"And whoever offends one of these humble ones who trust in me – it will be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea." (Mark 9:42)Most sectarian translations of this statement by Jesus translate the Greek word μικρός (mikros) to the phrase, "little ones." Is Jesus speaking of little children here? Or is he referring to those who are small? Perhaps he is referring to those who are short?
Don't be ridiculous.
We know that he isn't referring to children here, because he was speaking to his followers about those who follow him:
For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name – because you belong to the Anointed of God [Messiah, Christ] – truly I say to you, he will never lose his reward. (Mark 9:41)We know Jesus is referring to his followers because he refers to them as those "who trust in me."
Indeed, the Greek word can mean small, but this can also refer to, according to the lexicon, "of rank or influence."
In other words, Jesus is referring to those who do not see themselves as great. Such a person would be considered "humble."
Importance of humility in Jesus' teachings
A big part of Jesus' teachings was based on humility: Feeling oneself to be insignificant. Jesus stated this multiple times according to the Gospels of Jesus:
“Blessed are the humble in spirit, for theirs is the sanctuary of spiritual realm." (Matt.5:3)The writer of the Gospel of Luke also commented on humility:
"The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the humble are preached the gospel." (Matt. 11:5 and Luke 7:22)
"Therefore, whoever will humble himself as this little child will become great in the sanctuary of the spiritual realm." (Matt. 18:4)
"And whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt. 23:12 and Luke 18:14)
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the humble." (Luke 4:18)
“Blessed are you who are humble, for the sanctuary of God is yours." (Luke 6:20)
“I praise you Creator, LORD of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and have revealed them to the humble." (Luke 10:21)
"Because anyone who exalts himself will be humbled and one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
“If anyone wants to be greatest, they must be last – and the servant of everyone.” (Mark 9:35)
For He sees the humility of His servant. Just consider, from this time forward, future generations will proclaim me as being blessed – because the Mighty One has done great things for me. And His Name is Holy. (Luke 1:48-49)We also find this teaching in James' writings:
Yet the companion of humility will rejoice in his position, and the materialist will glory in humiliation as they pass away like the grass flower. (James 1:9-10)So Jesus is referring to his humble followers in Mark 9:42. What is the issue? He is speaking of the problem with offending one of his humble followers.
Who among you is wise and knowledgeable? Then show it by your devoted activities performed with the humility that arises from wisdom. (James 3:13)
Offending the servant of God
If we are speaking of a normal worldly person, one is typically offended if someone does or says something that damages their reputation or good name; or interferes with an activity of enjoyment.
This is because the ultimate motive of most worldly persons is to enjoy life in a self-centered fashion: That is, to bring pleasure upon the body, to be respected by others, to become wealthy and so on. It is, in other words, about self-centeredness.
But Jesus was speaking of his followers here - not worldly persons.
Jesus' true followers were wanting to please Jesus. And because Jesus was wanting to please God, his followers were ultimately wanting to please God. They were servants of God.
Therefore, to offend one of Jesus' followers was greatly displeasing to Jesus because he understood their relationship with the Supreme Being.
It's about a relationship
A person who is devoted to God doesn't feel offended when one personally attacks them. They don't care about their personal name or reputation.
But what they care about is pleasing God with their particular service. This is called loving service, and such loving service revolves around a reciprocated loving relationship with God.
In other words, there is a loving relationship going on between the Supreme Being and His loving servants.
Therefore, should someone offend someone who loves Him, the Supreme Being will be displeased.
The loving relationship between God and the servant of God is very intimate. The Supreme Being is exchanging a spiritual relationship with someone. Should another person offend that person or interfere with their service, the Supreme Being is not pleased.
One may displease God in so many ways - by rejecting Him or ignoring Him. But to overtly offend one of God's loving servants is a major blunder according to Jesus.
Thus, one should be very careful not to interfere with or otherwise offend someone who is trying to serve God. As Jesus states here:
"- it will be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea."