Matthew 18:6 Meaning of If Anyone Causes One of These Little Ones to Stumble

Matthew 18:6
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 18:6

At first, it seems like Jesus is speaking of the little children like the one he pointed out as an example in the previous verses (Mt 18:1-5). But it is likely that he intends those who are like little children in the way that they trust in God and live the simple life of peace and assurance.

What would make “one of these little ones” stumble? Perhaps some sort of manipulation is in mind, but he could also mean a poor example or false preaching. Particularly when someone has a childlike faith that trusts God greatly, the same may be inclined to give great trust to teachers and shepherds. There is good reason why the shepherds and “blind guides” are judged most harshly in both the Old Testament and the New (Zech 11; Ja 3:1)

If church leadership leads with any sort of false motive whatever, it will be the sheep with the childlike faith who may be the most hurt. Therefore, anyone with any influence should take enormous care to prevent themselves from leading anyone astray by their teaching or example. For the sheep, it would be prudent to heed Jesus’ warning to his disciples to be “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16).

Breaking Down the Key Parts of Matthew 18:6

#1 “If anyone causes…”
Some can go wayward by the influence of others. There is no reason to think that each individual will not be held accountable for his own sin, but it is also clear that those with influence bear a greater responsibility.

#2 “…one of these little ones—those who believe in me—”
It is not certain whether Jesus is speaking of believing children, or adults who believe like children, but either way, the meaning is mostly the same. If the latter is meant, it certainly doesn’t negate the former.

#3 “to stumble,”
Stumbling could refer to falling away from God, or sinning, or doubting. The only stumbling block that we should put before anyone is the gospel itself (1 Cor 1:23). All other stumbling blocks should be cleared away whenever possible, even when we are that stumbling block.

#4 “it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Christ uses the strongest language to convey the seriousness of the matter. Being drowned in the depth of the sea would be preferable to the fires of hell. It would be proper to pray that God would take you before you could do anything as grievous as this against which Christ admonishes us.

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Biblical Translations of Matthew 18:6

NIV
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

NLT
“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

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.”

KJV
“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.”

NKJV
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Matthew 18:6 Meaning

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.