One of the very big issues in the early church involved eating. As many foods were offered to other gods (or idols) during this time period, a lot of Christians were wondering how they should act if they were offered these foods as part of a meal.
This may seem a bit foolish to us now–until we stop and realize that we still face these type of issues. Is it wrong to drink wine? What about someone who is on Weight Watchers faced with attending a great church suppers? How do we treat a pregnant teenager who isn’t married?
Paul offers his take on how we should approach getting beneath the surface of such matters in 1st Corinthians 8: Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
Paul tells us not to get so focused on action but on spirit. We all know about ‘intentions’. Offering food to idols in those days wasn’t abnormal. What is more, Paul makes it clear that these so-called ‘idols’ have nothing compared to our knowledge of God. He makes it clear that God provides food for us and that it is not the FOOD that is the problem–it is the IDEA of that offering.
We may not have a problem with eating this food for it means nothing to us–but for others, it may seem as if we are acquiescing in acknowledging these gods as having values. To someone who is a babe in faith, this may pose a real problem.
IF we tempt another with an action we know may cause them a greater chance to sin, then we must truly try our best to avoid putting said temptation in their way.
Many times, people use these verses on drinking alcohol–but there is more here to think about. There are a host of choices in life that tempt us–alcohol, gambling, sex, food, money, etc. Then there are other things…like politics. Want to see someone cause a big argument in a few seconds?
Look, we can hash out all these issues as to whether they are right or wrong in the sight of God (and often do) but the REAL issue Paul wants us to address is where we are in SPIRIT. We KNOW how to push the buttons of other people.
Paul is trying to get us to look at a complicated issue and bring simplicity to it. When you KNOW what you are doing (eating a big piece of cake in front of someone who just began dieting? Serving wine to someone who just returned from an AA meeting? Bragging about your new home to someone recently foreclosed upon?) you are, in fact, offending the tenets of our faith.
Christians are not perfect. We should, however, do what we can to try to please God…that means truly listening and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ AND others. Take time today to truly listen to those around you and do your best to provide an example of upholding the Christian spirit in love and understanding.