STUDY ARTICLE 25
Do Not Stumble “These Little Ones”
“Do not despise one of these little ones.”—MATT. 18:10.
SONG 113 Our Possession of Peace
1. What has Jehovah done for each of us?
JEHOVAH has drawn each of us to him. (John 6:44) Think of what that means. As Jehovah carefully examined all the billions of people in this world, he saw something precious in you—a sincere heart that could grow to love him. (1 Chron. 28:9) Jehovah knows you, understands you, and loves you. How reassuring that is!
2. How did Jesus illustrate Jehovah’s interest in each of His sheep?
2 Jehovah cares deeply about you, and he also cares about all your Christian brothers and sisters. To illustrate this point, Jesus compared Jehovah to a shepherd. If 1 sheep out of 100 strays from the flock, what will the shepherd do? He will “leave the 99 on the mountains and set out on a search for the one that is straying.” When the shepherd finds the sheep, he will not scold it for straying. He will rejoice. The point? Every sheep is important to Jehovah. Jesus said: “It is not a desirable thing to my Father who is in heaven for even one of these little ones to perish.”—Matt. 18:12-14.
3. What will we discuss in this article?
3 We would certainly never want to be a source of discouragement to any of our brothers or sisters. How can we avoid stumbling others? And what can we do if someone hurts us? We will answer those questions in this article. But first, let us learn more about “these little ones” referred to in Matthew chapter 18.
WHO ARE “THESE LITTLE ONES”?
4. Who are “these little ones”?
4 “These little ones” are Jesus’ disciples of all ages. Regardless of their physical age, they are “as young children” in the sense that they are willing to be taught by Jesus. (Matt. 18:3) Although they may come from different backgrounds and cultures and have different viewpoints and personalities, they all exercise faith in Christ. He, in turn, loves them very much.—Matt. 18:6; John 1:12.
5. How does Jehovah feel when someone stumbles or hurts one of His people?
5 All “these little ones” are precious to Jehovah. To understand how he feels, consider how we feel about children. They are precious to us. We want to protect them because they lack the strength, experience, and wisdom of adults. In fact, while we do not like to see anyone get hurt, we get especially upset—even angry—when someone hurts a child. In the same way, Jehovah wants to protect us. He gets upset—even angry—when someone stumbles or hurts one of His people!—Isa. 63:9; Mark 9:42.
6. According to 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, how does the world view Jesus’ disciples?
6 In what other way are Jesus’ disciples like “little ones”? Well, whom does the world consider important? The rich, the famous, and the powerful. In contrast, Jesus’ disciples seem to be unimportant, insignificant “little ones.” (Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.) But Jehovah does not view them that way.
7. How does Jehovah want us to feel about our brothers and sisters?
7 Jehovah loves all his servants, whether they have been serving him for many years or they are new in the truth. All our brothers and sisters are important to Jehovah, so they should also be important to us. We want to “have love for the whole association of brothers,” not just some of them. (1 Pet. 2:17) We should be willing to do whatever we can to protect and care for them. If we learn that we have hurt or offended someone, we should not simply brush it off, concluding that the person is too sensitive and needs to get over it. Why might some become offended? Perhaps because of their background, some brothers and sisters have a very low opinion of themselves. Others are new in the truth; they have not yet learned how to deal with people’s imperfections. Whatever the case, we should do what we can to make things right. Additionally, though, a person who is often offended by others needs to recognize that this is an undesirable personality trait that he needs to work on. He needs to do that for his own peace of mind and for the well-being of others.
CONSIDER OTHERS AS SUPERIOR
8. What popular attitude affected Jesus’ disciples?
8 What prompted Jesus to talk about “these little ones”? His disciples had asked him a question: “Who really is greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens?” (Matt. 18:1) Many Jews at that time viewed position and rank as very important. One scholar says: “Men lived and died in quest of honor, reputation, fame, approval, and respect.”
9. What did Jesus’ disciples have to do?
9 Jesus knew that his disciples would have to work hard to root out from their heart the spirit of competition that was entrenched in Jewish culture. He told them: “Let the one who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the one taking the lead as the one ministering.” (Luke 22:26) We conduct ourselves as “the youngest” when we “consider others superior” to us. (Phil. 2:3) The more we cultivate that attitude, the less likely we are to stumble others.
10. What counsel of Paul should we take to heart?
10 All our brothers and sisters are superior to us in one way or another. It is not hard to see this when we focus on their positive qualities. We should take to heart the counsel that the apostle Paul gave to the Corinthians: “Who makes you different from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7) We should beware of any temptation to draw attention to ourselves or to think of ourselves as superior to others. If a brother gives stimulating talks or a sister is gifted at starting Bible studies, he or she should be quick to give the credit to Jehovah.
