Day 10

Food Offered to Idols

from the 1 & 2 Corinthians reading plan

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

BY Guest Writer

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.


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.

Post Comments (56)

56 thoughts on "Food Offered to Idols"

  1. Cori S. says:

    “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

  2. Jennifer Martin says:


  3. LeighAnn McLean says:

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

  4. Heloísa Gonçalves says:


  5. Kenzi Shipley says:

    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. ❤️

    1. Melanie says:

      Amen! This passage it’s such a call to humility and love. Well-done for considering your FIL’s heart above your own preferences! You’re a good woman ::)

    2. Jenny Mueller says:

      I definitely understand and agree with what you are saying. The thing that turned me away from the Harry Potter series (if this is what you are are talking about) is that in an interview JK Rowling called Jesus “the stupid, weak son of god).
      Because that came out of her, I don’t want any of her other thoughts to influence me or my children.

  6. Alicia says:

    Thank you. Wonderful words. Spoke to my heart.

  7. Lisa L says:

    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.

  8. Terri says:

    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.

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