OFFENDING and BEING OFFENDED
We shall clearly see shortly from the mouth of Jesus Himself
that OFFENDING others is a very serious matter. First, let's see
how a popular English Dictionary defines the word "offend."
"1. to hurt the feelings of, make angry, displease ...... 2. to
affect in an unpleasant or disagreeable way...... 3..... to cause
to sin: If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out (Matthew
5:29). 4.....a. to sin against; wrong (a person). b. to violate;
transgress (a law).... (World Book Dictionary).
W.E.Vine has much to say on the words in the Greek NT that would
come under the subject of this study. We shall concentrate on the
Greek word "skandalon" and "skandalizoo" which comes from the
word "skandalon." Here is what Vine says:
"1. skandalon (he gives the Greek and then the number 4625 as in
Strong's Concordance - Keith Hunt) originally was the name of a
part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence, the trap or
snare itself, as in Rom.11:9, RV, 'stumblingblock,' quoted from
Psa.69:22, and in Rev.2:14, for Balsam's device was rather a trap
for Israel than a stumblingblock to them, and in Matt.16:23, for
in Peter's words the Lord perceived a snare laid for Him by
'In the NT skandalon is always used metaphorically, and
ordinarily of anything that arouses the prejudice, or becomes a
hinderance to others, or causes them to fall by the way.....'
(From Notes on Galatians by Hogg and Vine, p.262)......
skandalizoo (he gives the Greek and number 4624 as in Strong's
Concordance - Keith Hunt), from skandalon (Offence....),
signifies 'to put a snare or stumblingblock in the way,' always
metaphorically in the NT, in the same ways as the noun .... It is
used 14 times in Matthew, 8 in Mark, twice in Luke, twice in
John; elsewhere in 1 Cor.8:13 (twice) and 2 Cor.11:29...-
End of quote from Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old
and New Testament Words.
This study will focus on giving offence that causes someone
to stumble or fall, and the other side of the coin, how to
safe-guard ourselves from being offended and hence our possible
THE IMPORTANCE OF NOT OFFENDING SOMEONE
Anyone who has lived for any length of time, even a very
young child, and had contact with other human beings, will have
experienced being offended, and also offending others in some
shape, manner, or form. Our inner emotions tell us when we are
offended, by what someone has said to or about us, as well as
what they may have done towards us in actions. And the look on
the face or the tone of voice, as well as what might be openly
said to us, or their actions towards us, from others, tells us
when we have offended others.
Sooner or later in life, most of us will experience being
offended, and it is the rare individual who goes through life
never offending others. Getting offended is one thing, for that
is something that takes place first of all WITHIN us, in the
mind, and then may or may not manifest itself OUT of us, in our
words and/or actions. Getting offended can be much easier to
control or shall we say, not allow ourself to be overcome by or
consumed with, if we are a strong willed person who has learnt
how to master their emotions. But offending others can be far
more complicated and often much harder to control. Why? Well for
on very simple reason. You can be a master at controlling every
word and physical action that comes from you as you converse with
other people, but the fact is that some people will get offended
merely by the way you LIVE, by you being the very person you are.
You may be working in a company where you have little or no
verbal contact with a certain person, but when in the same room,
you know by their actions or the way they look at you that they
are offended by you. They know what you are in personality
and/or manner of life (your beliefs and practices) and they are
offended by you.
The Bible has much to say about this topic of offending and
being offended. It is indeed a two sided coin. There is the
aspect of what God's word has to say about NOT offending OTHERS,
which will include looking at that side of the coin as to
offending others in a deliberate way, and the fact that we offend
some merely by our Christian life style of beliefs and practices.
We need to understand what God says on both aspects of that side
of the issue.
Jesus pulled no punches on this subject. He spoke plainly
about the seriousness of not offending others to cause them to
stumble and fall.
"But whoso shall OFFEND one of these little ones which
believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were
hanged about his neck, and that he was drowned in the depth
of the sea. Woe unto the world because of OFFENSES! for it
must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by
whom the offense comes!" (Mat.18:6,7).
Such is the way of the human heart in the world. Offenses
will be part of the way of living in this world, at some point in
time, but Jesus said "woe to that man by whom the offense comes."
