Alternate reading: John 2:13-22
GOSPEL READING: Luke 17:1-6
1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, `I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said,”If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Meditation: What’s the driving force in your life? Jesus speaks of two forces at work in our lives – the power of the temptation to sin and cause harm and the power of faith to overcome obstacles and difficulties that stand in the way of loving God and our neighbor. The Greek word for temptation (scandalon) is the same as the English word scandal. The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Scriptures warn us about the snare or enticement to go astray and to do what is evil. “Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers!” (Psalm 141:9) “Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling” (1 John 2:10).
Jesus commands us to not give bad example or lead others into sin
The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith.
The power of faith for overcoming obstacles
While Jesus warns against the danger of giving bad example and causing scandal, he also demonstrates the power of faith for overcoming obstacles and temptation to sin and wrongdoing. What did Jesus mean when he said that our faith can move trees and mountains as well (see Matthew 17:20; Mark 11:23)? The term “mountain remover” was used for someone who could solve great problems and difficulties.
The Holy Spirit helps us to grow in faith and to rely on God’s strength
Don’t we often encounter challenges and difficulties which seem beyond our power or strength to handle? What appears impossible to human power is possible to those who believe in God’s power. Paul the Apostle reminds us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Do you trust in God’s help and rely on his strength when you are put to the test or led into temptation?
Faith is a gift freely given by God to help us know God personally, to understand his truth clearly, and to live in the power of his love and mercy freely. God calls us to be like him – holy, loving and wise. God expects more from us than we can simply do by ourselves. That is why the Lord Jesus unites us to himself through the gift of faith so that we may live in the power of his love through the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (Romans 5:5). The Lord gives us the strength of the Holy Spirit who helps us to grow strong in faith, persevere in hope, and endure in love.
Faith is the key that unlocks God’s power in our lives
Faith in God is the key for removing obstacles and difficulties which keep us from doing his will. We belong to God and our lives are no longer our own. Our joy and privilege is to follow the Lord Jesus and to serve in the power of his love, truth, and goodness. The Lord Jesus is ever ready to work in and through us for his glory. For our faith to be effective it must be linked with trust and with obedience – an active submission to God and a willingness to do whatever he commands. Do you trust in the grace and strength which God freely gives to help you resist temptation and to overcome obstacles in doing his will?
Lord Jesus, you give us victory over the destructive forces of sin and harmful desires that keep us from doing your will. Give me the strength to always choose what is good and to reject what is wrong. May your love and truth rule my heart that I may give good example to others and guide those who need your wise instruction and help.
1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein;
2 for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. [Selah]