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1 Corinthians 8

8
Regarding meat offered to idols
1-4Now as to the question of obtaining meat which has been first sacrificed on one of the city altars (and meat is not often purchasable nowadays which has not been killed in this way). The idea of course in the minds of those who have been accustomed in the past to partake of these sacrifices is that there is some connection between the meat so sacrificed and the god to whom it has been rendered as a sacrifice. That is a very fixed idea in the minds of many, that to enter the precincts of the temples, purchase the sacrificial meat as prepared by the priests and their acolytes and take it home with you, is to subject yourself to all sorts of evil influences from the spirits, gods, devils who haunt these scenes and acts of worship. 5Now recollect our point of view — that these gods or demons, however real they may be to those that believe in them, a vast congregation indeed of gods and masters of all kinds, so called and so believed, — well, all that world of supposed beings has nothing whatever to do with us, and their images are absolutely nothing at all. 6That is our knowledge, our science — One God alone, from whom come all things, and for whom alone we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom comes the universe, the sum total of all things, inclusive of ourselves whose means of existence are found in Him alone. This divine oneness and allness is our faith, and contrariwise an idol is nothing, and a god is nothing. 7But do all possess this spiritual science? Alas! no, many there are to whom these beings, of which they were quite recently worshippers, are still somewhat of a dread reality, and to see any one of the brethren enter an idol's shrine and there purchase the meat which is sold in it, alarms the conscience of those whose faith has not yet won clear of the fear of these things. 8Now to you and me food is a small matter. Meat will not bring us any nearer to God; whether we eat it, or not, makes no difference to our condition. Our fulness, or our wants are dependent on things spiritual, not on physical food. 9But it is important that he whose faith still exists fearfully and haltingly should not be led by your example to do that which is going to have a darkening and dangerous effect upon his mind. 10For if with his weak conscience and his fears and semi-belief in the beings he has so recently rejected, he return to their shrines and take a part in their feasts, is it not likely that this will have an influence upon his mind, and work on him to his own destruction? 11And so your clearer knowledge is likely to rob him of his chance to escape, you are doing your best to make the way out more difficult for him, and so defeat the very purpose of Christ's death, which was to free our weak minds and souls and consciences from idols. 12O sooner than that, sooner than handicap him in his fight with the old falsehoods, what a small matter it would be to eat no meat again for ever! 13Yes, we all have some knowledge perhaps but remember this — knowledge by itself only tends to make us self-satisfied: it is love that builds.
8
Freedom with Responsibility
1-3The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.
4-6Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true.
7In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.
We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.
8-9But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.
10For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
11-13Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.