A Christian's potential is so fabulous that he must do whatever he can to ensure it. No matter how important they are to us, we must abandon any worldly attachments, friendships, and employments that will lead us into sin, or we will receive eternal judgment. Of course, Jesus' illustrations of cutting off a limb or plucking out an eye are not literal, but He wants us to understand the stakes. It is far better to attain to eternal life without enjoying the pleasures of sin than to enjoy them here in this life and be lost. Thus, Jesus emphasizes that we must remove temptation and avoid sin at all costs.
Martin G. Collins
Parables of the Millstone and the Lost Sheep
The word skandalon, translated "offenses" or "offense," is used by Jesus three times in this verse. Skandalon is the trigger of a trap on which bait is placed. When an animal touches the trigger to eat the bait, the trap springs shut, and the animal is caught. When used in a moral context, skandalon indicates the enticement to conduct which will ruin the person in question.
Obviously, the verse's context is moral. Jesus' concern is the sin of being the temptation or enticement that causes others to sin. He does not stipulate whether one is the direct cause through persuasion or flaunted worldliness, or indirectly through one's manner of life. Hypocrisy may very well tempt others to sin more than outright atheism!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Defense Against Offense
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 18:7: