By David McClister
In the previous article by this same title it was shown that Jesus never did anything that was even morally questionable in the eyes of rational people. And if that is the example which Jesus has left for us, we must live that way also. We also said that we wish to consider three types of behavior in the light of Christ’s example. The first type was morally questionable behavior. Let us now consider the second type of behavior, again in the form of a question.
Would Jesus Ever Act So As To Lead Another Person To Sin, Whether In Word, Thought, Or Deed?
We know that Jesus kept His personal behavior above reproach at all times, but His concern for morality did not end with Himself. Jesus was always mindful of His influence upon others, and He never willfully did anything which caused others to stumble (sin). Here again the subject of morally neutral activities is important. There are many things which are permitted to the Christian which are neither right nor wrong in themselves. But if engaging in these things will influence a weaker person to practice them in excess and thus sin, or if our practice of them will lead another to do them and violate his conscience concerning them, then the Christian ought to have no part in them. We must be conscious of the influence and example we are setting before others, that we not allow it to cause another to sin.
A very good example of this attitude in action in the life of Christ is found in Matthew 17:24-27. It was asked whether Jesus would pay the temple tax which was collected from all Jews. Jesus, as the Son of God, was rightfully exempt from this temple support tax, and thus really was not obligated to pay it. However, lest His example of not paying should cause others to stumble (by refusing to pay the tax they owed), He told Peter to go to the sea and cast a hook. The fish he would catch would have a coin in its mouth sufficient to pay the tax for both Himself and Peter. It is important to notice that Jesus sacrificed His privilege so that others would not be led astray. This very same attitude is seen in the life of the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul shows us what privileges he gave up for the sake of preaching the gospel of Christ, and he exhorts the Corinthians (and us) to make similar sacrifices if they will help prevent some weaker one from sinning against his conscience or running into excess.
Some may object, however, on the ground of passages such as 1 Peter 2:8. There we are told that Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to some, particularly the Jews. Paul makes a similar claim about the Jews and the gospel in 1 Corinthians 2:23. Do not these passages teach us that Jesus is in a very real sense the reason why the Jews rejected the kingdom? We must realize that the Jews did indeed stumble at Christ and His gospel, but not because Jesus willfully wished it. Jesus focused the greater part of His ministry on earth upon the Jews, and the apostles were commissioned to preach to the Jews first. Jesus was a rock of offense to the Jews because they were stubborn and proud, unwilling to humble themselves to obey Him. Only in this sense did Jesus cause the Jews to sin; but it was not a deliberate or intentional result planned by the Lord. It was rather a sad consequence which the Jews brought upon themselves. See Matthew 23:37-39 and Romans 10:1-3. The fact remains thatJesus never intentionally or deliberately acted so as to cause another to sin.
Jesus was constantly aware of the kind of influence He should be leaving before others, and He never left a bad influence or example for anyone. He never did or said anything that might encourage someone to act recklessly or against his conscience. And so must His disciples be. Jesus described us, the citizens of His kingdom, as the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16). Both of these metaphors convey the idea of influence. We are to be influences for good in this world. It is our job to make this world a better place by our influence (which is molded by the gospel).
Now let us again examine some specific applications taken from the pool of activities which some try to justify as harmless or morally neutral. We could mention dancing again in this connection. Jesus would never have done it even if it were morally indifferent, simply because it would have left the wrong kind of influence: it would have led others to lust. We could also mention the wearing of immodest clothes again in this connection, and for the same reason. But let us look at two more activities which some defend, and ask, “Would Jesus do this?”
Drinking (Even Socially): Would Jesus Do That?
Is the picture we have of Jesus one of Him going up into the mountain to pray and carrying along a six-pack of beer? Can we picture Jesus talking to Nicodemus about the new birth while both are seated at the local bar sipping on martinis? Certainly not. Jesus would have refused to allow anyone to think that He in any way condoned the image that the world has of alcohol. The world equates drinking (and the world is not always so quick to make or acknowledge the difference between social drinking and drunkenness which some press) with carousing, reveling, rebellion, and lawlessness (and it is naive to think otherwise). Everyone – even the alcoholic – will admit that drinking kills thousands of people every year in one way or another, Certainly Jesus would never have let anyone suppose that He approved of it in any way. And if Jesus would not, neither should we.
“Stretching The Truth” or Hiding Part Of It: Would Jesus Do That?
There is a common saying, “What you do not know will not hurt you. ” It is often used to justify the practice of keeping back part of the truth when that truth may make one look bad in the eyes of others. Equally problematic is the practice of exaggerating or overemphasizing some parts of the truth in order to change the impression the truth may have upon others. Again we ask, would Jesus ever have done that? The answer is a flat “no.” Jesus always instructed me to speak honestly and truthfully with others. He denounced the Pharisaic system which allowed a man to make an oath and break it (Matt. 23:16-22). He and His apostles always stressed that whatever we say must be the honest truth (Matt. 5:37; Jas. 5:12). Thus as we live to copy Jesus’ example which never misled anyone, we must always speak and practice the truth. Anything else may cause others to sin.
Jesus was above reproach not only personally, but also in His contacts with and influence upon others. Not once do we ever observe Him doing or saying anything which was willfully designed to harm another spiritually. Moreover, He even sacrificed some privileges He had the right to enjoy out of a concern for how others would be influenced by His engaging in them. His influence was nothing but good. How about ours?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 5, pp. 136, 150
March 6, 1986