`If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around the neck and be thrown into the sea. So if your hand makes you lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand than to keep both hands and go off to hell, to the fire that never goes out.’ (verses 42-44)
Read Mark 9:42-50
Jesus tells us that faith is precious and needs to be nurtured and protected. He is very severe towards anyone or anything threatening to undermine faith, whether our own faith or someone else’s.
Jesus doesn’t mean literally that if we sin with our hand, say through shoplifting, we should actually cut it off, or that this should be the punishment imposed by the state authorities. What he’s saying is that we should be vigilant and ruthless in discarding anything in our lives that threatens our faith in him. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have questions and doubts, because our faith grows strong by facing challenges; it can’t be wrapped up in cotton wool and carefully put away somewhere.
Jesus says, ‘Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt’ (Mark 9:49). Faith, like life, is a risky business! But our loving God remains with us because we are his own ‘little ones’.
Help me never, Lord, to cause someone else to lose faith in you. And strengthen and protect my own faith in you. Amen.
Devotion written by David Schubert in the LCA book “Assurance for each day” (LCA, Openbook Publishers, 2004).
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