FORGIVE “FROM YOUR HEART”
11. What was the point of Jesus’ illustration about a king and his slave?
11 Soon after Jesus warned his followers not to stumble others, he gave an illustration about a king and his slave. The king canceled a large debt that the slave could never repay. Later, that same slave was unwilling to cancel the much smaller debt of his fellow slave. In the end, the king threw that merciless slave into prison. The lesson? Jesus said: “My heavenly Father will also deal with you in the same way if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.”—Matt. 18:21-35.
12. If we refuse to forgive, how do we hurt others?
12 The slave’s actions harmed not only him but others too. First, he heartlessly harmed his fellow slave by having him “thrown into prison until he could pay back what he owed.” Second, he hurt other slaves who observed what he had done. When his “fellow slaves saw what had happened, they became greatly distressed.” Similarly, our actions affect others. If someone wrongs us and we refuse to forgive him, what can happen? First, we hurt him by denying him our forgiveness, attention, and affection. Second, we make others in the congregation uncomfortable when they notice that we are not at peace with that person.
13. What do you learn from the experience of one pioneer?
13 When we forgive our brothers and sisters, we benefit ourselves and others. That was the experience of one pioneer whom we will call Crystal. She was hurt by a sister in the congregation. Crystal recalls: “Her unloving words would sometimes cut me like a knife. In the ministry, I didn’t even want to be put in the same car group with her. I started to lose my zeal and my joy.” Crystal felt that she had good reason for being upset. But she did not give in to resentment or self-pity. She humbly applied the Scriptural counsel found in the article “Forgive From Your Heart” in The Watchtower of October 15, 1999. She forgave her sister. Crystal says: “I now realize that we’re all striving to put on the new personality and that Jehovah forgives us freely and daily. I feel as if the weight of the world were lifted off my shoulders. I have regained my joy.”
14. According to Matthew 18:21, 22, what struggle did the apostle Peter seem to have and what do you learn from Jesus’ reply?
14 We know that we should forgive; that is the right thing to do. But we may still struggle to do so. The apostle Peter may have felt that way at times. (Read Matthew 18:21, 22.) What can help? First, meditate on how much Jehovah has forgiven you. (Matt. 18:32, 33) We do not deserve his forgiveness, but he offers it freely. (Ps. 103:8-10) At the same time, “we are also under obligation to love one another.” So forgiveness is not optional. We owe it to our brothers and sisters to forgive them. (1 John 4:11) Second, meditate on what happens when we forgive. We may help the person who has wronged us, unify the congregation, protect our friendship with Jehovah, and remove a burden from our shoulders. (2 Cor. 2:7; Col. 3:14) Finally, pray to the One who asks us to forgive. Do not allow Satan to disrupt the peace you enjoy with your fellow worshippers. (Eph. 4:26, 27) We need Jehovah’s help if we are to avoid falling into Satan’s trap.
DO NOT LET YOURSELF BE STUMBLED
15. In line with Colossians 3:13, what can we do if we are troubled by the actions of a brother or a sister?
15 What, though, if a fellow believer has acted in a way that is very troubling to you? What should you do? Make every effort to maintain peace. Turn to Jehovah in earnest prayer. Ask him to bless the person who offended you and to help you see the good qualities in that person—the very qualities that Jehovah loves about him. (Luke 6:28) If you cannot overlook what your brother has done, consider how you should approach him. It is always best to assume that the brother would never intentionally hurt you. (Matt. 5:23, 24; 1 Cor. 13:7) When you speak to him, give him the benefit of the doubt. What if he does not want to make peace? “Continue putting up with” him. Do not give up on your brother. (Read Colossians 3:13.) Most important, never hold on to resentment, for that could harm your friendship with Jehovah. Never allow anything to stumble you. In doing so, you prove that you love Jehovah more than anything else.—Ps. 119:165.
16. What responsibility does each of us have?
16 We treasure the privilege of serving Jehovah unitedly as “one flock” under “one shepherd”! (John 10:16) The book Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will, page 165, states: “Benefiting from that unity, you have the responsibility to help maintain it.” Thus, we need to “train ourselves to see our brothers and sisters as Jehovah sees them.” To Jehovah, we are all precious “little ones.” Is that how you view your brothers and sisters? Jehovah notices and values everything you do to help them and care for them.—Matt. 10:42.
17. What are we determined to do?
17 We love our fellow worshippers. So we are “determined not to put a stumbling block or an obstacle before a brother.” (Rom. 14:13) We consider our brothers and sisters to be superior to us, and we want to forgive them from our heart. May we not allow ourselves to be stumbled by others. Rather, let us choose to “pursue the things making for peace and the things that build one another up.”—Rom. 14:19.
SONG 130 Be Forgiving
a Because of imperfection, we may do or say things that hurt our brothers and sisters. How do we react? Are we eager to repair our relationship? Are we quick to apologize? Or do we conclude that if they are hurt, it is their problem, not ours? Or what if we often take offense at the words or actions of others? Do we justify our reaction by saying that this is just who we are—this is our personality? Or do we see our reaction as a weakness that we need to overcome?
b PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A sister is upset with another sister in the congregation. After the two privately resolve the matter, they put it behind them and serve together happily.