Read 1 Corinthians 8
Concerning Food Sacrificed to Idols
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
What’s the big deal about eating meat? We “know” that meat in and of itself is neutral. There is no sin in it; however, to the Corinthians, meat offered to idols or pagan gods was a source of division for the new believers there. Some said eating the meat from pagan temples is a sin and would lead to idol worship (again). Others said all things are permissible and there is freedom in Christ. Who’s right?
Both. Both sides of the argument had right information, or right knowledge, about the meat in question. The point Paul is making is that knowledge alone is never enough. Knowledge makes us feel important. We like knowledge. Knowledge is easy to navigate. It’s black and white. It feeds the ego. But knowledge alone only leads to pride and self-righteousness. Paul isn’t encouraging the Corinthians to be mindless followers, he is encouraging them to apply knowledge through the lens of love because knowledge may make ONE feel important for the moment, but love makes ALL believers better in the long run. Knowing what to do isn’t as important as why we do it.
Paul reminds us that Christian liberty is not a license to exercise personal rights at the expense of another. Oftentimes, Paul asks believers to lay down their rights for the benefit of another. In other words, just because we can doesn’t always mean we should. We may be free to do one thing, but that one thing may not be profitable or beneficial for another.
The question Paul implies is this: What does love require? Is there someone watching what we say or do that could be influenced poorly by our actions? Love requires restraint in that instance. Love lays down preferences for the sake of another. Love limits liberty when necessary because love knows that another may be set free by our restraint. Knowledge is prominent, but love is paramount.
After all, this is the example of Jesus—giving up His freedom for our benefit.
What does it mean that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”? (vs. 1)
What are some “gray areas” in your life where you have the right to exercise freedom in Christ, but love requires you to lay that right down for the sake of another?
What stands out most to you in this chapter? What is one application you can put into practice today?
Did You Know?
The Romans and Greeks offered the less desirable portions of an animal in their pagan sacrifices and left the best parts of the meat for personal consumption at banquets celebrating the pagan sacrifices or sold the meat in the market next to the temples.