This morning I stumbled upon (pun intended – keep reading 🙂 ) a translation issue that had always kept me from understanding properly something that Jesus said.
In Matthew 18:8 Jesus says, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to _____, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire” (ESV).
Causes you to what? Almost every English translation says “sin” (NASB has “stumble” and KJV has “offend”). But the Greek word used here and in the parallel passages in Mark 9 and Luke 17 is the same word every time – skandalizo. It means to cause to stumble (+1 to NASB!).
In the context of this passage, Jesus is talking about entering the Kingdom by becoming like a little child – that is, by having a faith in him that’s simple and pure. In v6 he said, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (NASB).
Jesus isn’t talking about committing acts of sin (the word for “sin” is hamartano, and it’s used later in v15), but about causing people who believe in him to stumble and stop trusting him. He doesn’t say, “If your hand causes you to commit a sin, cut it off, otherwise that sin could prevent you from entering the Kingdom” (although sin is still very serious and you should stop!). He says, “If your hand causes you to stumble and turn from trusting in him, cut it off, because trusting in him is how you enter the Kingdom.”
Jesus came to deal with sin himself, and he did a very good job! So trust him, believe him, put your faith in him.
John 6:28-29 – Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (ESV).