While today we think of “offend” as insulting one’s standard or principles, the Bible has a different definition.
Depending on the context of the verse, the word ‘offense’ in the Bible does not have the same connotations as our English word for an offense. To offend someone does not mean to insult someone’s principles but rather to cause someone to fall.
‘Offend’ in Hebrew has several definitions, but all pertain to the same concept. It can be translated as châbal, which means to pervert, corrupt, or spoil.
‘Offend’can be translated as bâgad, which means to deal deceitfully, treacherously, or unfaithful. It can be mikshôl, a stumbling block, or to cause to fall. It can be âsham which means to perish, become desolate, be found guilty, to trespass.
In Greek, the word offend can be translated as skandalizō , skandalon or ptaiō, which all mean to entrap, trip up, to entice to sin, to cause to stumble.
In effect, “to offend,” according to the scriptural meaning, is to cause someone to fall, be a stumbling block, corrupt, cause to err, pervert, spoil,
Jesus tells us what he thinks about offending others.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it was better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6
The epistles of the apostles reiterate this admonition.
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Roman’s 14:13
The Bible tells us to try and live our lives so that our conscience is clean. Even if it means giving up something that would cause others to reject Jesus Christ. In this way, we can be a witness in the world.
Now we will not be able to please everyone, and some people will find fault with us no matter how holy we live, but we must not deliberately offend or be nonchalant in our Christian witness.
Paul said he became all things to all people to win them to Christ. In other words, wherever he went, he respected (within reason) the culture he was in. He maintained his Christian witness while not offending anyone on purpose.
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22
The cross in and of itself is an offense to some people. Some will act up if they are offended by the gospel. If they do, they may cause themselves to stumble away from the truth. (1 Corinthians 1:22)
However, as Christians, we must, in all good conscience, live in the light, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and not be a stumbling block deliberately to another person.
That means not causing anyone to do anything against their conscience or doing anything in front of someone that may cause them to fall, even if we have the liberty to do it.
Jesus gave us an example in the scriptures. He paid his taxes so as not to offend and took a lowly position to not offend. He lived a humble lifestyle even though he was a King.
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. He did not live a lavish lifestyle or sit with famous people. Instead, he ate with sinners to reach them with the gospel message.
Jesus remained humble throughout his walk on this earth. He has called his sheep to do the same. Just as Jesus laid down his life to benefit others, so should we lay down our lives for the benefit of others. It does not matter if it causes discomfort, rejection, or ridicule.
What matters is that we refrain from offending by not putting a stumbling block before others.
A perfect example is Paul’s attitude in dealing with the Corinthians.
Wherefore, if meat causeth my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I cause not my brother to stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Dear Father, in Jesus’ name, help us to not be a stumbling block to others in this world. Give us your wisdom in every situation. Let your light shine through us. Amen
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