And He had already explained in no uncertain words about the
seriousness of those who give offence and what would have been
better for them (verse 6).
Because it was such a serious matter Jesus went on to say
that every effort should be made by a person NOT to cause to
stumble and fall ANYONE, but especially the little new and in
many ways the weak ones coming to Him and the Father. Note the
following carefully, all added comments are mine.
"Wherefore if your hand or your foot (what you literally perform
and do) offend you (causes you to help stumble and fall another)
cut them off, and cast them from you (get rid of your offensive
actions), it is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed
(doing without an action that you maybe in Christ have a liberty
to have - see what Paul said in Romans 14:13,21), rather than
having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
And if your eye offend you (what you perceive and see as your
right and liberty to think and act and speak), pluck it out and
cast it from you (if it is going to cause someone to fall and
stumble from salvation): it is better for you to enter into life
with one eye (not doing all the things in word and action you
possibly have liberty to do in Christ - Romans 14:13,21
principle, as well as the wrong things of the mouth and actions
that would cause someone to fall from salvation), rather than
having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
TAKE HEED that you despise not (by giving offense as to cause to
stumble) ONE of these LITTLE ONES; for I say unto you, that in
heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which
is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to SAVE that which WAS
LOST. How think you? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of
them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and
goes into the mountains, and seeks after that which has gone
astray? And if so be that he finds it, truly I say unto you, he
rejoices more over that sheep than the ninety and nine which went
not astray. Even so it is NOT THE WILL of your Father which is in
heaven, that ONE of these little ones should PERISH" (verses
God the Father is in the business of SAVING souls, bringing
them back from being lost, and saving them into eternal life. He
does not want to see ANYONE perish (2 Peter 3:9). Hence those
already called and chosen, those already walking in truth and
light, already a part of His family, had better make sure they
are extremely careful in word and deed, not to cause anyone to
stumble and fall from salvation that the Father is working with
to bring to eternal life, especially the little ones who are new
in the faith, and so in many ways the weaker ones, who can then
in many ways be that much more easy to offend and be made to
stumble and fall.
We as Christians need to understand very clearly that our
Father in heaven does not want us to be like a "bull in a china
shop" walking around crashing and smashing and stepping on others
with our mouth or actions, especially those who are of fine
delicate china, that will just about break from a bad look from
someone, let alone the wrong word or action at the wrong time
from someone either just carnally sinning against them, or
even using the liberty they have in Christ, when they should be
refraining from using that liberty (all that Paul was talking
about in Romans 14).
We must really come to understand this very important
principle, command, and law of the NT (New Testament), about not
causing offense as to cause others to stumble away from
righteousness and salvation. If you have not yet come to see the
importance of this instruction from Jesus then you need to mark
with a yellow marker in your Bible these words of Christ as found
in Matthew 13:41-42.
"The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall
GATHER OUT of His kingdom ALL things that OFFEND (cause to
stumble and fall), and them which do iniquity; And shall
cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and
gnashing of teeth."
The NT shows that those who first come to Christ are as
"babes in Christ" - still on the "milk of the word" - still
having to put down firm solid roots into the good ground to
establish themselves and to make their calling and election sure
(2 Peter 1:1-11). They are at this stage in their salvation the
MOST vulnerable to spiritual attack and stumbling as to falling
away. They can be at this point in their walk with the seed of
the Word, be easily offended by others, by persecutions, by
trials, and so fall and stumble away from God (see Mark 4:16-17).
We need to make sure that it is not us, in word or action, that
causes someone to fall from the grace of God. Those new little
ones in Christ, we especially need to be careful with, to help
strengthen, encourage, love, serve with kindness and humbleness
and gentleness, so they can be built-up in Christ and lay down
good firm solid roots that can never be plucked up by any wind,
storm, or adversity that may come from the world or Satan who is
still roaming around like a lion trying to devour and kill anyone
he can (1 Peter 5:8).
