7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. [some manuscripts add verse 11]And the Son of Man came to save those who are lost.
It seems to me that Jesus is dealing with a couple of issues here. One, the problem with temptation and even more specifically the problem with tempting someone else to sin. Two, the problem with looking down on someone who is a new born Christian. To illustrate his point He uses a strong, visually impacting analogy that in essence uses self mutilation to show the importance of the subjects lesson.
As a side note, there were many teachers (rabbis) in Jesus time who held the belief that you entered heaven in the same bodily state in which you died. In other words, if you died with no hand or missing a leg, you would live in heaven the same way.
To try and understand the point of this analogy let's look at the start of this line of reasoning in verse 7:
"What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting." [NLT]
For those of you who may think my NLT version of the bible is too "liberal", here is the KJV of the same verse:
"Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!"
Temptations are inevitable. Sorrow is the result of both being tempted and being a tempter. We have all been tempted and I would venture to say that we have all tempted someone. Usually when you think of tempting someone you get the picture of someone doing something obviously wrong, like drugs, and then saying to someone else "Come on man. Everyone's doing it. You'll love it." Essentially we view peer pressure as an example of temptation of someone else; and it is, but there is another problem here that I think Jesus wants us to consider.
First lets quickly look at what leads up to this teaching by Jesus:
Then He said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf is welcoming Me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:3-6
Now with our new verses, Matthew 18:7-9 we find out the seriousness of not only staying away from temptation but of being a tempter; all of which leads us to verses 10-11:
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. [some manuscripts add verse 11] And the Son of Man came to save those who are lost.
Remember that this whole teaching was brought on by the question from the disciples, "Who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus starts out by telling them that they must become like little children and ends this teaching here in verses 10-11 with the little children again, but now is discussing our responsibility toward the "little children".
What does a finger pointer look like?
An FP (finger pointer) is someone who points to the sin of another person and condemns them causing them to stumble or be tempted to give up on their faith in Jesus's ability to save them. The statement "their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father" shows that it is God's work to save them. He employs multitudes of angels to help even one small "child" to be saved. Verse 11 points us to the work of Jesus on the cross to save us. An FP is someone who points out sin while never doing the work of helping the sinner to be saved. An FP is not born again (a small child); because they still think they can do something to earn the favor of God. They still think they can fix their own problem and even worse, fix other peoples problems. Don't be an FP!
Pointing to the sin of others is the worse sort of temptation; because it causes them to doubt that God can help them. It causes them to lose faith. Instead, look to yourself. Know that Jesus came to save you and that God has a legion of angels already working to save you. Trust in God's ability to solve your sin problem, and as he makes changes in your life share what he has done for you as an encouragement to others. Remember the weak state that you are in and know that others are in the same state. Be a source of encouragement, be a source of help, of love and of strength. Encourage faith in Jesus, for he is the one who can and will save us. Having this meek and humble spirit of love and encouragement can make you the "Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven".
Here are some other verses that support this point:
Dear Loving Father
Thank You so much for what You have done through Your Son Jesus. Thank you for not condemning me but for saving me. Help me to be an encouragement to others. Please be with all the people that are heavy on my heart. Please be with my family and friends and keep them safe. Please be with my wife in her travels and bring her back with the message that you want her to share with others.
Please guide Ken as he is seeking to find Your Will. Make it plain to Him Lord and help him to find that place where he can step out in faith and move in the direction that You want. Protect his household and please provide for their needs.
Please be with the bible studies. Lord, help us to continue down this path of seeing You as our only source of salvation and help us to continue to listen to Your voice. Use us Lord to do Your good work.
Thank you for answering these prayers and for all that you provide. Thank you for your love and mercy and long suffering. Change my heart Lord. Amen.