Sunday, June 16, 2024

For Conscience’ Sake (1 Corinthians 10:23-28)

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful" (1 Cor. 10:23).

Having just proved that eating sacrifices offered to idols under circumstances that gave a religious character to the act was idolatry, Paul returns to his former instruction on Christian liberty. He repeats that the right use of sacrificial foods is a matter of indifference, but even in this, one should act out of concern for others and not for one’s own self: “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” This is a general maxim and can be applied more broadly to other areas of life as well. Self is not to be the object of our actions; our personal interests should not be put above those of others. While all things might be lawful for us, all things are not necessary for us or edifying for others.

After laying the foundation that we are to be concerned about the interests of others in the use of our liberty, Paul goes on to define how we are to live by conscience. He gives the example of buying and eating meat. When you go to the market, do not ask where the meat came from, just buy it, Paul counsels. Once it is for sale in the market it carries with it no religious significance. Paul was not advising the Corinthians to act blindly, but to realize that they did not need to ask questions because meat sold in the market place was no longer sacrificial in nature. The Corinthians did not need to have any scruples about eating such meat because it was created by God for food and, therefore, not to be regarded as unclean.

Paul inserts an exception to eating the meat, and that is when a scrupulous brother points out that the meat being served has been offered to idols. In such a case, you should refrain from eating for the benefit of the brother who has expressed his concern over the matter. “Though it is right to eat, and though you know it to be right, yet, to avoid wounding or disturbing the conscience of your weaker brother, it is your duty to abstain,” Hodge wrote. “The union of the most enlightened liberality with the humblest concession to the weakness of others, exhibited in this whole connection, may well excite the highest admiration. The most enlightened man of his whole generation, was the most yielding and conciliatory in all matters of indifference.” May we be the same.

Why do you think Paul so stresses this point of putting the concerns of others first, no matter how irrational they might be? Why was this so difficult for the Corinthians to do? Why is it difficult for you to do? Pray that God will show you ways you can be more sensitive to others and more humble in your actions.