What is the millstone award?

“Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:1-2).

A millstone is a large stone used in a mill to grind wheat and/or other grains. Depending on its size, a millstone could weigh anywhere between 100 and 1000 pounds. Needless to say, if a person is thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his or her neck, death is imminent. Jesus is saying that it is better to die a frightening and painful death than to cause someone else to stumble.

The millstone award (a phrase coined by a friend of mine), then, is something you definitely want to avoid. At GotQuestions.org we strive to be very careful about what we say and how we say it. We do not want to cause anyone to stumble, thus earning the millstone award. Jesus seems to focus particularly on children with the use of “little ones,” but the same principle applies no matter the age.

I was recently reminded of the millstone award when I reread some words of Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist. After recalling that he had been molested as a child in boarding school, Dawkins stated, “I don't think he did any of us lasting harm.” Dawkins has caught a lot of flak for his insinuation that “mild pedophilia” is essentially harmless. He goes on to claim that teaching children hell exists is more psychologically harmful than molestation.

What if Dawkins being molested as a child impacted him to become a hard-hearted atheist? What if Dawkins being molested caused a distrust towards authority figures? What if the pedophile who assaulted Dawkins had presented himself as a Christian, thus resulting in Dawkins hating God and religion? What if possibly the most influential atheist in history began down that path in life due to being molested when he was a “little one”? Talk about someone earning the millstone award!

There is no such thing as “mild pedophilia.” There is no such thing as “mild child abuse.” There is nothing mild about it. Of course, there are varying degrees of abuse. Raping a child is worse than touching a child inappropriately. But there is no such thing as mild abuse. Abuse, whether physical, sexual, verbal, or psychological is destructive. It has lasting impact. It permanently impacts how a person views himself/herself, other people, and the world.

Most importantly, our words and actions impact how other people view God. If people are offended when we take a stand for Christ, so be it. Jesus promised this would occur (John 15:18-25). But, causing people to stumble by our sinful attitudes, words, and actions—may it never be! See 2 Samuel 12:14.

We all need to remember that our actions can have lasting impact on other people. Whether we are dealing with a “little one” or a “big one,” may our lives always point towards Christ, not away from Him.

Which would you prefer, the millstone award or the “crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4)?

S. Michael Houdmann

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What is the millstone award?