1 & 2 Corinthians: Day 10

Food Offered to Idols

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Today's Text: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, John 10:14, 2 Timothy 2:14-19

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, John 10:14, 2 Timothy 2:14-19

I love the phrase “read the room.” I distinctly remember the first time it became a phrase our friend group started to use. We were hanging out, reacting to a situation that had not gone the way I’d hoped it would. Some folks in the room were making light-hearted remarks, and I started glowering at them. READ THE ROOM, I thought, not even bothering to veil my frustration. I was hurting, and they didn’t see it. The words might not have been directed at me, but I was intensely vulnerable.

Paul is helping the Corinthians navigate a similar sort of tension in this passage. Someone has asked Paul a question: Is it okay for Christians to eat meat that has been previously sacrificed to pagan idols? In Corinth at the time, most meat available had been used as part of temple sacrifices. So Corinthian Christians were wondering if it was okay to eat that meat, whether they purchased it in a market or were dining with non-Christian friends.

Paul’s answer is pretty straightforward. Basically, if you’re asking this question because you’re a Christian, then you know that idols are nothing, so it would be totally fine because “all things are from him, and we exist for him” (1 Corinthians 8:6). But it’s not really about you, Paul explains. “Not everyone has this knowledge,” he says, so “be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block for the weak” (vv. 7,9). The warning Paul gives here isn’t about eating meat; it’s about how knowledge leads to pride and a feeling of superiority over weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s about reading the room.

For some new Christians, eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol would have been difficult. Paul says it could “wound their weak conscience,” which is a sin against Christ (v.12). If Christians who were still a bit unsteady in their faith saw more mature Christians eating sacrificed meat, it could cause confusion. Those who had been tempted to pray to pagan idols in the past might be tempted to see the meat as something more than it was, while to more mature, discerning eyes, it was just meat.

Paul gives the Corinthians, and us, a basic template for answering this and similar questions: put others first. Let your conscience be guided by whatever is best for your brother or sister in Christ. Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul makes this point that we are to act in love, care for others, and live in the freedom of Christ that allows us to put others first.

“Read the room” is a sarcastic, modern phrase that reminds us that there are others present. Paul is much more winsome, but no less pointed, in reminding more mature Christians that there are new believers watching, learning from them. This reminder is poignant for me as well. I’m often tempted to be sarcastic, to push the boundaries of humor, or cross other lines that might be confusing for non-believers or new Christians.

But putting my witness to Christ first and caring for those around me requires that I live differently. It requires that I always read the room, and know that how I act, speak, and treat others reflects my identity in Jesus. Paul says that if meat were to cause a brother to stumble, he would never eat meat again. I pray for that sense of discernment in my own life. I long for a careful, caring heart like Paul’s and, even more so, for a heart like Christ’s.

SRT-Corinthians-Shareimage-Day10

Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.

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  • Steph C.

    “The warning Paul gives here isn’t about eating meat; it’s about how knowledge leads to pride and a feeling of superiority over weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. ” – Wow, so good. I feel like cussing/swearing has become the 21st century’s equivalent of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Scripture doesn’t explicitly say that it’s a sin to use profanity, but a mature believer understands the nuances in refraining from “unwholesome speech” (Eph 4:29) and ensuring our tongues are “seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6) and all the other Biblical accounts of being careful with what comes out of our mouths. Nonetheless, just like eating meat sacrificed to false idols, swearing is such a stumbling block to new believers, non-believers and sometimes even fellow mature believers, too. I love how alive and relevant the Word is.

  • Brianna Foshie

    Reading this a day late but it’s still resonating with me. I pray I can learn to put others before myself as to help them grow in the Lord.

  • Lauren Griffith

    How convicting is this? Knowledge is great but when it leads to pride it’s no good. I want others to know that I’m close to Jesus by how I act, interact with them, and what comes out of my mouth. Sometimes we’re our own stumbling block! I’m thankful for this reading and glad to have started the day with this fresh reminder.

  • Cori S.

