Jesus said, "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." Mark 9:42-50
I was a kid who loathed tests of all sorts. I was always scared ahead of time and full of the anticipation of failure. Even as an adult, when the day came for me to defend my dissertation, I was a wreck. I am so sure of failure and disaster. Testing is hard for all of us, and when we are tempted with a leg up, an easy way out, a sure advantage, it is very tempting to give in. But I know when I give in, or when I refuse or ignore the necessary testing, I am giving in to selfishness and taking away from others. Our challenges can be great gifts to others, and can inspire them to face the fire, the testing, the challenges that face them.
Jesus was responding to the question of who was greatest in the kingdom. He still had a small child on his lap. He was reminding them that the least were the greatest, and that our job is to lift others up and not to cause others to stumble. It is hard sometimes to put others first. It is hard to live with the consequences of our selfishness, particularly for those who follow after us. Our loving Creator invites us to live sacrificially, living for others, so that we might be a part of the reign of God here on earth.
Today I ask God to help me live sacrificially and for others. May we accept the testing and the challenges, knowing that the fires we face are part of our becoming the children of God. May we live caring for the least among us, trusting that we are living the reign of God here on earth.