Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
Some sinners defend themselves by saying that if they had not tempted their comrades to evil, some one else would. If your action made no difference in the man's ultimate course, it is not excused. It may be true that the temptation would have come without you; it by no means follows that it would have been equally powerful if you had not put it in the way; your example may have given it special force. How often is this so between friends and near kindred! Obedience to God extends to the temptation that is likely to lead to sin. The eye, the hand, must be plucked out, cut off, if it proved a temptation too strong for the man's resistance. If the temptation is clearly too much for you, you are bound to put yourself in such a position that it shall not be able to reach you. But our Lord not only requires a man to deal thus with himself, but also with his neighbour. We are not allowed to suppose that our brother's conduct is indifferent to us. We are to have regard to the effect of our conduct upon others. Let us consider the form which this teaching takes in sonic of the ordinary relations of life.
I. Look at life in our own HOMES. The doctrine that each must look only to himself would not be admitted here. We are ready to interfere with what affects our comfort; are we as ready with loving care to remove stumbling-blocks. It is easy to expose selfishness, but not so easy to be perpetually setting an example of sacrifice.
II. THE RELATIONSHIP OF MASTER AND SERVANT is peculiarly one which calls for the constant care for one another. How many temptations can we remove from the path of servants if we give our thoughts to it. Living in a household, servants imbibe the principle of their masters. What a power for removing temptation from a child does every servant possess.
III. Look at SOCIETY and see how the rule applies there. In a Christian country society should have regard for the weaknesses of humanity; to mould the customs of society so as to put as few temptations as possible in the way of these weaknesses. True, the demand for this is not so strong here as in our own homes; but it is easier to recognize. In the home you deal with individuals, peculiarity and diversity of temperament, and it may be hard to recognize what is a temptation, and what the best way of removing it; but in regard to society we have no such difficulties; here we have to deal with the effects of temptation on thousands, and this does not admit of much doubt. Every member of society is responsible for his share in customs which create temptation.
IV. Consider this rule as applied to LEGISLATION. No act of legislation ought to pass without consideration as to its moral effects, its likelihood to increase or diminish the temptations of the people. It is often urged that man gains strength by conflict with temptation, and that the removal of temptation is a weakness. This not the entire truth: the removal of temptation is often the only thing which gives the soul time to gather the forces of grace to triumph.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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!