According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “slips, trips, and falls accounted for 17% of all the fatal occupational injuries in 2017.” A tripping hazard is a danger that can lead to fatal consequences. Our greatest danger, however, is not the physical tripping hazards around us. Rather, the greatest tripping hazards are those that would cause others to spiritually “trip” and fall.
Luke 17 reminds us of the importance of living our lives in such a way that we do not become a tripping hazard to others. Verses 1-2 say, “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” The word “offences” is a reference to a “stumblingblock”- or that which people trip over. This verse reminds us that it is inevitable that people will be offended. However, you do not want to be the one that lays the stumblingblock in the path of someone’s life. An offence can come by way of bad counsel. In Matthew 16:23, Jesus said unto Peter after he rebuked the Lord, “…Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me…” An offence can come by way of using your liberty in such a way that it leads another brother to stumble. In Romans 14:13, Paul reminds us: “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Paul lived this out and said: “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:13). An offence can come by way of false teaching. Romans 16:17 tells us to “…mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” An offence can come by those “who, under the profession of the Christian name, live scandalously, and thereby weaken the hands and sadden the hearts of God’s people” (Matthew Henry).
There are many ways in which our lives can become a tripping hazard to others. We must, therefore, do all that we can to “walk circumspectly” and to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Ephesians 5:15a; Romans 14:19). Jesus says that people will be “offended” but then He warns against being the one to offer the hook, to set the trap, or the lay the tripping hazard in someone’s life. 1 John 2:10 gives us the solution to avoid becoming a stumblingblock. It says: “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.” Love for our brother will keep us from becoming a “tripping hazard”.