In all this context we are, and Jesus was, talking about the
family of God, those whom the Father was calling, seeking after,
working with, wanting in His family NOW, in this life time, and
how we were to conduct ourselves within that context, and within
and among those of the Father's children, as His household of
faith. We are talking in this context as we should have our
responsibility towards every other individual in the Church of
the living God. I will have more to say on this as we look later
at what Paul wrote on the subject in certain specific ways and
situations that were happening in the churches of Rome and
Before all that, I do want to address the situation that
certainly arose with Jesus as He taught and preached and lived
during His three and one half year ministry. The situation that
some were offended by Christ by the fact of who He said He was,
how He taught (with power and authority) and by how He lived and
what He said at times. I refer you to Mark 6:5-6 and John 6:60-66
for just two examples.
Jesus knew that not all who could be classified as
"disciples" of His were called and chosen by the Father. They
were "interested" in what He had to say and teach, to a point
only. Most of the population of Palestine, including the
religious leaders of the Jewish sects of His day, were far from
coming to God in humility and repentance. Most of the population
were not being called or chosen (John 6:44,65) by the Father at
that time. They were not then a part of the family of God, nor
were they apart of the "little ones that believe on me" as Jesus
It is just a fact of this physical human life that there
will be many, the majority out there, who could be "offended" in
their mind by the mere fact that we are who we are. By the fact
we say we are Christians, by the fact that we believe and read
the Bible, by the fact that we hold to certain doctrinal beliefs,
and practice certain ways of living that even effect physical
things we do or do not do. By the fact that we do our very best
in word and actions towards all these people, so not to upset
them and get them angry and hostile towards us, from the fact
that we are who we are as Christians, many of them may be
offended in and at us.
This was surely true of Jesus. Many in His day were offended
in and at Him by Him being and living and talking in a way of
life that was simply being a Son of the Father in heaven.
Having people being offended at you because you live and talk and
walk as a child of the heavenly Father, is NOT WHAT JESUS WAS
TALKING ABOUT in the verses we have so far looked at.
Such living, while trying even to be kind and polite to the
unconverted world, will in many cases automatically give offence
to those who are unconverted and not being called by the Father
to His light of truth. We need to just be careful that we live
and move around this world to be under the directions of what
Peter said as to how to conduct ourselves in the world (1 Peter
2:12-20). We need to practice "well doing" that we may put to
silence the "ignorance" of foolish men. If we suffer by the hands
of them, we need to make sure it is far "well doing" which is
then pleasing to God.
Yes, we are to try to live "peaceably with all men" as Paul
said we should (Romans 12:18), as much as is within our power. We
are to do all the things that Paul said in that last part of
chapter 12 as we live in this world and rub shoulders with those
not called to the family of God at this time. Yet the fact
remains, as it was with Jesus, who did all these things perfectly
and without sin, some will be offended at us for being Christians
and living the way we live.
We can do nothing about this. The Father understands this.
Jesus understands this. He lived it. That situation is not what
Christ was discussing in these verses of giving no offense to the
little ones that believe in Him and that the Father is searching
and seeking as the lost sheep to bring home.
OFFENCE FROM THE MOUTH
The word of the Lord has a great deal to say about the mouth
and the words that come out of it. Jesus said that from the
abundance of the heart the mouth did speak. Of course the mouth
brings forth words only as was first in the mind which then tells
the mouth to speak or not to speak.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:2,3 wrote: "Be not rash with your
mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before
God: for God is in heaven, and you upon earth: therefore let your
WORDS BE FEW. For a dream comes through the multitude of
business, and a fool's voice is known by MULTITUDES OF WORDS."
Many of us need to carry around this wise proverb in our
wallets or handbags and read it often through the months of the
year. It really would do wonders for us in our daily lives if we
make it a part of our practice and way of living. To put it in
the modem vernacular, it is saying: Think before you speak, put
your mind into gear before you speak, and do not speak as much
and as often as you may want to.
Solomon also wrote: "A word FITLY spoken is like apples of
gold in pictures of silver" (Prov.25:11).
Just imagine solid apples of gold, say about half a dozen of
them, think of the value of them in green backs they would be
worth. Then place them in a solid silver frame, the value in
dollars even more now. Not just the dollar value would be great,
but the beauty of such to look at would be magnificent. Such is
the value and beauty of someone who has mastered the control of
the tongue and knows how and when to speak.