    “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

  • Jennifer Martin

    ❤️

  • LeighAnn McLean

    I need to remember that as a Christian, how I act is a reflection of God

  • Heloísa Gonçalves

    ❤️

  • Kenzi Shipley

    Very thought provoking! Honest time: I feel like this passage is a good example of how I feel in my heart about a certain series of books/movies. I know in my heart that it is just fiction and is not evil, but instead of getting passionately upset when other Christians say that it is, I need to keep in mind that their hearts are in a different place than my heart. This has been on my heart as my father in law is of a anti this series standpoint and he is currently living with my husband and I right now. I haven’t been watching the movies or reading the books purposefully as to not offend him, but this offers me a new more powerful reason that I have been doing this. If it distresses my father in laws heart, than I wouldn’t be thinking of my father in laws heart if I was flaunting it and watching the movies in our common space. I see room for growth for me here still! I will be praying also that my heart can catch up with this concept as well- I admit that it’s always been a huge pet peeve of mine when Christians call things wrong in Jesus’s name when my hearts screams that it’s not. I pray that my heart can show grace to others because Jesus shows grace to me. I also pray that I can be mindful of where my brothers and sisters in Christ’s hearts are at and be respectful of that. ❤️

  • Thank you. Wonderful words. Spoke to my heart.

  • It’s funny. As a primary elementary teacher, I’ve used “read the walls” in it’s literal sense. My students literally walk around the classroom, reading as many words as they can!! I love this use of the phrase even more now. If we’re truly working for our Audience of One, going all in for Him and holding nothing back, then we need to be aware of who and what is going on around us.

  • Hope Outfitters have clothing that will display what you believe. At the same time you will be scrutinized for all your actions and speech while wearing them.

  • A question I have: “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God,” (verse 3). At first glance, this verse is comforting. God knows me. But I would like to believe that God knows and pursues those who don’t love Him yet. Does anyone have any helpful interpretation of this verse in light of God’s children who aren’t yet believers?

    • Bethany

      I would say that that “known” is an intimate relationship with God. He knows us personally because we are saved (His spirit is in us and we commune with each other), we talk to Him, read about Him. We begin to understand His character. God created everything thus He knows everyone and thing. And while He pursues the unsaved He doesn’t know them in an intimate way yet as they have not accepted Him into their life. Think of a husband a wife. They know each other in deeps ways because they are constantly together. However if that husband goes to see his doctor he knows of him, but he doesn’t really KNOW him. The husband can tell you the other mans occupation, but he probably can’t tell you his favorite food, sport or his favorite color. People can also harden their heart toward God so that they can resist Him more and more. Hope this was helpful!

  • Muriel Valdez

    Oops New phone. I just loved the study this morning. I’ve been separated from my kids dad for a very long time. The kids are with me. I’ve learned to put them first before my needs. And you know what? I’m OK with that! God is providing my needs

    • Kathy Hensley

      Trusting God with my child is soooo hard for me. I want trust Him but I am so protective. I don’t want my daughter to ever have any pain but fact is she will have pain. I can’t stop it. Pain is inevitable in this life but if I, with Gods help, teach her how to run to God with all her pain then she has all she will ever need. Teach them by example how to lean on God for everything

  • Veronica

    For those struggling with these verses like I am: This passage is NOT telling you to walk on tiptoes because someone might disagree with you. Because there will always be people who question your motives, whether you have your public life ‘perfectly’ shaped or not, there will always be people who try to shame you/correct you/question you. I don’t think Paul is telling us to become a doormat and base our life around the fear that when others sin, it must be our fault. That is full of shame and fear; in no way the gospel of our Savior.

    I don’t think this passage perfectly correlates to some of what we’e sharing below- such as alcohol, or modesty. Paul’s talking about idols, about conversion- people changing their identity from followers of so and so to followers of Christ. There are plenty of examples today outside of our circles that still involve food and what’s sacred and what’s not; dietary restrictions based on religion that ‘changes’ so to say when someone converts from a former religion to Christianity. That is a TOTALLY different subject then denominational differences/personal convictions. Here, Paul is very specifically addressing a problem that was directly asked about in a time that Christianity was new and not as well known, where pagan religions were tightly followed and converting could mean being ostracized or shamed (sometimes even death). It’s very much a culture-based passage; Its not a vague blanket statement to justify legalism and shame in church.

