1 Corinthians 8
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.
The Corinthians were faced with a dilemma. Most of the meat in the markets had been offered to idols. Should the Christian buy it and eat it, or leave it alone?
According to Paul the answer should not be based on head knowledge alone. He agrees that there is no reality to idols and therefore the sacrifice does not change the meat in any way. However, there were members in the church for whom eating meat offered to idols was part of pagan worship before they became Christians. For this group, the practice was seen as a denial of Christ since it implied participation in the worship of an idol. Consequently, Paul was concerned that those who choose to eat the meat might give the impression that it was ok to worship both God and idols, and in doing so, they could be responsible for causing others to sin.
While we may not face the same dilemma, the decisions we make should balance our knowledge with a love and concern for others. Do you take time to consider how your choices might be understood by onlookers? Will your choices uplift others in their faith or cause them to stumble?
Head of Avondale Seminary, Avondale University, Cooranbong, NSW, Australia