Is God more displeased when you cause another person to sin than when you sin yourself? This is a question that has been debated by theologians and Christian leaders for centuries. There is no easy answer, but the Bible does provide some guidance.
Strong’s Concordance defines a stumbling block as “an occasion of sin; a cause of stumbling.” Matthew 18:6; Proverbs 28:10
Is It A Sin To Cause Someone To Sin?
Yes, It is a sin to cause someone to sin.
In Matthew 18:6, Jesus says, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” This verse suggests that leading others to sin is a serious offense that will be punished severely.
John 19:11 also speaks to this issue. When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, he said, “The one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” This verse suggests that the person who leads another person to sin is guilty of a greater sin than the person who actually commits the sin.
Based on these verses, it seems that there is a greater punishment for someone who encourages and leads others to sin.
Why Leading Others to Sin Can Be Worse
There are several reasons why leading others to sin can be worse than sinning oneself.
a. Far-Reaching Consequences
Leading someone to sin can have cascading effects that reach far beyond the initial transgression. When you sin personally, you primarily impact yourself. However, when you lead someone else into sin, you affect not only them but also everyone connected to them. For instance, leading someone into adultery doesn’t just harm their marriage; it also hurts their spouse, children, and extended family. This ripple effect amplifies the gravity of leading others to sin.
Personal sin often stems from self-centered desires and lacks deliberate intent to lead others astray. In contrast, when you actively encourage someone else to sin, you are intentionally pushing them toward wrongdoing. This intentional manipulation of another person’s choices reflects a lack of concern for their well-being and demonstrates a more significant moral failing.
c. Spiritual Consequences
Sin, when committed personally, can damage your relationship with God, but it is forgivable through repentance. However, when you lead someone else into sin, you place their eternal soul in jeopardy. This constitutes the gravest consequence because it could result in their eternal separation from God. The spiritual ramifications of leading others to sin are profound and far-reaching.
2. Responsibility and Accountability
The Bible teaches that while each person is responsible for their actions, there is also a collective responsibility to help others avoid sin. This implies that we should not engage in behavior that could lead someone else to sin, and we should speak out when we witness others going astray. This dual responsibility underscores the seriousness of influencing others in moral matters.
3. Scriptural Evidence
Beyond the verses from Matthew 18:6 and John 19:11, the Bible contains additional passages highlighting the gravity of leading others into sin. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 8:11-13, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of not causing fellow believers to stumble by engaging in certain actions. This underscores the principle of avoiding behavior that influences others negatively.
In Galatians 6:1, Paul instructs believers to gently restore those who have fallen into sin, emphasizing the need for a loving and caring approach when helping others. This verse reinforces the notion of collective responsibility in the Christian community.
The parable of the talents found in Luke 12:47-48 serves as another biblical example. In this parable, Jesus teaches that those entrusted with greater responsibility will be held to a higher standard. Similarly, those who lead others into sin may be subject to more severe consequences due to the weight of their actions and the trust placed in them.
4. Different Levels of Punishment in Hell
The Bible clearly indicates that there will be varying degrees of punishment in hell. This concept underscores the idea that not all sins are equal, and the severity of punishment will correspond to the gravity of one’s transgressions. While the fundamental issue remains one’s eternal destiny—either heaven or hell—those who lead others to sin may indeed face more intense punishment.
The reason for this distinction lies in the unique nature of leading others into sin. Such actions represent not only a sin against God but also a betrayal of trust and an abuse of power. Consequently, the moral culpability of those who influence others negatively is heightened, making them more deserving of severe judgment.
Bible Verses on Being a Stumbling Block
Romans 14:13 (ESV): “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.”
Luke 17:1-4 (ESV): “And he said to his disciples, ‘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. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.'”
1 Corinthians 8:13 (ESV): “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
1 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV): “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
Matthew 18:6-9 (ESV): “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. ‘Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.'”
Romans 14:1-23 (ESV): This passage discusses the importance of not causing your brother to stumble, emphasizing that believers should not pass judgment on one another.
Mark 9:42 (ESV): “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Romans 14:21 (ESV): “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”
Mark 9:38-50 (ESV): This passage includes Jesus’s teachings about not hindering those who do good in His name and the severity of causing little ones to sin.
1 Corinthians 10:32 (ESV): “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.”
1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV): “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.”
2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV): “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Hebrews 12:14 (ESV): “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Romans 14:19 (ESV): “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
James 5:20 (ESV): “Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV): These verses emphasize the importance of godly conduct for women who profess godliness through good works.
2 Corinthians 6:3 (ESV): “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”
Romans 14:23 (ESV): “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (ESV): This passage discusses the issue of food offered to idols and the responsibility to consider the weaker brother when exercising one’s rights.
1 Corinthians 7:1-8:13 (ESV): This passage addresses various matters, including sexual relations, and highlights the importance of not causing a brother to stumble.
Romans 14:20 (ESV): “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.”
Proverbs 20:1 (ESV): “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
Ephesians 5:18 (ESV): “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 6:9 (ESV): “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.”
Romans 12:2 (ESV): “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Matthew 16:23 (ESV): “But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'”
Malachi 2:8 (ESV): “But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.”
Matthew 18:6 (ESV): “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Joshua 1:9 (ESV): “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV): “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Romans 14:17 (ESV): “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
John 3:16 (ESV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 14:15 (ESV): “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (ESV): “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”
Matthew 18:8 (ESV): “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.”
Galatians 5:13 (ESV): “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Romans 14:14 (ESV): “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”
Mark 9:43 (ESV): “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”
Romans 14:12 (ESV): “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
1 Corinthians 8:9-11 (ESV): “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV): “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
These verses collectively highlight the gravity of causing others to stumble in their faith and actions. They underscore the responsibility that believers have toward one another to avoid leading them astray and to promote a life aligned with God’s teachings.
In conclusion, there is a greater punishment for someone who encourages and leads others to sin. This is because leading others to sin is a more serious offense that can have more far-reaching consequences. It is also more intentional and destructive to the other person’s spiritual life.
If we want to avoid leading others to sin, we need to be careful about the choices we make and the words we say. We should also be aware of the influence we have on others and be mindful of how our actions could lead them to sin.
Here are some specific things we can do to avoid leading others to sin:
- Be a good example. This means living a life that is consistent with our Christian beliefs. It also means avoiding things that could lead us into temptation, such as watching inappropriate movies or TV shows, listening to music that is sexually suggestive, or spending time with people who are not good influences.
- Speak up if we see someone else doing something wrong. This doesn’t mean we have to be judgmental or condemnatory. But we should gently and lovingly confront the person about their sin and offer to help them find a way to overcome it.
- Be forgiving. If we have led someone else to sin, we need to be willing to forgive them and help them to get back on track. We should also be willing to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes.
Leading others to sin is a serious offense, but it is one that we can avoid if we are careful and intentional about our choices. By following these principles, we can help to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live a life that is pleasing to God.