    HOWEVER. I think there is still so much wisdom to pull from this passage. Always love, always build up. Is there a Christian brother or sister who believes differently than you/disagrees with your lifestyle choice? We can wholeheartedly respect them and still do life together while living out personal convictions. Can living this way cause for messy conversations? Absolutely. But that’s what the body of Christ is for- broken, messy people living and loving together for the sake of God’s glory, despite our differences.

    Love to you, sisters. You are free people, do not walk enslaved.

    • Lisa

      Very well said.

    • Kayla

      I don’t see it as enslavement, but sacrificing my enjoyment of certain things for other people. This passage says to cause any brother or sister to stumble is to sin against Christ. In Romans 15 Paul goes so far as to say that, “if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.” I don’t see it as fear that their sins are somehow my fault, but fear that I don’t think about others enough in many situations and that because of that, I could be sinning against Christ by creating a stumbling block for another without even being aware of it. I believe if we put on the mind of Christ we don’t have to feel enslaved, but joyful in our sacrifices, knowing that we are pursuing peace and mutual upbuilding among others. To please our neighbors and not ourselves is to glorify God. I think the idea is to not flaunt our freedom, but use it to serve others in selfless love.

  • Irene Stebila

    It is not always knowledge in the scripture that pleases God. It ‘s serving Man as Christ served man, using knowledge in Love. Share God’s truth in love. Useless words an cause a weak christian or a non christian to stray. The power of the foundation of the gospel in love will always stands.

  • Desiree Masters

    I am a mother of young boys and this reminded me to think of who’s LISTENING (2 Timothy 2:14). Little eyes and ears see and hear far more than we realize and this reminds me that I am teaching my young ones to put others first when I model that action in our home. am I an example to them of the “love that builds up”? Lord, let it be so!

  • Emily B

    “Reading the room” is a great reminder and accountability tool, but I think it also has the capability of distracting us (or at least me) from looking and directly seeking God, and what He wants us to do or say.. Christ subjected Himself to His Father alone, and I think we should be doing this same thing. Subjecting and Seeking God Our Father alone and not worrying about how others see us or what they struggle with, that’s not our responsibility, it’s God’s!! (I mean, obviously if I’m in the presence of an addict I’m not going to encourage addictive behaviors by either word or action) …But, I do think our only responsibility is to subject and submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and to do what He is asking no matter the cost to ourselves. Christ didn’t live a template life, He lived a life wholly and completely submitted to God. And, that’s my prayer. To live a life so wholly caught up in the Spirit that nothing else matters but the Glory of God!!

  • This can cause such a lean toward legalism. If we live lives that are in keeping with scripture to the best of our ability and make extra concessions depending on our company at the time, we can go one small step further and have a ready answer when someone questions our actions or motives. I will never do anything that someone won’t have some problem with? But maybe the problem-haver will benefit more from a gentle answer of explanation? I just find that I have to trust Jesus to indicate the circumstances where a stumbling block situation is present. I would miss them on my own.

    • Emily B

      Amen!

    • Marie

      We can be conscious of our choices, though. For example, I had a backyard campout and didn’t play certain music. A friend said I should be able to play what I want because it is my house. Yes and no. Why would I want to disrespect my friends and play music I know that would cause them to feel unloved and unwelcomed. Same for drinking. Does someone really need to drink a glass of wine while dining out with someone who does not agree with drinking alcohol at all? I had a woman ask me about my bathing suit I would be wearing at a small pool party that was just three families because her husband had issues with porn. I chose not to swim out of respect and love. I can swim another time. I think that is what this passage is addressing.

    • Marie

      Sorry this was meant for another commenter. I love how you said you have to trust Jesus to indicate circumstances where a stumbling block situation is present.

  • Pam White

    Great reminder of being situationally aware of who is watching us and how our actions can affect their perception of Christians/ Christianity.

