«But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea» (Matthew 18:6).
The verdict found in this verse is one of the most frightening we can find in the entire Bible. Moreover, in the context of the New Testament, it makes us think of the seriousness of the offense. What does the sentence «causes one of these little ones to sin» (or to stumble, according to Mark) really mean?
The original Greek verb is scandalizo, which means putting an obstacle in the way of a person to cause them to stumble or fall. There are various interpretations of who these little ones are. There are Bible commentators who consider them to be young in faith or those who have just accepted Jesus in their lives; others understand them as the humble, the poor, the helpless, and the marginalized; there are also some who interpret them as minors, in other words, children. The truth is that the passage can refer to any of the above-mentioned groups, because it was normal for Jesus to defend vulnerable individuals, who were in a disadvantageous position and could fall victims to predators who took advantage of the helpless.
Since Jesus chose to use a child to illustrate His message (vv. 2-5), let’s think about the verse as it applies to children. Unfortunately, there are very common cases of sexual or physical abuse, many of which remaining unknown, since children tend to keep them secret out of fear. problem doesn’t have borders or social status and the risks are serious. In the short term, the victim can struggle with emotional distress, poor academic performance, difficulties in relating to others, or post-traumatic stress. In the long run, victims face depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, delinquency, or risky behavior. Moreover, poor self-esteem is a common problem of those who have been victims of child abuse. A recent research in the EBSCO database revealed 749 scientific studies that relate abuse to self-esteem problems of the last decade. This excludes popular articles, essays or reviews and is limited to professional publications.
The Lord condemns all violence, sexual abuse or deprivation of children’s basic needs. Those who have been exposed since childhood to these types of situations tend to feel guilty and inferior, even though these evils acts are not their fault or responsibility. In fact, God has a special affection for them and does not want them to suffer. Whether you were a victim or not, find comfort in the Psalmist’s words, “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler» (Ps. 91:4)