Take Heed to Yourself for the Sake of Children
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 17:1-3
October 06, 2019

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus says, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves” (Luke 17:1-3).

This is a rather graphic description. It paints a startling picture. What is Jesus getting at?

Jesus has a different perspective than the world. The world can also recognize that “Temptations to sin are sure to come.” But what is the world’s attitude in recognizing this?

Since temptations to sin are sure to come, go ahead and do it. Give in. Go along with the crowd. Resign yourself to the fact. Why fight it? Indulge.

The world mixes up two different issues; it confuses what values and beliefs should be with what people actually do. It says that because people actually act badly, contrary to good, true, and right values and beliefs, then discard the values and beliefs and do whatever you like, just do it as safely as you can.

Then it goes one step further and positively proclaims values as shaped by improper conduct and beliefs, and then shapes society’s standards accordingly.

Jesus calls us to a different perspective. He rejects that attitude as legitimate. “Woe to them,” He says, “through whom the temptations come.”

Temptations to sin may be sure to come, but that does not mean that giving in, resignation, surrendering of values and beliefs, is the appropriate attitude. God’s judgment is coming.

But it seems overwhelming sometimes.

So Jesus says take heed to yourselves and your walk. Be on guard regarding what is going on with your life in light of God’s Word and take steps. Call sin what it is, according to God’s commandments and word. Turn from it. Seek Christ’s help, His forgiveness, His strength. Seek help from others as needed.

Paul says to Timothy that we have been given the Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). If we are struggling with issues that we know need correction, pray for help from the Spirit of power and love and self-control.

It is important also to see how Jesus makes His saying about the millstone in relation to causing “one of these little ones to sin.” In speaking of “these little ones,” He is talking about children. He puts before us a vision of thinking of our lives in relation to the most precious gift we have from God, other than Jesus and His word: children.

Jesus admonishes us adults to take heed to ourselves for the sake of children. Jesus is deeply concerned about how adults behave and what they teach in relation to their impact on children. He calls adults to view their lives in terms of how it impacts children. It is not just about you, He says to adults.

Now in the millstone saying, Jesus speaks warning from the standpoint of God’s righteous judgment and wrath. God’s fierce judgment and wrath is stored up against adults with respect to the bad things they may do to children, unless they turn and seek God’s help in Christ.

But let’s turn this around and talk about it in a positive way.

Jesus brings into focus how important what we teach our children is and that how we live teaches. How we live teaches what is important about right and wrong, about goodness and kindness, about God, Jesus, and the Gospel.

Let us have God’s word active in our lives to teach children what is right and wrong, what is good and kind, who God is, and what God’s grace in Jesus is like.

What kind of value system do we want our children to have? How does what we do shape their value system?

If we want our children to be humble people, who take responsibility for their actions, who care about and think about the needs of others, then let us show them this character by exhibiting it in our lives.

If we want them not to despair of hope of forgiveness and grace from God, then let us show them the Gospel and relate to them also with the unmerited grace of forgiveness in Christ, all the time, and especially when they need it.

Sometimes the most important thing children can hear from adults is the word of forgiveness.

Children are sponges and they watch adults carefully. They learn so much this way about what it means to be a human being and a Christian.

Of course, raising children, teaching them, being that adult role-model, may often involve judgment calls.

If only we had the owner’s manual, right?

And, do we feel like we have the deck stacked against us already?

And then we have our own brokenness and the brokenness of others to deal with.

There are no guarantees. And when children grow up to become adults, they become responsible for themselves.

Nevertheless, keep teaching God’s word. Keep praying for them. Keep trying to set the example of faith and life as a Christian you would want them to see. Keep engaging them in conversation. Keep extending to them unmerited love. Keep loving and caring for them. Keep taking heed to your own life and faith, for your sake and for theirs.

For we walk in confidence in the good news and hope God speaks to us through His love in Christ. He says to you, “I have redeemed you; forgiven you. I give myself to you. I am your strength and tower. I give you my Spirit. Look to me for help. I am with you. I will not fail you.”

Amen.