In the gospels we find some things that we like a lot and there are some things that we dislike a lot. There are sayings of Jesus, parables and long discourses that we enjoy tremendously, and there are sayings of Jesus, parables and long discourses that we try to avoid.
One of those frightening illustrations is one about the millstone. As frightening as it is, it is surprising that all three Synoptics, Matthew, Luke and Mark, record it. Here is the saying: "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would have been better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2)
Most of our churches are filled with children. Catholic and Protestant parents are bringing their children to be Baptized and Dedicated. Later on there is a lot of excitement as the children make their first Communion, their Confirmation or they get Baptized as believers. We have Sunday School classes filled until about the 6th grade. As our children become teenagers some drastic things happen. I think of the parable of the wheat and tares where the wheat is sown by God and an enemy sows the tares (Mt. 13). The enemy is the devil and his helpers who are busy in stealing the tender hearts of those children who are in church, who have made their first Communion, who have made their Confirmation, who have been Baptized as believers. While I think in terms of enemies of God, I think that the frightening millstone application comes into view.
I consider that there are three situations in which these words of Jesus should be heard: "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come." (Mt. 18:7).
The first enemy that takes our young people from our churches is the sports. How often I have heard that the coach came and told the young boy or young girl that if they want to be successful in their sport, they have to stop going to church. They have a choice between the sport and their church. And suddenly the young boy who loved the Lord starts to be a part of the traveling soccer team. We do not see him any more in church, and I think that the Lord Jesus Christ would use the millstone illustration.
The second enemy that takes the young people from our churches are the college professors who see their calling in life to destroy the Christian faith or to sow enough doubt. It is a well-known fact that over 50% of high students who are active in church and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, by the time they finish college have no faith left. They have taken one course or another and some professor has systematically destroyed their faith. While their professors may boast that they have enlightened their young minds, I think that the Lord would use the millstone illustration.
The third enemy is the post-college employment. Many of the employees who hire the college students hire them only if they are willing to work late on Saturday or the whole day on Sunday. They have to start at the bottom and those at the entry level must forgo worship if they want to have a job or a career. I have seen college students who have come back home, who are in town, but who on Sunday morning are so tired they cannot get out of bed, or they are the ones that open their business and they cannot come to worship. And I think that the Lord Jesus Christ would use the millstone illustration.
I am not trying to take away from the responsibility that our teenagers and young people have. They are responsible for their actions. However, I am also concerned for those who create an environment in which the children whom God loves and who have grown in our churches, fall easy prey to the alluring temptations that are being presented to them. It is a frightening illustration and I hope that none of my readers will be condemned in this category by the Lord Jesus who has welcomed the children to him and who loved them with a great love.