Don’t Take the Bait
In Luke 17:1, Jesus tells us that offenses are inevitable; they WILL come. The Greek word for “offense” is skandalon. It is also translated as a “stumbling block,” a word or event which causes an individual to stumble or fall, figuratively speaking.
This word is very fascinating. Skandalon literally means “a trap-stick.” (1) It was the trigger of a trap (usually made of wood) on which bait was placed; when the bait was taken by an animal, the trap was sprung. Skandalon is also the Greek word from which we get our English word, scandal. When we, like an unsuspecting animal, take certain types of bait, we are trapped and often find ourselves in a scandalous situation.
It also became the word for an “offense.” An offense is a result of “taking the bait” when wronged. Thus the phrase “pick up an offense.” When we have been wronged or mistreated, the key to remaining free from bitterness and lasting pain is to not pick up the offense - don’t take the bait. Jesus told us very clearly that we WILL be baited - offenses WILL come. We must not pick them up - they are traps!
The bait in an animal trap is food the creature finds appealing, something it desires to eat. How else could the trap actually be successful? Likewise, we pick up offenses because it is desirable and feels good to pick them up. When treated poorly or unfairly, stolen from, spoken to harshly, abused, or mistreated, it feels good to take the bait. We “deserve” to be angry, to feel resentful, to take up an offense. After all, they hurt us. But it’s a trap!
Years ago, in a certain part of Africa, monkeys were trapped by placing a banana in a jar that was tied to a tree or stake. The opening of the jar was just large enough for the monkey’s hand to fit through it when open. However, when the hand was closed into a fist, it was too big to remove it. The monkey wanted the banana so badly it would not let go of it, and consequently could not remove its hand. It was now trapped.
If you have picked up an offense, if you have taken the bait, let go of it. It’s the only way to be free. If you hold on to it, you will become a captive to the enemy and to the effects of the wound.
This brings us to the subject of forgiveness. Jesus told us in Luke 6:37 to forgive, and we would be forgiven. In the prayer we call the Lord‘s Prayer, Jesus again instructed us to forgive our debtors, or “those who trespass against us.” The word “forgive” also means to release. “Release, and you will be released,” Luke 6:37 says. The key to being freed from the effects of being wronged - pain, fear, emotional walls, and more - is to release the person that hurt us. Let go of the banana. It may feel good to resent or hate the offending party, but it’s a trap.
One of the biggest hindrances for people when trying to forgive is a wrong understanding of forgiveness itself. Most people link it with their feelings. But forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. It is a decision we make based on truth, just like love. Being angry at someone we love doesn’t mean we no longer love them. We may not “feel” the love currently - emotionally, we feel anger - but we still love the person. In the same way, forgiveness isn’t a feeling. We can make a genuine decision to forgive/release while still feeling anger, hurt, pain, etc. We do so as an action of our will, based on truth - God said to do it. And if we maintain our decision, it begins the process of releasing us from the pain and hurt.
Another hindrance to forgiveness is failing to realize we are not declaring the offending person to be innocent. We are simply releasing them to God - He reserves the right to judge individuals. We are handing them over to Him, and He will do what is right.
Still another hindrance is a belief that when we forgive, we must then have only pleasant thoughts or feelings toward the offender. There are people I have forgiven that I still do not trust or like as a person. They are mean and unkind. But I can choose to love and forgive even my enemies, releasing them to God, though they will never be my friends.
When we pick up an offense, if not released, it will become a root of bitterness. The fruit it produces is also bitter: sickness, emotional disorders, anger, loss of joy, and a breach between us and God. It also spreads to others. Hebrews tells us the root of bitterness defiles many. “Looking diligently lest any man fails of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15; KJV). The Greek word defiled is also the word for a stain on clothing. When we become bitter, we stain others with our bitterness. We’ve all seen entire families separated through bitterness. How tragic.
Pray with me:
Father, we thank You for modeling love and forgiveness. While we were still sinners, You sent Your Son to die for us. Jesus, You forgave those crucifying You. We want Your forgiving nature to control us. We want to walk in love. We ask for grace now to do so.
As You taught us to do, we choose to forgive those who have hurt us. We release them. As we do so, we believe it will release a healing process in us. Wounds will heal, sickness will leave, and emotions will no longer control us. We desire to forgive and release so You can forgive us (Mark 11:25).
And Lord, we know healed people heal people. Make us healers. Help us to spread healing love, not stain-causing bitterness. Heal our land of racial wounds, political division, and cultural divides. We want to see the accuser cast down in our nation. We bind spirits of division and strife, declaring their hold broken.
We desire to be ambassadors and examples of your love and forgiveness toward others. Help us represent You well. We pray these things in Christ’s powerful name.
We decree that we will love and forgive as we have been loved and forgiven by God.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible - New American Standard (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1984; revised edition, 1990) p 2274.