1 Corinthians 8

Today’s chapter to read is 1 Corinthians 8.

This chapter takes up the next item in the list of things in the Corinthians’ letter to Paul. That item was whether or not it is acceptable for Christians to eat meat that had been offered to idols.

The world in which the New Testament was written was a world full of idolatry. Everywhere the gospel went, except for Israel, there were already established patterns of idol worship. In Corinth, people would bring animals to the pagan temples to offer as sacrifices. Whatever the altar did not burn up, the priests could eat, but whatever they did not eat was sold in the marketplace. The idol meat was cheaper than the non-idol meat, so many people would buy it to save some money. The Corinthian believers were divided on the morality of that. Some said it was acceptable for Christians to eat the idol meat; others’ could not eat that meat in good conscience. So the Corinthian church included this question in their letter to Paul.

One side of the issue argued that (a) idols represent false, non-existent gods (v. 4a) and (b) there is only one real God (v. 4b-6), so what’s the harm in enjoying some Apollo sirloin?

Paul actually agreed with that argument (see 1 Cor 10:25-26) but not with the hardhearted believer who made it. Yes, it is true that idols are not real so meat offered to them has no special powers or curses attached to it. Likewise, someone who ate idol meat that was sold in the open market was not engaging in a worship feast or entering spiritually into idolatry. All of this was true and logic dictated that eating idol meat was totally acceptable for Christians based on these theological conclusions. But what about someone whose theology was not yet developed? If someone was heavily involved in idolatry, eating idol meat could create a temptation that led that person back into idolatry.

This chapter is one of several in the Bible that discussed the topic of “Christian liberty.” The first thing Paul wanted every Christian to know about Christian liberty is that Christian liberty should never be used in a way that causes another Christian to be tempted to sin. That’s what verse 9 is saying when it says, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (v. 9). While the topic of Christian liberty is too large to tackle in a devotional, it is important to understand the heart of Paul’s instructions in this passage. The heart of Paul’s instructions in this passage is to consider how your actions affect the walk of another believer in Christ. The stronger you are as a believer, the more you should consider how your example affects other believers. And, if you have reason to believe that your actions could cause another believer to sin, you should avoid those actions (vv. 12-13) for the good of that other believer.

How often do we think about our influence on others? Are there things you do as a believer which may not be sins but might be harmful to the spiritual life of another believer by causing that person to sin? Remember that if your children are believers they are watching you more closely than anyone. Let’s be wise in the choices we make in life by considering how they might affect the faith of other believers who look to us as an example of spiritual leadership.