1 Corinthians 8: Another Problem -- Eating Meat Offered to Idols

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Today's Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 8

Selected Biblical Text
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.
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. (1 Cor. 8:1-6, 9-11 NIV)

Reflecting and Thinking
Another problem that was getting in the way of the Corinthians' fellowship in the body of Christ concerned the question of food that had been sacrificed to idols and was afterward sold in the markets. What should a Christian do? Some Christians (Jewish Christians?) found the idea of eating meat that had previously been sacrificed to idols abhorrent, believing they were in some way participating in pagan worship. Other Christians could eat such meat with clear conscience.
Paul's instructions have broad applications. He first warns that one must avoid an attitude of intellectual arrogance that tears others down: "I understand things better than you do." The love principle seeks to build others up. Then to the matter at hand: it is true that idols are nothing in comparison to God. One may correctly claim a "right" to eat such meat, not concerned with the previous use as a sacrifice. Yes, one may even ignore the concerns of a brother or sister with scruples against such a practice, but....what if your freedom becomes a stumbling block to another Christian? What if that person is emboldened to transgress his or her conscience because of your example? What if your freedom and knowledge destroys another? Remember that Christ died for that person whom you now consider so unimportant that you are determined to claim your rights regardless.

What kind of disagreements among Christians today possibly fall into the same category as "meat eating" in this chapter? (Think of "I have a right to..." vs. "It would be better not to..." or "I cannot in good conscience...") To what extent should the scruples of a brother or sister control my action? Under what circumstances do I have freedom to act according to my conscience? When and how are my "rights" limited? When can I exercise my "rights"? (Think about the importance of your example and influence.)

Dear God, help us care for one another and respect one another as Christians. Help us support each other and encourage one another to do right. Help us have right attitudes toward our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. Give us wisdom as we live life in allegiance and loyalty to you and your Son Jesus, our Savior, in whose name we pray, Amen.

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Last updated January 16, 2019