But alas, even for far too many Christians, the tongue seems
to be one of the hardest and last enemies that is brought under
subjection to the mind of Christ. James was writing to Christians
of the twelve tribes of Israel (James 1:1-2) and he had to write
to them about the power of the tongue for evil or good.
Let us remind ourselves in this study of not offending
others by reading what he wrote about the control of the tongue,
so we can remember that it is often through the tongue FIRST that
we give offense and cause someone to stumble and fall.
"We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who
can claim that he never says wrong thing can consider
himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can
control every other part of his personality! Men control the
movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit
placed in its mouth. Ships too, for all their size and
momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are
controlled by a very small rudder according to the course
chosen by the helmsman. The human tongue is physically
small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole
forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire, and the
tongue is a fire, a whole world of evil. It is set within
our body members but it can poison the whole body, it can
set the whole of life ablaze, fed with the fires of hell.
Beasts, birds, reptiles and all kinds of sea-creatures can
be, and if fact are, tamed by men, but no one can tame the
human tongue. It is an evil always liable to break out, and
the poison it spreads is deadly. We use the tongue to bless
out Lord and Father and we use the same tongue to curse our
fellow-man, who are all created in God's likeness. Blessing
and curses come out of the same mouth - surely, my brothers,
this is the sort of thing that never ought to happen! Have
you ever known a spring to give sweet and bitter water from
the same source? Have you ever seen a fig-tree with a crop
of olives, or seen figs growing on a vine? It is just as
impossible for salt water to produce fresh" (James 3:2-12,
Phillips Modem English translation).
Indeed, how many family fights, where people bless and then
curse each other, have been started by the words that come from
the tongue? How many families have been torn apart for days or
months and even for years, because of things that were said by
those family members to one another or to others, coming from the
mouth that would then bless someone else or give praises to God
at their church. The bickering, the slander, the gossip, the
bad-mouthing, the caustic remarks, the "poking-fun-at," the
cutting sarcasms, the belittling, and all the other evils and
un-pleasantries that can come from the lips, even the lips of
Christians towards and about other Christians .... well it's a
good job people are not recording us all the time, then again if
we knew people were recording us, I think our speech would be
often very different than what it is at times.
James makes it clear than if we have good control over our
tongue, using it in a way that is pleasing to our heavenly
Father, we are well on the way to spiritual maturity and
perfection that Jesus said should be our aim in our Christian
Let us, with the power of the Spirit of the Lord, really get
to grips with this little member of ours and control our speech
so we will not offend the members of the body of Christ,
especially the "little ones."
OFFENDING OUR BRETHREN THROUGH ACTIONS
Read through the NT it is not hard to find the verses that
are clear and plain regarding actions of sin and gross misconduct
that doing to others could very well lead them to be offended and
to stumble and fall, to think and say to themselves, "well if
that is acting as a Christian towards me then I do not want
anything to do with the Bible and Christianity." Many have so
been offended by those calling themselves "Christian" and have
walked away from serving God, because of the actions of others
towards them, who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ.
We can see some of the 'works of the flesh" very openly
listed by Paul in Galatians 5, verses 19 to 21.
"Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear
(obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency,
idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill
temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit
(fractions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), envy,
drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand,
just as I did previously, that those who do such things
shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Amplified Bible).
It is not very hard to put some of these words that describe
some of the works of the flesh, into real life situations that
some Christians have done towards other Christians, and see that
such could cause some to stumble and fall, be so offended, that
they walk away from not only the family of God but the Father and
Christ, and walk right back into the world and the net of Satan.
There have been some young ladies in the Church of God who have
been taken advantage of in a sexual manner by men in the Church
of God, some of the men were minsters. The damage of this
immorality, indecency, and selfishness on the part of these men,
was in some cases un-repairable with some of the ladies, who
became so offended they did stumble away from God, while others
have for years (and maybe still) been fighting a terrible
spiritual battle to stay alive in the family of God.
The heresies, out-and-out crazy theology ideas that have
come among the children of God at times (as Peter said they would
- 2 Peter 2) have destroyed and caused to fall many who have left
the straight and narrow way of the Lord, and some even to the
physical death of themselves in suicide.
Many Christians acting out of strife and anger (ill
tempter), together often with division and party spirit, have
been responsible for offending some to the point of giving up on
all religion that calls itself "Christian" and will have nothing
whatsoever to do with reading the Bible.
