled with kid gloves lest we offend them. The more we grow in Christ, the less we will be offended by others, If we are growing in the Lord, when offended by others by their rude words and surly attitudes, we will feel more sorry for them than for ourselves. In a mature Christian, offenses run off like water off a duck’s back.
3. THE CONSEQUENCES OF OFFENDING OTHERS
In Luke 17:1-2 and Matthew 18:6-7 Christ pronounces woes on those who would dare to offend others; especially children and immature young Christians. Such are living dangerously. God takes this matter of offending others very seriously!
4. HOW CAN WE AVOID OFFENDING AND BEING OFFENDED?
Going back to Jesus’ warning about offending children in Matthew 18:1-10, Jesus instructs us to cut off our hand or pluck out our eye before we allow these members of our body to offend others. Of course, Jesus is using hyperbole to make His point. Sin does not come from the hands or the eyes; but from the heart. At the same time He is showing the seriousness of offending others.
So, how can we avoid offending others without mutilating our bodies? Certainly we need to read God’s Word and pray daily prayers such as, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 and “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there by any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.
We can consider our spiritually weaker brothers and sisters who are sometimes offended by the freedom that we demonstrate in Christ. Weak, untaught Christian do not know or understand that liberty. They are so caught up in their efforts to obey rules. By considering their feelings, we can forgo exercising our liberty in some areas when in their presence to avoid needlessly offending them.
I Corinthians 10:24-33 gives an example of eating meat offered to idols. We know that an idol is nothing but a lifeless, worthless object of wood, stone, metal or plastic. Heathen offered their meat to idols. Of course, the idols did not eat it, so later they sold that meat in the market. Some weak Christians, coming out of that life of heathenism, refused to eat such meat lest they suffer guilty consciences. Mature Christians, realizing that there was no problem with the meat, just bought it, ate it and thanked God for it. However, the weaker Christian felt that it was sinful to eat it. Therefore Paul admonishes us as stronger Christians to refrain from exercising our freedom in such matters in the presence of weaker Christians, than to needlessly offend them.
Another way in which we can avoid being offensive to others is to consider carefully how we speak to others. Consider what we say and consider the tone of voice in which we speak. Is it harsh and rude?
Ask you spouse or your children or the person to whom you speak. They’ll probably tell you the truth. If they tell you that you sounded harsh or rude, humble yourself before God and confess your rudeness to that person. Thank them for being honest with you and ask God to help you learn to be more empathetic, that is, learn to put yourself in another’s shoes. You will have taken a big step in your Christian walk when you put the feelings of others before your own feelings.
Ask God, as Paul in Acts 24:16, to give you a holy desire to make an effort to always to keep a blameless conscience before God and before others.
Study to understand the truth of being crucified with Christ as taught in Romans 6:1-7, Colossians 3:1-3 and Galatians 2:20. If we have died and risen with Christ, we are dead to the offenses of others.
5. FINALLY, LEARN TO GLORY IN THE OFFENSE OF THE CROSS
Paul taught in Galatians 5:11 that the offense of the cross is something that we as Christians must not avoid. If you have determined to be known as a friend of Christ, you will find that the enemies of Christ keep you at arm’s length and you will share in Christ’s offense. In I Corinthians 1:23-31 he refers to the Gospel as foolishness in the eyes of the world. In Romans 9:33 Paul refers to Christ as a stumbling block and a rock of offense to the world. In I Peter 2:6-8 Peter refers to Christ as a rock of offense to the world, but He is precious to us as Christians.
The highest level of spiritual maturity on this earth is achieved when Christ and His cross is our only glory. Paul writes about it in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.” That is, the world’s values and accolades are vain and meaningless to us and Christ is everything to us.
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