A stumbling block is an obstruction that hinders progress and causes a person to stumble and fall.
In the Christian context, such a barrier keeps a person from developing a relationship with Christ and brings them into bondage to sin.
Satan uses a multitude of means from temptation, to taking offence or ungodly mindsets to try to gain the advantage over believers. Our relationship with Christ and attitude in life determines if we are crushed and destroyed by the barriers we encounter or rise up victorious by using them for our advantage as stepping-stones. Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God [with whom I co-operated] intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done…” (Gen 50:20). Paul also turned a challenging ‘thorn in the flesh’ into a blessing that worked for, not against him (2 Cor 12:7-10).
Jesus warned that it is a serious thing to cause another to be offended or stumble, even though it is inevitable there will always be reasons or opportunities to take offence (Mt 18:6,7). We all must be sensitive to the vulnerabilities of others, and not exploit our freedom in Christ as an occasion to cater to our selfish desires for we are potentially capable of falling into sin, if we don’t maintain our vital relationship with Him (Rom 6:1; Gal 5:13, 6:1; Jud 1:24). Yet if, as sincere believers, we do stumble the Bible says it isn’t fatal for the Lord holds us with His hand (Ps 37:23,24, 145:14; Prov 24:16). God doesn’t discard those who fall, but through repentance and the grace of God, restoration can take place. Stumbling does not indicate failure, but quitting does.
Beware of causing anyone else to stumble – 1 Corinthians 10:32
by the Bible with no compromise or question. However, in the matters not specifically forbidden or endorsed by Scripture, Christians are free to follow their conscience and understanding of Scripture to govern their decisions and make 'judgement calls' yet with the over-ridding principle “not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in another’s way” (Mt 23:13; Rom 14:13,20,21; 1 Cor 8:9-13).
The cross of Christ was an obstacle to the Jews believing (1 Cor 1:23). Christ continues to be a stumbling block to many people – because they don’t consider salvation is a gift to be accepted by faith rather than being earned; others refuse to obey His teaching, or submit to His Lordship because they did not receive their desired answers to prayer (Lk 6:46; Jn 6:67; Rom 9:33; Eph 2:8,9; 1 Pet 2:8).
What could cause me to stumble or take offence? What areas of my personality are vulnerable points where Satan could get the advantage over me? What do I need to avoid or correct so I don’t cause offence to others so they stumble, yet still challenging them about their commitment to the Lord, besides being a forthright witness to those still outside the Kingdom of God?
Give special attention to the training and care of children and those who are young Christians, protecting them from anyone or anything that could cause them to stumble until they become established and mature with their roots down deep into Christ (Mt 13:21).