We could go on with more examples of the effects of the
works of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5 and in other passages
of the NT, but there is no need, as most people can see the plain
obvious from such works that may be done by some in the Church of
God towards others who are part of the same family of people.
What is more insidious and far less open and harder to see and
then to acknowledge, is the actions and practices of life that
are within the liberty and law of God, which people in the family
of God can do with the Father's blessing as such, but which if
done towards and in the presence of some children of God, could
cause them to be offended and to stumble.
The principle of this is given by Paul in 1 Cor.10:23,24.
"All things (that are within the law of God) are lawful for
me (to practice), but all things are not expedient
(profitable for spiritual growth in others): all things
(that are within the law of God) are lawful for me (to
perform), but all things (that I may have lawful freedom to
practice) edify not (other people to spiritual maturity and
strength). Let (because of this) no man seek his own (doing
what he may lawfully do in God's sight), but every man
another's (spiritual wellbeing and growth to maturity)"
We shall first see from the book of Romans, chapter 14, how
Paul himself expounds and explains his comments in the above two
verses. I shall be quoting from the Amplified Bible.
"As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him (into
your fellowship), but not to criticize his opinions or pass
judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions.
One (man's faith permits him to) believe he may eat anything
(within the foods laws of God - Keith Hunt), while a weaker
one (limits his) eating to vegetables. Let not him who eats
look down on or despise him who abstains....."
Paul is speaking about the ones that Jesus spoke about - the
"little ones" who believe on Christ and coming to join the family
of God. They are new in the faith, still relatively as babes in
Christ, they come sometimes with pre-conceived ideas and
theological practices which may not be the entire truth, but what
they have at times is not wrong either, such as someone believing
they should not eat meat, but eat in a way that today we say they
are "a vegetarian" in diet. No where in the entire Bible,
certainly not under the NT, does God demand and command anyone to
eat meat. If someone wants to be a "vegetarian" in diet under the
NT they have that freedom and liberty in Christ to so order their
diet in that manner. On the other hand God's word in its complete
fullness shows that eating meat (clean meat under His dean laws
of meat eating - Lev.11; Deut.14) is also approved by Him, if
someone so wishes to regulate their diet to contain some meat
Let's take it one step further. Someone new to the faith,
hence in that sense "weak" in the faith, comes into the Church of
God believing it is wrong to eat meat, their theological
understanding at that time says to them that meat eating is
condemned by God. For them to eat meat or even be in the presence
of someone in the church who is eating meat would defile their
conscience and really up-set them. Is the meat eating church
member who invites them over for a meal and fellowship to serve
them a meat dish? Is that member while maybe not serving them
meat, eat a big huge T-bone steak in front of them during that
meal? Paul would most emphatically, as we shall clearly see, say
"no" to both questions. Under that situation the kindness and
best way to ensure the weak brother/sister is not offended, is to
serve and eat no meat whatsoever at that meal.
Notice it as Paul explains a little later, "None of us lives
to himself (but to the Lord)," (verse 7). We are to do things,
those actions of deeds, that will be pleasing under that specific
situation, to serve the Lord in helping and bringing a weaker
brother in theological issues (such as the theological topic of
eating meat or not eating meat as within the law of God) to
maturity, and it may be that the mature thing to do is accept the
weaker brother with his views until he/she grows in grace and
knowledge. Not to do anything that may cause them to feel
defiled, sin against their conscience, and so possibly stumble
If we do the wrong action, then we may have put ourselves in
the position where Paul says, "Why do you criticize and pass
judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or
despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment
seat of God...." We shall all have to answer for any wrong words
or actions we may have done to others to hurt their feelings,
especially if it is towards those who are still weak in the
faith, and have yet to learn much more about the word and truths
of the Lord, which you may have already come to see, have already
grown into those truth, but they still have not.
