Being the children of God, we are called to live by a higher standard. It is not a matter of ‘what can I do?’, but ‘what should I do?’ Paul wrote to the Corinthians – “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:23-24 NLT)
Paul taught much on this issue. In the early church there was a great debate concerning whether or not Christians should buy meat that had been offered to idols. Apparently surplus meat from pagan temples was sold to the public and perhaps for a good price. Some Christians argued that there was nothing wrong with such meat and therefore they were free to buy it. Other felt that it would be a sin to eat such meat, considering the fact that it had formerly been associated with things that were evil. What should they do? Consider these words from Paul –
Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (Rom 14:12-23 NLT)
Paul points out several important spiritual principles for us to follow:
- We are to avoid judging one another over such matters. Each of us will give a personal account to God.
- We are to avoid flaunting our freedom before another believer and thus causing them to stumble in their faith.
- We are to avoid doing anything that we personally think is sinful, even if others believe that it is permissible.
- We are to avoid doing anything that might tear apart the work of God.
The first commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second commandment is to love others as we love ourselves. There is no commandment to love ourselves. I’m sure that there’s someone asking – “But how far do you go in this?” The only one who can answer that question is God and therefore, if there is an area of our lives that we think might damage the work of Christ, we need to make it a matter of great prayer and Bible study. After all, “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God.”