Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
- Romans 14:13
Here the Lord is advising us to change our judgment from external to looking at ourselves.
Paul is recommending that rather than judging others and the way they live that we look inside ourselves to see how we affect other believers on their spiritual journey.
God wants us to be always aware of others, and to do unto them as we would like them to do unto us.
We influence our Christian brothers and sisters with both words and actions — the words we say and the things we do. However, some people purposefully scheme to alter the direction of other believers, causing them to stumble on their journey.
It might be to win an argument or convince them to come to their church, or to show them how godly and knowledgeable they are. This guile is what the Lord does not like. If we use it, we invite controversy with Him.
When people stumble on their spiritual journey, sometimes that is sufficient to drive them away from the Lord for years. They have a bad experience and don't want to repeat it. Whether young or mature in the Lord, we are all susceptible to spiritual diversion — getting taken off the track.
Paul is highlighting things that offend. Vines Dictionary describes 'stumblingbock' as being a part of a trap and bait. Therefore, people can do it calculatingly.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:6, "But whoso shall offend (entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey) 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."
We have a God-commanded commitment to other believers to ensure our words and actions point them toward Christ, not away from Him. This is even if they attend another church.
There are numerous issues raised in Romans 14 relating to eating food or drink (vegetarianism, unclean meats, drinking of alcohol, etc), holding particular days sacred, and a raft of other issues of belief.
Paul says if fellow believers hold anything like this sacred, we shouldn't judge them. What we should do is judge ourselves, that our perceived freedoms do not damage those believers. Paul said that he would be a vegetarian for life if he thought that eating meat in front of a vegetarian would be a stumblingblock to their faith. That is how passionate he was about it.
He understood that those things are between them and God, as is our stuff between God and us. In Romans 14:17, Paul lays the situation on the line, when he said, "For the kingdom of God is not in meat or drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Instead of judging — laying stumbling blocks in front of others and presenting them with occasions to fall — that we seek to strengthen their faith when we have the chance. We should aim to encourage righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and leave the rest to God, who is big enough to handle it.
Our first job is to look inward to make sure we are guileless and walking correctly ourselves, without pride. This is profitable.
Today’s Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for giving me direction on this subject, as I am the sort of person who would argue the point if I didn’t have boundaries. Please help me to respect your word on this topic and to be as attuned as Paul to the damage that can be done.