How cautious must we be in not causing a weaker person to stumble?

Salvete, omnes!

Precisely how careful/cautious/strict do we have to be in not causing a “weaker” person to stumble?

After all, Paul uses the example of dining in an idol’s temple, asking, “What if someone sees you” dining there and is thus caused to stumble?

How “what if” is “what if” in cases of possible scandal?

For instance, ifsomeone struggles with moderation and/or addiction to alcohol, are we indeed to avoid drinking at all in public for fear that that person may see us drunking and may be “emboldened” to drink him/ehrself?

What if we don’t know anyone personally who struggles with this issue but we know generally that there may be someone who comes into an establishment who may struggle with it. With this mere possibility in mind, should we avoid drinking in public places at all?

I use this as only one example to work with in addressing the general issue of caution when it comes to this particular aspect of causing scandal, but I’m sure there are others other people could cite as well to contribute to this discussion.


I would not generally drink around an alcoholic struggling to stay sober. That would bring about an occasion to sin for him. Barring anything I know is a major issue in the culture I am in, I would not go about my life abstaining from everything for fear that somebody somewhere has an issue. And I feel like proximity is an issue. If someone I love or am cyrrently spending time with is drinking (and I’m tempted to alcoholism) I’d have a harder time than if someone I don’t know is having a drink at the next table.

Look at the saying from St Paul in context. Is he referring to the people of a church who are trying to pull people away from something wrong. Drinking alcohol is not wrong.

Use common sense. You are responsible for your actions; if you don’t know, don’t do it.

Also, if you get upset at my post and decide to get wasted, it’s not my fault. :slight_smile:

My opinion: If I know I am going to dine with someone who struggles with alcoholism, I will not order an alcoholic beverage to drink out of respect for them. I will stick with water, generally. A lot of times people feel social pressure re drinking, or are looking for an excuse.

That said- if I am not dining with someone who has a problem, I wouldn’t choose not to have an alcoholic beverage just on the off chance that someone might have come into the restaurant that is an alcoholic. If they have that serious of an issue that seeing a total strange order a beer or glass of wine makes them fall off the wagon, they should probably stay out of establishments that serve alcohol.

Your example refers to knowing that a person is inclined to stumble in a particular way, and the answer is it’s best to support that person from not stumbling.

In the other case, of not knowing that we’re causing anybody to stumble, is pretty tough to manage. We don’t know what might “set somebody off.” – like committing suicide for example. We’ll feel rotten, at the least.

Once in a while I give a particular homeless man money, but I don’t know what he does with it. There’s a heroin use epidemic in many parts of the US, and in my home town.

When I get money, nobody asks me what I’m going to do with it. So, I don’t ask him. I might even get into trouble for giving him money, if the police think I’m doing something illegal (which I don’t think I am). He hangs out by a fast-food spot and I’ve seen him there. I would hope that he’d get a solid meal from the restaurant in the other direction. Who knows? When I send money to a charity, how do I know it gets to the people I want it to get to?

If I’m not mistaken, the Red Cross was accepting money back in 2001 when the plane attack in NY took place, but the money was used elsewhere. The Red Cross never said it was going to use the money for the relief of victims’ families. There was a big stink about that.

You live life, you take chances.

Yeah, I agree 100%, Wes. Particularly when it comes to alcohol, I think this is a very decent attitude to have, and I wish more people had it.

Here is my guideline. Do unto others…

How far would I expect others to go to accommodate me?

Is being “cautious” about accommodating others? Or is being cautious the way we should behave at all times? Not walking on eggshells but being aware that we are all teachers and all are our teachers as well. When we do something good or bad someone is going to notice it and some of those may be inclined to follow suit whether it is the good or bad. When I was in the service they told us we were ambassadors for the service to civilians and for the u.s. if we were in a different country. Are we not all ambassadors for the divine? We don’t know who has weaknesses or certain failings that we may contribute too and really don’t need to accommodate anyone yet we probably should be moderate in our appetites and desires be they alcohol, food, television shows or movies we watch, etc…Blessings to you and yours.

Best advice is live clean, be clean. No Christian should be doing anything that might make a brother or sister stumble. That includes over eating, drinking or any other vice. Just don’t do it.

By living as Christ lived, we are helping, not hindering our fellow man.

At one point in our passage in question, Paul says that he would “never eat meat again” if it caused his brother to stumble.

So, if we know someone who is an alcoholic and there is the mere possibility of him coming to our house and seeing us drinking or of them coming to a given restaurant where they might see us and possibly stumble, is Paul commanding us not to drink alcohol at all, ever?

Some have called Paul’s statement here “exaggeration”, though I’d like to know their evidence for this assertion. It sounds pretty clear to me.


Evidence? Common sense. Get a good bible commentary. It’s right up there with Jesus telling people to cut off their hand if it offends.

So, let’s see if I understand.

There are at least some here who are saying that, so long as you don’t have a reasonable certainty that you are indeed going to cause someone to fall into sin by, say, drinking alcophol in public, you are not charged with abstaining from such?

I guess my question here, though, is the “what if” element.

Paul says in his argument “what if someone should see you dining in an idol’s temple”. So, here I might ask “what if someone should see me drinking in public” (and thus be caused to stumble? In the instance that Paul cites, he seems to advocate against dining in an idol’s temple because of the “what if”.

How much certainty/uncertainty should be have when it comes to the “what if”? I mean, there are alcoholics all around us, so, “what if” one if them should come into a restaurant and see me drinking alcohol and be tempted and do the same?

Some might argue that it is the responsibility of the alcoholic to avoid such establishments, but, even if this is so, in other cases, how much "what if"ing should we do? How much are we obligated to do?

Let us say that someone thinks having a TV is wrong. “What if” you have a TV and he/she comes into your house, sees your TV and is tempted to and buys a TV, even though he/she knows it’s wrong? Should you, then, give up your TV just to prevent even that possibility, no matter how remote it may be? What if that person shows no signs of letting go of his/her conviction so that it is unlikely that, even if he/she does see your TV, he/she will slip into what he/she considers sin him/herself?

And let us consider another example that is closer to home for me particularly. There are surely some out there who would think that mys studying of the classics (pagan Greek and ROman culture) is completely wrong no matter what. Now, I also enjoy sharing information/insight about my studies on social media such as Twitter. “What if” someone who thinks my studies sinful should happen upon my Twitter account and, since I am engaging in them adn even though he/she may think it sinful, is still tempted, because he/she really does want to, to engage in classical studies. And, indeed, what if he/she does this? Am I to be held accountable for his/her sin if this ever happens? So, then, taking into account even this possibility, should I quite my study of the classics, at least insofar as I practice it in public before people who may object to it but may also be weak enough to succumb to studying it because, in their heart, even though they believe it is wrong, they still desire to? Is this not like the “weak brother” being emboldened to eat meat sacrificed to idols in Paul’s example with which we are dealing here?

Correct. It is prudential judgment when what you do is not itself sinful. It is up to you to weigh the concrete circumstances to determine if you have an obligation to forego a good, refrain from an activity, etc, in that particular circumstance.

I can suggest this article, which addresses the kind of scandal you are describing under #3:

All the examples above seem very innocent. However, what if you knew someone was lonely & you were in a position of influence over them & you ‘suggested’ to them that in order to gain your friendship that they lie or steal for you? Maybe you didn’t explicitly say those exact words but the meaning was the same. Now that’s not very innocent is it?

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