Consideration for Others

After a four-week hiatus from our regular study due to the Advent/Christmas season, we are back in the book of 1 Corinthians. It seems a long time ago that we were discussing Paul’s advice about how to live in a culture that does not necessarily embrace Christian principles and lifestyle. We pick up his conversation about eating meat sacrificed to idols found in 1 Corinthians 10.

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 11:1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

In this part of the world (U.S.) we don’t find much in the way of sacrificing meat to idols. If it is happening here, it is so far underground that we never hear about it. So, we must extrapolate out into what we do practice here in this culture. I thought about this for some time this morning, wondering what might be a close correlation. A few things came to mind, but they seem petty – because they are if you are not easily offended or looking for someone to do something that makes you angry or hurt.

Sometimes, I wonder about things like “The Elf on the Shelf” where you child must behave during the month of December in order to receive Christmas presents; Christians sharing their horoscope like they believe it has some influence over their lives; or a rabid fascination with a sports team to the point where it looks like religion. Maybe they don’t correlate at all to eating meat sacrificed to an idol. But people can get jumpy about all of them. I’ve heard Christians go off on a rant about all of these topics, like they matter. To them, they do. And so I hold my tongue because discussion of them creates a stumbling block. And of course, we are living in a time when we hold our opinions as sacred. I hate to say this, but they’re not.

For me, this passage centers around verse 31 and the words do all to the glory of God. If that is my guiding principle, I will care far more about my impact upon the sensibilities of others than I do about my own fiercely held opinions. The guiding principle must always be what is beneficial to others and constructive, what promotes the congregation’s progress and joy in the faith. No one should be selfishly preoccupied with his own rights, privileges, and personal satisfaction at the expense of others. In keeping that at the forefront of my thinking, I will indeed be attempting to do all things to the glory of God.

This is not necessarily an easy way to live, but I do believe it gets easier with practice. When I learn how to hold my tongue and keep my opinions to myself, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to move rather than my selfish desires. Sometimes He urges me to speak, albeit gently and with kindness, but more often I am urged to remain silent. Obeying that urge is sometimes successful and sometimes a miserable failure. I’m a work in progress.