Because of all this, because we shall have to answer to the
Lord as to how we have conducted ourselves towards each other and
even more so towards the weaker brother in the faith, Paul
continues to say, "Then let us no more criticize and blame and
pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor
never to PUT A STUMBLING BLOCK or an obstacle or a hinderance in
the way of a brother" (verse 13). Paul continues to expound on
his thought in verse 15, "But if your brother is being pained or
his feelings hurt or if he is being injured by what you eat. (You
have ceased to be living and conducting yourself by the standard
of love towards him.) Do not let what you eat hurt or cause the
ruin of one for whom Christ died!
If you go ahead do something that you may be entirely at
liberty to do in the sight of God and within His law, but a
brother cannot see that and is offended by what you do in his
sight, he may well speak evil of you, so speaking evil of an
action that is really proper but he not knowing or understanding
that it is. That situation Paul then addressed in verse 16, "Do
not therefore let what seems good to you be considered an evil
thing (by someone else). (In other words, do not give occasion
for others to criticize that which is justifiable for you.)"
There are many things we could do that would come under this
principle that Paul is laying down, being careful in our actions
not to hurt or offend or cause to stumble a brother or sister in
the fellowship of Christ. Paul still goes on to further expound
this very important teaching of living ones life and doing things
in front of others that takes into consideration what you know is
their feeling of emotion and theological belief on such matters.
"The right thing is to eat no meat, or drink no wine (at
all), or (do anything else) if it makes your brother stumble
or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him. Your
personal convictions (on such matters) - exercise (them) as
in God's presence, keeping them to yourself (striving only
to know the truth and obey His will). Blessed (happy, to
be envied) is he who has no reason to judge himself for what
he approves (who does not convict himself by what he chooses
to do)" (verses 21,22).
Remember now, this is all talking about only those things
that are WITHIN the law of Gad, it is not talking about doing
something outside of the will and law and commandments of God,
and you being quite content within your conscience to practice
such unlawful deeds. Paul is talking about doing things that you
know are approved of by God, allowed by the Lord, that you have
freedom do practice within the law of the Lord, but another
Christian brother has not yet come to see that, they are still
weak in the faith on that point. Paul continues,
"But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy
conscience) about eating, and then eats (perhaps because of
you), stands condemned (before God), because he is not true
to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For
whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin
(whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by
God is sinful)" (verse 23).
All this is in the context of how the more mature Christian
person, the more grounded in the truths and faith of God,
individual, should live in actions when in the presence of those
"little ones" - those babes in Christ, those weak in the faith.
Paul makes this plain that this is the context as we see from the
first verses of chapter 15.
"We who are strong (in our convictions and of robust faith)
ought to bear with the feelings and the frailties and the
tender scruples of the weak; (we ought to help carry the
doubts and qualms of others) and not to please ourselves.
Let each of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his
neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him
(to strengthen him and build him up spiritually). For Christ
did not please Himself (gave no thought to His own
interests); but, as it is written, The reproaches and abuses
of those who reproached and abused you fell on Me (Ps.69:9)"
Paul found it necessary to teach this overall principle of
loving your fellow man by being careful of the things you do
towards them, and in their presence, to the church at Corinth. We
find his instruction in what we call his first letter (actually
he wrote to them before that letter at least one other), chapter
ten. We pick it up in verse 23, the added comments and
amplification is mine.
"All things (that are within the will and laws of God) are
lawful for me (permissible and legitimate for me to do), but
all things (within God's law) are not expedient (helpful,
profitable and edifying for spiritual maturity for others):
all things (allowed by God) are lawful for me, but all
things (I may do and practice) edify not (they may cause
someone to be offended and stumble in their growth towards
Christ).Let no man seek his own (seek his own pleasure only,
his own advantage and profit), but every man another's (let
him be mindful of his neighbors spiritual welfare and
feelings on certain matters)" (verses 23,24).
Now before we read the next verses we need to understand the
background from which Paul is expressing and bringing forth his
example. The pagan religions had their Temples, their Priesthood,
and their animal sacrifices, all done towards worship of their
gods. Often their would be much meat of the animal left over from
their sacrificial altar. It was not just thrown out or given to
the dogs, but taken and sold in the common meat-market of the
town. Often the meat was "clean" meat as far as the laws of
"clean and unclean" foods were concerned in the Scriptures of the
OT (Old Testament). No problem there, but because it had been
offered on a pagan altar to a false pagan god, many Jews and
Christians would deem the meat "spiritually" unclean and would be
offended by the thought of buying and eating it. To them it would
be as if they were partaking in the worship of an idol, and hence
doing something that would be against the will of the true God.
