Read Matthew 18
Jesus continued talking about children and becoming like children to get into the kingdom of heaven. Then he warned against getting the way of these innocents, either children or those newborn in the kingdom of heaven.
You would be better off just to keep your mouth shut than to lead astray one who had come to the kingdom as a child. There are plenty of ways to sin in this world, but Jesus noted that leading a child or one who has come to God like a child astray should come with a very vivid image.
That image is one of a huge millstone tied to your neck. The stone is thrown into the depths of the sea. You follow behind. There is nothing you can do except choke and drown. This isn’t waterboarding where you feel like you are drowning. You are drowning anchored to this huge stone and you can’t find your diving knife.
Nails scraped across a chalkboard—something the dry erase generation missed altogether, being eaten alive by rats—again those who watched Willard, Ben, or 1984 understand this best, and being thrown into the sea with a huge stone tied to your neck all fall into the category of things that I don’t ever want to experience.
James counseled those who read his letter that few should set upon the course of being a teacher. Living a life of deliberate instruction in a world demanding immediacy is too challenging for most. The temptation to insert our own views into God’s word is too much for most.
Jesus noted that people would stumble. It happened. It continues to happen. Until Jesus reigns upon the earth and sin’s exile is complete, we should expect men to stumble.
That is not cause for despair. We confess and God is faithful and just to forgive, but leading others astray is cause for despair. That’s not falling short. That’s getting in league with the enemy. God sent his Son to atone for the sins of humankind while we as a people were God’s enemies.
We do not want to reclaim that status. This is life and death, heaven and hell, life and damnation stuff. It’s big time and if your eye or your hand causes you to stumble, it would be better that you pluck it out or cut it off and show up for heaven slightly disabled than to miss the boat altogether.
Yes, this is surely hyperbole, but the underlying truth survives even if it is literal. Getting to heaven missing a hand or an eye is better than being in the picture of health in hell.
Do your best to live a good life. Take extra steps to make sure that you don’t lead others astray.