Not Causing to Stumble

Note from JesusDear Disciple,

Some issues were hard for new Christians to understand. One question for these new believers in Corinth was this: “Should we avoid food sacrificed to idols?” They didn’t want to be polluted by things associated with idols, yet meat that was not sacrificed to idols was hard to find unless they went to kosher Jewish butchers if they could find one. Paul had taught them to stay away from any kind of immorality. For some Corinthians, this principle seemed to indicate that they should have nothing to do with meat or any other thing associated with idols because doing so could associate them with idol worship, including the rampant practice of prostitution in the false religions that permeated their culture.

They were also confused by some questions associated with other truths about their faith:Weren’t they free from law-keeping as the way to be justified?Didn’t their freedom allow them to eat this meat as long as they didn’t participate in the worship of idols?Weren’t idols just inanimate objects and not gods at all?Aren’t all things permitted for believers if the object or activity is offered to God to glorify Him?Paul established several clear principles to help the Christians navigate these difficult problems. He offered them several very good principles to help work through this issue while taking responsibility for their choices and their influence on others. Those principles can be seen in the answers to these core questions — answers that come from Christian love for and support of your brothers and sisters:Is the activity or behavior helping you love your brothers and sisters, or is it a source of personal pride and a sense of importance?Eating food or avoiding food doesn’t move you closer to or farther away from God. So is it worth making what you eat a significant issue in the life of another believer, especially if that believer is a new Christian?Why would you eat, drink, or do anything that would cause brothers or sisters to fall away from God and into their old lives of sin?Does participating or not participating build up and encourage your brothers and sisters?Are you doing or refusing to do something based on glorifying God, or is there another reason?Does doing this activity or eating this food or drinking this drink offend an ethnic or social group within the body of Christ?Remember, you not only are in relationship with Me as your Lord and Savior, but you are also connected to every other believer, especially those in your fellowship. You should not be living to please yourself, but Me. You should not be living to bless yourself, but others whom you influence. Follow Paul’s example and take the time to learn the needs, the vulnerabilities, and the struggles of your Christian brothers and sisters. Then adjust your use of your freedom as My disciple to bless and build up these other believers in the best possible way.Verses to LiveWhile this discussion appears to be from long ago and far away because of the whole issue of idolatry, think of other situations where you can apply these principles. Ask yourself the core questions above (the six numbered questions) to help you examine your own motives and your brothers’ and sisters’ needs.As to the concern of eating food dedicated to idols: we know that all of us have knowledge, but knowledge can be risky. Knowledge promotes overconfidence and worse arrogance, but charity of the heart (love, that is) looks to build up others. Just because a person presumes to have some bit of knowledge, that person doesn’t necessarily have the right kind of knowledge. But if someone loves God, it is certain that God has already known that one.

So to address your concerns about eating food offered to idols, let me start with what we know. An idol is essentially nothing, as there is no other God but the One. And even if the majority believes there are many so-called gods in heaven and on earth (certainly many worship such “gods” and “lords”), this is not our view. For us, there is one God, the Father Who is the ultimate source of all things and the goal of our lives. And there is one Lord — Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King; through Him all things were created, and by Him we are redeemed.

But this knowledge is not in everyone. Up until now, some have been so familiar with idols and what goes on in the temples that when they eat meat that has been offered first to some idol, their weak consciences are polluted. This is the issue. Again, here’s what we know: what we eat will not bring us closer to God — we gain nothing in feasting and lose nothing by fasting. Now let me warn you: don’t let your newfound liberty cause those who don’t know this to fall face-first. Let’s say a person (someone who knows of Jesus) sees you eating in the temple of an idol; and because the person with a weaker conscience is still unsure of things, he becomes confident, follows your lead, and eats idol food. Now, because of your knowledge on display in your conduct, the weaker brother or sister — for whom the Anointed One died — is destroyed! Ruined! What’s more, by living according to your knowledge, you have sinned against these brothers and sisters and wounded their weak consciences — and because you sinned against them, you have sinned against the Anointed One, the Liberating King.

So if any type of food is an issue that causes my brothers and sisters to fall away from God, then God forbid I should ever eat it again so that I would never be the crack, the rise, or the rock on the road that causes them to stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-13)

So what does all this mean? I’m not suggesting that idol food itself has any special qualities or that an idol itself possesses any special powers, but I am saying that the outsiders’ sacrifices are actually offered to demons, not to God. So if you feast upon this food, you are feasting with demons — I don’t want you involved with demons! You can’t hold the holy cup of the Lord in one hand and the cup of demons in the other. You can’t share in the Lord’s table while picking off the altar of demons. Are we trying to provoke the Lord Jesus? Do we think it’s a good idea to stir up His jealousy? Do we have ridiculous delusions about matching or even surpassing His power?

There’s a slogan often quoted on matters like this: “All things are permitted.” Yes, but not all things are beneficial. “All things are permitted,” they say. Yes, but not all things build up and strengthen others in the body. We should stop looking out for our own interests and instead focus on the people living and breathing around us. Feel free to eat any meat sold in the market without your conscience raising questions about scruples because “the earth and all that’s upon it belong to the Lord.”

So if some unbelievers invite you to dinner and you want to go, feel free to eat whatever they offer you without raising questions about conscience. But if someone says, “This is meat from the temple altar, a sacrifice to god so-and-so,” then do not eat it. Not so much because of your own conscience because the earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord, but out of consideration for the conscience of the other fellow who told you about it. So you ask, “Why should I give up my freedom to accommodate the scruples of another?” or, “If I am eating with gratitude to God, why am I insulted for eating food that I have properly given thanks for?” These are good questions.

Whatever you do — whether you eat or drink or not — do it all to the glory of God! Do not offend Jews or Greeks or any part of the church of God for that matter. Consider my example: I strive to please all people in all my actions and words — but don’t think I am in this for myself — their rescued souls are the only profit.
(1 Corinthians 10:19-33)Response in PrayerO Father, help me recognize those areas where my pride and hard-headedness get the better of me. I know these vulnerabilities can lead me to do certain things that can cause others to stumble. On one hand, dear Father, I don’t want to try to justify myself because I feel superior to others by practicing a rigid form of self-made righteousness. Also, I don’t want to be a stumbling block so that I can exercise a freedom that doesn’t really bring me closer to You or build up my brothers and sisters. Give me wisdom, O LORD. I know You want me to wrestle with my daily decisions, but some of these issues are hard for me to navigate. I ask for You to lead me by Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.’A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware. © 1998-2022, Heartlight, Inc. ‘A Year with Jesus’ is part of the Heartlight Network.All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Not Causing to Stumble
Source: Passion for Praise