Their conscience would be defiled.
The meat itself and the animal from which it came had done
no wrong. The animal did not say, "well I'll worship this idol
and I will kill myself in sacrifice to this idol" so there was no
evil in the meat per se. But the conscience of someone eating
that meat might be defiled if they ate it because they would have
in their mind the view that they were worshipping an false idol
of paganism. But others knowing that the meat itself was not to
blame for false idol worship and knowing that there was nothing
defiled within the meat itself, would buy and eat that meat from
the meat-market, their conscience not being defiled one bit. They
knew it was within the laws of God to so buy and eat such meat,
and that the Lord did not hold them as sinning by so doing.
This is what Paul is now talking about in the following
"Whatsoever is sold in the shambles (market place), that eat
(that which is within the foods laws of God), asking no
question (no need to ask if it had been at one time on a
pagan altar in a pagan temple) for conscience sake (your
conscience as it knows that the meat is not evil of itself):
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof (you
know the word of God and so you know you are not defiled by
eating any clean meat, even if it was once upon the altar of
If (on the other hand) any of them that believe NOT bid you
to a feast (a meal of any kind) and you be disposed to go;
whatsoever (in the way of clean foods) is set before you,
eat, asking no question for conscience sake (no need to
worry about asking if the food had ever been offered to a
false god in a religious ceremony, for your conscience knows
very well that such food is not evil in itself).
But, if any man say unto you, 'This is offered in sacrifice
unto idols,' eat NOT for his sake that said this to you, eat
not for conscience sake (for the earth is the Lord's, and
the fullness thereof): Conscience I say, NOT YOUR OWN, BUT
OF THE OTHER (for if you eat it is his conscience and mind
that will be offended, made weak, be upset, possibly made to
stumble and fall as far as growing in knowledge of truth and
of Christ). For why is my LIBERTY (I know the truth on this
matter, I know it is within my Christian liberty to eat this
food) judged of another's conscience? (I'm not going to
refrain normally speaking and if I was under a different
situation where no person was present who was upset in their
conscience about someone eating such meat offered in
sacrifice to idols).
For if I by grace (knowing the truth of God, being
spiritually more mature and having been given more knowledge
and grace) be a partaker (use my liberty in so eating that
food), why am I evil spoken of for that which I give thanks
(I should not be evil spoken of, as someone doing something
evil or sinful, but with their conscience defiled, upset,
weakened, offended, by the fact I may eat this food offered
to idols, they, the offended person, may well believe I'm
doing evil and tell others I've done evil, so to prevent
that from happening, I will not eat that food, because of
the other's conscience, not because of mine).
Whether therefore you eat or drink, or WHATSOEVER you DO, do
all to the glory of God (we cannot just live in our own
little world, doing only what pleases us all the time,
without considering the feelings, thoughts, emotions,
scruples, religious theology, conscience, of others that we
come in contact with in our daily living and even social
times and events).
Give NONE OFFENCE, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles,
nor to the Church of God. Even as I please all, in all, not
seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may
be saved (it is not only towards our fellow Christian
brother and sister we need to be considerate at all times,
but also towards all peoples of all nations, that in so
doing we may one day win them to Christ and see them also
saved)" (verses 25-33).
When living in this world, as working and socializing in
this world, we shall over our life time come into contact with
many people from many different backgrounds, cultures,
upbringing, philosophies, religious convictions, customs of
practices and beliefs. We need to be very tactful at times in
what we say and do when associating with these people. We need to
take into consideration what at that present time "makes them
tick" as we say, and we may have to "back down" in what words
come from our mouth and what actions we do while in their
presence, so we do not offend their conscience or scruples.
There are many things that may be correct for us to do and be
within the law of God, but not all of those things NEED to be
done, we also have the liberty within God's law to REFRAIN from
doing them, if it means that by refraining we will NOT offend the
conscience of someone. That is Christian LOVE towards our fellow
man, that is also our Christian liberty and so we should make
sure we know when to practice it.
NOT BEING OFFENDED!
