Why can’t I do what I want?
From 1 Corinthians: A 35-Day Devotional
When we discuss hot button issues today, “food sacrificed to idols” is not at the top of our list. But in the early church in Corinth, what Christians ate was a serious concern. Many non-Christians sacrificed animals to idols then ate those animals as part of their idol worship.
Believers in the community wanted to honor God with all they did, but they kept running into this dilemma: How do you share meals with non-believing friends and family without dishonoring Jesus or offending the people you’re eating with?
Believers in Corinth weren’t sure what to do. Some ate without much concern; others were freaking out. Paul answers by reminding the church of the following:
- Idols are dead and meaningless.
- Food sacrificed to something dead and meaningless is just food.
Therefore, the decision to eat or not to eat is a matter of conscience, not a command. If what we eat or drink could harm our ability to represent Jesus well, then it’s better to avoid eating or drinking. If saying no will offend the person, making it harder to show Jesus’ love, we have the freedom to eat what’s set before us.
In all things, it is better to look after the interests of others than our own.
Translation: It’s not all about us. In all things, it is better to look after the interests of others than our own. If someone believes something is a sin, and they do it anyway, then it is a sin for them (Romans 14:23). We may feel it’s OK to have a drink, watch a certain movie, or eat certain food, but if doing so hurts the spiritual health and growth of other believers, or causes them to sin, then it becomes a sin for us because we’ve caused them to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9-12).
Even when we know something is OK, keep this in mind: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Even if all the knowledge we have is based on true faith, it will end up making us proud if we don’t apply it in love.
So instead of asking, “Am I allowed to do this?” a better question to ask is, “Will this build others up?” Because when we put others first, we use our freedom in a way that honors Jesus and doesn’t cause others to stumble.
- In what area of your life are you using your freedom to serve yourself?
- What is one step you can take today to begin putting others first in that area?