The other day a friend of mine came to me with a huge dilemma. Before I share with you my friends dilemma you need to know something about them, they’re a glutton. Like a full fledged, “I worship food more than God,” type of glutton.
So it became a dilemma when I asked him to meet me at one of my favorite places of gluttony, Five Guys! He felt bad asking if we could change the location, but he knew if he went he would be sinning directly against God. So I told him, “Friend (to protect their identity) I will never eat a cheeseburger again as long as I live! I don’t want to ever cause you to stumble. So instead we met at Panera Bread.
It sounds silly, and I know you’re probably laughing wondering if this story is true, but I want to ask you, does it matter? From the story, place yourself in my shoes. What would you do if a friend contacted you and was open and honest that they couldn’t meet you due to something that caused them to sin? Unless you left your heart at the door, you probably would be accommodating and ensure your friend it wasn’t a big deal, even though you know a cheeseburger won’t send you to hell… or will it?
Ask yourself, is it sinful to eat a cheeseburger? No. But would it have been sinful if I ate it in front of my friend who was struggling like the Hamburglar with the keys to McDonalds? Yes! This is the fact that we miss so often when we debate on topics related to consumption.
1 Corinthians 8:10 (NLT) 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol?
It wouldn’t have been uncommon for people to be found at a temple eating to celebrate a social or cultural event. Paul knows that the food in those temples, which would be sacrificed to the idol of the temple, didn’t have any power or value. Aphrodite’s food was just food, but that same food eaten in Aphrodite’s Temple was something completely different. Paul was warning those with “superior knowledge” (basically believers who understood there was only one true God) that eating in a location known for worship of another idol may lead weaker believers to think that’s okay. Paul says, that’s not okay.
A person of weaker conscience is more likely to sin because of the actions of the believer. It’s the same message Paul wrote in Romans 14:23 (NLT) 23 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. Doesn’t this change the very definition of sin for us?
1 Corinthians 8:12 (NLT) 12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. 13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
Everything we read today is addressed to the more mature believers of the church. So if that’s you today, let me ask you, what are you willing to give up in order to support your weaker brothers and sisters in Christ? The reality is, stronger more mature believers can and should give up some of their spiritual freedom for the benefit of those around them. Paul said he was willing to give up meat if it meant it wouldn’t cause another believer to stumble. What are you willing to give up?