“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2).
You can read about it almost every day in the news. Somewhere on the planet a person drowns in water. It’s the third most common cause of accidental death in the United States. About 8,000 people in the U.S. die each year in the water. Around the world the annual numbers climb to about 150,000. The two most common time periods in a person’s life for drowning are under the age of five and then between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. These teens and young adults are usually males and most often alcohol is related to the tragedy.1
The Bible talks about drowning in several places, directly or indirectly. The first incident happened when a worldwide flood covered the earth. Then there was the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. But did you know there is a situation in which Jesus suggests that it would be good for someone to drown? “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” (Matthew 18:6). That is strong language! Just what did Christ mean in this verse?
Christ brought a small child into the midst of the disciples to teach them about who will be “great” in God’s kingdom. He illustrates the importance of having simple faith like a child. But Jesus goes on to say that if someone causes a little child to stumble or be led into sin, it would be better to be drowned with a millstone around their neck. The stone referred to in the original language is not the small grinding rock turned by hand, but a large commercial stone run by the force of a donkey.
Another way of stating Jesus words is that people who lead others into sin, especially those who are vulnerable (children, youth, or those with simple faith) will face a judgment for their actions which will be far worse than to have drowned and never committed the sin of causing one of these “little ones” to stumble. It is a serious offense to influence others to turn from God. We would be better off in the bottom of the sea than to sway people to reject the Lord.