We can through the help of the Spirit of God most of the
time come to master and control our words and actions that come
from us towards others. It is not possible to so control the
words and actions that may come from others towards US, hence
others can with the tongue and with deeds, do and say things that
COULD offend us IF we let those words or action offend us. They
do not HAVE to offend us, that aspect of how to will mentally and
emotionally respond to others whose words or actions are not the
kindest, or as we might perceive them as not being kind, that
reaction of ours is within OUR control. For us to act in those
situations with a cutting reply, with sarcasm, with hostility,
with anger, with bitterness, or with none of that but a shrug of
the shoulders, letting the water run off us as water running off
a ducks back, letting it just glide on by and pass over our head,
well that kind of a response from us IS within our power to
We have a wonderful example in the NT that illustrates the
correct and right response to a situation that many would have
become VERY OFFENDED with and at. We shall look at this example
through the words written about it by Richard Nickels in his
short paper on this subject called, "Do You Have a Right to be
"In Matthew 15:21-28, we find a Gentile woman of Canaan who
approached Christ, begging Him to heal her daughter who was
grievously vexed with a demon. At first, He refused to answer
her! The disciples had no compassion for her, and asked Jesus to
send this bothersome person away. Finally, Jesus said (my
paraphrase - R. Nickels), 'I am sent only to the lost sheep of
the House of Israel.' But the Canaanite woman refused to give up.
She worshipped Him the more, saying, 'Lord, help mel' Jesus then
said, 'it is not fitting to take the children's bread, and cast
it to dogs.' Jesus called this Gentile woman a 'dog'! If you
tried this today, you would probably get your face slapped, or
worse! Call a woman today a female dog, and you better run for
cover. If the Canaanite woman would have been offended and walked
off in a huff, she would have had a dear right to do so, in our
eyes. However, in this case, her daughter would not have been
She ignored the put down, humbled herself and said, 'Truth,
Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master's
table.' There was one purpose in her mind: her daughter needed to
be released from demonic possession. It seemed that NOTHING
could offend this woman. Nothing at all. Then the Lord responded
with His characteristic compassion and understanding. He did not
offend her, knowing that with her character, she would not likely
be offended. He was pleased with her attitude. 'O woman,' He
said, 'great is your faith: be it unto you even as you will.' Her
daughter was immediately made whole. We should be like the
Canaanite woman. We should NOT be offended, at anything.
However, just before this incident, Jesus also offended the
Pharisees, Matthew 15:1-20. In verse 12, we see that the
disciples were concerned about Jesus offending these 'high and
mighty' important persons. But the Savior was not out to' win
friends and influence people.' He called the Pharisees
hypocrites, transgressors of the Commandments of God, and blind
leaders of the blind. Unlike the Canaanite woman who had great
faith, the Pharisees WERE offended.
The Canaanite woman seemed to have the right to be offended
at indignities done to her, but she wasn't. The Pharisees had no
right to be offended because they were wrong in leading others
away from the paths of God. Yet they were offended.
Therefore, WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OFFENDED! It is the person
who is not offended, who usually has the compassion and
understanding not to offend others. David and the prophets knew
this. David wrote: 'Great peace have they which love thy law: and
NOTHING shall offend them' Psalm 119:165......."
End of quote.
This is a very important subject we have looked at. A true
Christian must learn how not to offend others, and they need also
to learn how not be offended by others. This is not a light
matter, I need to give emphasis to that, this is not a matter to
be taken lightly, for as Jesus said, those who do not learn the
truth of this, and who continue to practice and live a life style
that is constantly offending others in word and deed, will find
themselves being gathered by the angels and CAST OUT of the
Kingdom. The doctrine of REPENTANCE means we are to repent of
sin, and a part of all that is to acknowledge that there is a
side of offending others that is sinful, whereby in doing that
sin we shall destroy the work of God in wanting to bring "little
ones" into His family, so they can be nurtured and nourished on
the milk of the word, then the meat of the word, so to mature and
grow in grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus, and finally be born
into glory as the immortal and everliving sons and daughters of
I hope this study has guided you into the plain truth on
this subject and that you will go forward into the Kingdom of God
by not offending anyone or being offended.
Written May 2000
All articles and studies by Keith Hunt may be copied, published,
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