  • Shannon Adamson

    I so enjoy the message of putting others first. I must admit guilt in allowing knowledge to lead to pride and a feeling of superiority over others. This is a great reminder to me today. So happy I found this app and that I’ve gained a friend in Christ in doing so. ❤️

  • Suzette

    In the past week, I discovered that 2 popular clothing stores I shop at sell gay pride t-shirts. This really bothered me. The scripture reading this morning seemed to fall in line with my concern of whether I should continue shopping with these businesses “does it weaken my witness when I promote these stores?”. I want to love people who sin differently than I do, where do we draw the line?

    • Ruth

      I understand where you are coming from. My husband & I are runners as well as our 5 year old daughter. Several companies that we love (who have great quality clothes and running shoes) have come out with a pride line. I have searched and found that this is the norm now, as sad as it may be. I see no way around supporting some of these companies. It is very disheartening to HAVE to send my hard earned money to a group that I completely disagree with. I know we are to love everyone, but don’t have to condone their sin. It’s hard right now to take a stand. Praying for change in our country. Have a great day She Reads Truth sisters!

      • Terri

        Hope Outfitters has t- shirts and tanks that will display exactly what you believe while you are running

    • Elle

      Tough question. There are a lot of reasons to think about the ethics of consumption. Does a store pay fair wages? Do they use sweatshops in developing counties? I think we all just have to be as informed as we can and then listen to what our hearts say is the best way to love our neighbors and set a good example.

  • Churchmouse

    Yes! “Read the room.” And I would tie that to “Give grace.” Read the room so as not to be a stumbling block to non- or new believers. Give grace because you never know the journey someone is on and where they are on the continuum of following Christ. May we who know Him better be cheerleaders – not critics.

  • I know Paul was talking about the sacrificed meat, but this also apply to drinking alcohol? I know many Christians now days that have no problem with it and others do. Any thoughts?

    • Kara

      Lorrie I definitely think this applies to alcohol. If it causes my sister to be tempted and sin, then I won’t touch it! I was also thinking about appropriate dress. I’m free to wear whatever I want – but if it causes a brother to look at me with lust, I’ll toss it out and replace with something more modest. Let’s consider one another’s struggles and let it inform our choices!

      • Angie

        Absolutely! My husband is a believer, but struggles with alcohol. When people “in ministry” say that it’s not a sin to drink, it’s like giving him a license to do so. He’s very weak in that area. I do realize that drinking without drunkenness is not a sin, but when your behavior causes a brother or sister to feel it’s safe, it’s on you. He never uses non-believers to justify it; only Christians.

    • Wendy

      I would think that’s a great thing to relate it to. If I’m just with my close girlfriends who are on a similar spiritual walk that I am, and I know they don’t struggle with alcohol or any morality with it, I think that’s fine. But if I’m out with a group of people, drinking could be a stumbling block. In my case, people see me as a woman that seeks after God publicly on social media and in my community. If on the weekend, I “appear” to be a partier, or drinker, it could definitely cause someone watching my journey to stumble. Something to be mindful of for sure!

  • Sandy Forsythe

    God knows who are his. (2 Tim 2:19). Will other people know you are His by how you put others first in your life?

  • Kay Coughlin

    Like so many wonderful Biblical lessons, this one reminds me to put others first, to be gentle and thoughtful. This is a reminder I need as often as possible! Praise God for reminding me every day of the example Christ lived for us.

  • Kelly Chataine

    “Read the Room.” In March, I experienced God’s power and peace but have kept the story to just my immediate family because I don’t want to offend anyone. I am sitting on this true story until I know God is leading me to tell it. God is so good!

    • Trayce Allen

      I hope you will at least feel comfortable sharing it here Kelly. Maybe by starting with a group who you can trust, will allow you to speak more openly about your experience to others. I have found when I have an overwhelming desire to share sometime, that is the Holy Spirit working its magic. Let it flow my sister.

  • Being a good example is hard. But when we focus on Christ instead of ourselves, it becomes a lot easier. Thank you Lord for sending us the best example, Jesus. Thank you for this beautiful day and this beautiful SRT community. ❤️Amen

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