I think most of us are familiar with the carol we sing at Christmas called "Joy to the World." "Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King." But I'd wager the vast majority of people aren't familiar with the phrase, "Woe to the world."
In Matthew 18, the disciples want to know from Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Frankly, I don't get why they asked that. Did they want to know if they, because of their close relationship with Jesus, would be greater than someone else? Or maybe they were trying to figure out where the Pharisees and other teachers fit in. Whatever their reasons, I don't think Jesus' answer was what they expected.
"[Jesus] called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:2-4)
But Jesus didn't stop there. He'd answered their question and now came the teaching.
"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (v. 5-6)
This past week I had the misfortune to catch about fifteen minutes of the Dr. Phil show while I visited one of my elderly clients. Dr. Phil's guests that day were couples with "open" marriages. I don't have any desire to know the depravity that goes on in those people lives, but what infuriated me most was that the children in these families knew exactly what was going on. They'd been brainwashed into thinking it was perfectly acceptable in marriage to have multiple sexual partners. I heard a 14-year old girl state that "staying with one person all your life is totally unrealistic." There is no way a girl that age could up with that on her own. Her parents and their partners need to read Matthew 18: 5-6!
It's that kind of world that Jesus was referring to as he concluded his lesson.
"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" (v. 7)
That two-sentence verse is packed with power. Jesus uses the word "woe" twice. "Woe" is not something you want directed at you. It meant, and still means, really really bad stuff. Webster's defines it as "a condition of deep suffering from misfortune, affliction or grief; ruinous trouble; calamity." One of the verses where woe is used that sticks in my mind is Revelation 8:13: "As I [John] watched, I heard an angel that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice, 'Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!''' Bad things were coming in those trumpets blasts, folks. Keep reading Revelation 9 to find out what. "Woe" is never good.
Jesus' words in Matthew 18:7 also end in exclamation points. I know the original Greek didn't have exclamation points, but the words Jesus used and the way Matthew wrote them made the men translating it into English believe an exclamation point was appropriate. And I agree. I don't think Jesus said "Woe to the world" in a calm, monotone voice. I think he said it like, "WOE, people!! Don't you get it?! Don't you get what your sin is doing to the children?! WOE to you who cause it!"
God hates sin. And He will punish those who live in it. Those who embrace it. And those who cause others to stumble into it. Woe to the world, Jesus said. What do we need to do to escape the judgement, the woe?
"Become like little children." (Matthew 18: 2)
Innocent. Trusting. Loving. In need of a Father.
That is my prayer for you this week.
This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Philippines, Slovenia, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Georgia, Russia, China, United Arab Emirates, Turks and Caicos Islands