While today we think of the word “offend” as insulting one’s standard or principles, the Bible has a different definition.
Depending on the context of the verse, ultimately the word offense in the Bible has the same connotations. To offend someone does not mean to insult someone’s principles but rather to cause someone to fall.
Offend in the Hebrew language has several definitions but all pertaining to the same concept. It can be translated as châbal which means to pervert, corrupt or spoil.
It can be translated as bâgad which means to deal deceitfully, be treacherous or unfaithful.
It can be mikshôl which is to be a stumbling block or cause to fall.
It can be âsham which means to perish, become desolate, be found guilty, to trespass.
In the Greek language the word offend can be translated as skandalizō , skandalon or ptaiō which all mean to entrap, to trip up, to entice to sin, to cause to stumble.
In effect, “to offend” according to scripture means: to cause someone to fall, be a stumbling block, to corrupt, cause to err, to pervert, to spoil,
Jesus tells us what he thinks about offending others.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were 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
What the Bible is telling us is to try and live our life in such a way 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 are not going to 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 witness.
Paul said he became all things to all people that he might 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. They may behave very inappropriately towards Christians if they have an offense towards the gospel. If they do that 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 that goes against their conscience or doing anything in front of someone that may cause them to fall even if we have liberty to do it.
Jesus gave us an example in scriptures. He paid his taxes so as not to offend, he took a lowly position in order to not be offensive to others, he fulfilled all righteousness even though he was Lord of all and he remained humble throughout his walk in this earth.
Jesus tells us that just as he laid down his life to be a benefit for others so should we lay down our lives for the benefit of others. It does not matter if it causes us discomfort, rejection, or ridicule.
What matters is that we do not offend in all conscience by putting a stumbling block before others.
A perfect example of this 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 always. Amen