Do You Know That Your Teaching Offends?

We live in a time in which people’s capacity for being offended seems to be at an all time high! Seemingly every day, this or that group insists that we change something because it is offensive to them. If Jesus were on earth today, He, too, would surely be targeted. How do I know that? Because even in His day, people were at times offended by what He said.

Jesus called out the Pharisees for exalting their traditions above God’s commandments. He said they were hypocrites who in practice invalidated the word of God, giving Him only lip service (Matthew 15:1-9). “Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’” (v. 12).

The New Testament word translated offend primarily means to put an impediment or a stumbling block in the way; hence, to cause one to stumble. Thayer adds that since a man who stumbles or gets his foot entangled feels annoyed, the word can also refer to a feeling or displeasure or indignance. Offend is used almost exclusively in this secondary sense today.

In what sense were the Pharisees offended? Did Jesus telling them the truth cause them to stumble? In reality it is error that makes us fall, not truth. Jesus was actually telling them how to not stumble, revealing changes they needed to make in order to avoid sin. But sometimes truth hurts. It hurts when we have been ignoring it and our wrong is exposed, when it makes us start all over in our thinking and practice. Sometimes we react to that hurt by further dismissing the truth, and along with it its source. The Pharisees were hurt by Jesus’ exposure of their hypocrisy. They might use this occasion as a reason to reject Him instead of learning from Him (cf. Matthew 21:42-44; 1 Corinthians 1:23).

Jesus responded to the disciples with two statements.

“Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted” (v. 13). Whether this figure refers to the Pharisees or to their false doctrines is debated, but it really matters little. The point is true of both. A doctrine that is not from God will not stand, and neither will one who builds his life on it.

“Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (v. 14). Jesus would have no part in appeasing false teachers, and He cautioned the disciples against doing so.

Nothing has changed in 2,000 years. New Testament teaching—whether about Jesus and His exclusive claims or salvation or morals or roles or whatever—still offends some. The offended may diss the Bible and its followers. Nevertheless, it is the truth that makes us free (John 8:31-32). We must stand firmly on it.

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