Today: [1 Corinthians 8:] What’s in Your Pantry? In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses an ancient conspiracy theory involving the food chain available to believers. Most food sold in the market was at some point dedicated to an idol. To purchase and consume these things was part of pagan worship. For this reason, many believers were offended, and strife broke out in their churches. Sadly there are many like issues in Christian culture today that we will find this chapter helping us to avoid and understand in our own lives.
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[1Co 8:1-13 KJV] 1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. 2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him. 7 Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat [it] as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
In verse 1 of 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses a widespread problem for Christians in the ancient world. When believers would buy and consume meat products, they often purchased these items from suppliers who offered the meat animals as sacrifices to pagan gods in the preparation process. The same was true for other food items such as fruit and vegetables. This was offensive to believers because the consumption of such things was part of the practice of worshipping these deities, believed to be demonic in nature. For this reason, strife would break out in the church as one party might accuse another of idolatry just for having these grocery items in their possession. Paul interdicts this controversy with a reminder that knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies. Do we have any similar issues such as this today?
In western culture, no one is going to ask the checker in the grocery line if the foodstuffs they are buying were offered to idols in their preparation. There are however many similar issues that are not uncommon among us. In our own personal experience, many times believers without invitation have chastised Kitty and me for eating a particular food item or drinking a diet drink.
This is often done not only feigning interest in our health and well being but also with an oblique, thinly veiled suggestion that if we were genuinely spiritual, we wouldn’t have such products in our pantry. What motivates people to such uncivil and obnoxious behavior? Paul rightly identifies it as the desire on the part of these purveyors of higher knowledge so-called to criticize and put down others for any reason just so they can appear more informed and more spiritual than anyone else.
Neither is this anything new. I remember as a child my parents entertaining fellow believers in their home occasionally, who when offered a cup of coffee would smugly reply “no, thank you – I’m saved!” as though drinking a cup of coffee made someone a habitual sinner. In verse 3 Paul insists that these effete attitudes of spiritual snobbery are not reflective of the love of God and ought to be avoided.
Verse 4 goes on to say that eating something offered to an idol is only evil if the person partaking of it did so with the desire to engage in idolatry. If other foodstuffs were readily available, they would have certainly been the alternative, but in many cases, there just was no food supply available that wasn’t somehow connected with pagan religion in its preparation. There are other modern examples we can make. There is a popular author out now who insists if a ministry based in America operated with a 501c3 letter of determination that they have bowed down at the altar of Baal and made themselves devotees of the anti-Christ, the Beast and the false prophet of the end times. This is beyond ridiculous, yet many otherwise sincere and thoughtful Christians get caught up in this claptrap without any forethought to what fools they make of themselves or how hurtful their prancing, strutting high-mindedness is to their testimony. In years past it was my job to train pastors and church official in a denominational capacity what they needed to know about the 501c3 determination process and there is nothing, absolutely nothing about it that requires any kind of moral or spiritual compromise. These are just a few examples, but the take away for us is the need to grow up into a place of maturity that love should be our and not our boastful knowledge of some esoteric conspiracy theory.
In verse 7 we see that this problem was so pervasive and severe in Paul’s day that though he decried the immaturity of those with alarmist sentiments he also warns believers not caught up in this foolishness to nonetheless use discretion so as not to offend those possessed of a weak conscience unnecessarily. This touches on many matters in our personal lives that are best kept in discretion. The fact is that people are curious, salaciously so and in our day privacy is at a premium. Some believers in the ancient world were so free in their thinking they would actually sit down to eat in a pagan temple without offense to their conscience, but they were encouraged not to do so because of the possibility of offending a weaker Christian.
Paul goes on in verse 13 to stress the point if he had to choose between a particular meal or causing a brother in Christ to offend then he wouldn’t eat meat. On the other hand, many times so-called weaker brethren use their offense like a badge of authority to demand everyone to come into compliance with their expectations. We should be aware of how our actions and lifestyle affect others and within reason make adjustments but not to the point we are allowing ourselves to be manipulated by conspiracy theorists and foolish believers with silly beliefs about many such things.
What is to be our conclusion about the issues mentioned in this chapter? They are more relevant than we might first care to admit. There is in Christian culture a venal appetite for contrarian teachings by which believers condemn one another for things that have nothing to do with living for God and nothing to do with anything actually found in the scriptures. Make it your purpose neither to indulge in such dark fantasies nor to provoke unnecessarily those who in immaturity immerse themselves in such foolishness. Neither our liberty in such matters or our legalism advance us in the purposes of God. We are to neither live as champions of personal freedom nor advocates of nuevo-legalism based on the latest conspiracy title on the Christian bookstore shelves. God has called us to walk in love, and that above all else should be our aim in all things.
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