I was reared in the kind of Christian faith that made this category of “stumbling blocks” a big issue. There were lots of things we were told — mild way of saying it — not to do because it could become a “stumbling block.” So, let’s see what Paul says about this term.
Before I do that, let me finish some of my story with a little fun (so don’t take this too seriously). The two biggies in my little world were going to movies and drinking alcohol. Some people I knew — and they had loud voices — thought movies were hell-holes that were waiting to gobble up little Baptist boys, and the same thought drink of any sort, even a nice glass of Merlot (which name they probably didn’t even know), led in one short weekend to full-scale alcoholism. Let’s not be too funny here (I say to myself), there are problems with alcohol. But, full-scale wars against movies and sippin’ something with your evening meal is not the point of the biblical warnings. Anybody who knew that wine could make the heart glad — “red red wine, makes me happy all o’ the time” sings UB40 — knew the difference between measured drink and drunkenness. The world I grew up in didn’t, so it legislated these matters by appealing to “stumbling blocks.” What I’d like to say is that those good and well-meaning folks didn’t stumble over anything, least of all some yellowish drink in a beer can. Stumble … no way, they kicked those cans into the gutter. (And I know my dad is laughing right now as he reads this, and I don’t think he ever stumbled over a beer can.)
Now back to Paul, who got us going …
Living to the Lord, 14:10-12, also means keeping one eye on what you do and the other eye on the impact of your behavior on others. We live in an age of rights and a near obsession with individualism — everything becomes our choice and volunteerism. Paul would not like this development.
Paul’s logic is interesting: he takes the Gentile view of foods (or should we say the Christian view?) that all foods are clean, but that doesn’t mean — to extrapolate — Christians ought to be slamming ham sandwiches when with those who have scruples about ham.
Paul urges sensitivity and adjustment in light of sensitivity.
Principle: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (14:17). Wright shows the connection to 5:1-5 — chase it down, worth thinking about.
Now, let me put in an idea here: stumbling blocks are things we do that will trip up our brother or sister in the faith; they are not things with which our brother or sister has a tighter conscience on and that they can’t comprehend why we don’t. Therefore we shouldn’t do something because they don’t. Do you agree?