What does Matthew 18:6 mean?
ESV: but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
NIV: "If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
NASB: but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.
CSB: "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.
NLT: But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
KJV: But whoso shall offend 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.
NKJV: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus has been describing the child-like faith and humility required to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1–5). Now He seems to be describing those who believe in Him, including adults, as "little ones."

He warns that a harsh judgment will come on those who cause one of the little ones who believe in Him to sin or to stumble. This would include falling away from faith in and commitment to Christ. It would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and to be drowned in the deep part of the sea. Drowning was a form of execution used in the ancient world, but rarely in Israel. Jesus' harsh description of death by drowning includes being strapped to the enormous and heavy millstone pulled by a donkey as it crushes the grain. This would assure no hope of escape.

Jesus has regularly warned about a judgment to come when He returns to earth with His angels, where people will be repaid for what they have done, including their sin (Matthew 16:27). This is the first time, though, that Jesus has mentioned a judgment for those who cause others to sin, including leading those who believe in Him into sin.

Jesus' warning here reveals that believers in Jesus are not perfect and can sin and that the consequences are serious both for them and for those who lead them into that sin. Peter, for instance, will commit the grave sin of denying faith in and relationship to Jesus. This will bring him great sorrow, but he will be restored and go on to be used by God to accomplish powerful things for Christ.
Verse Context:
Matthew 18:1–6 describes Jesus' surprising answer to a question from the disciples about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He calls a child to Him and puts that child in the middle of the group. He says they must become "like children" in order to enter the kingdom—a reference to humility and sincere obedience. The greatest is one who humbles himself in this way. Those who receive children like that in Jesus' name receive Him. Using the metaphor of drowning, Jesus warns anyone who would cause one of His followers to sin.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus uses two questions from the disciples to teach important lessons. The "greatest" in the kingdom is the one who humbles himself like a child. Temptation is unavoidable in earthly life, but it's worth going to extremes to avoid falling for it. Even so, those who fall should not be hated and despised. God the Father values them highly and wants none of them to perish. In fact, Jesus lays out a clear, careful process to confront sin in others before removing them from the community. Christ also replies to Peter's question about forgiveness with a parable. This story represents both God's amazing forgiveness, and the way we ought to respond as Christians.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 18 follows the action of the previous chapter with teaching from Jesus on several issues. These include humility, using the example of a child. Jesus also teaches about avoiding sin and offering forgiveness to others. Interestingly, the following chapter will also feature references to children and to wealth, as Christ continues to explain the will of God to His disciples.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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