Dealing with Gray Areas

1 Corinthians 10

23“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake — 29the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

When is the last time you wondered if the meat you were about to eat had been sacrificed to idols?

That’s probably never happened to you but in the New Testament culture, this was a big issue that created a lot of controversy.

The Roman Empire was an amalgamation of many diverse cultures that had been conquered and grafted into the Roman/Greek culture. As a result, there were hundreds of different religions and gods that the people worshiped and animal sacrifice was a normal part of worship for most of these religions.

So the context of this passage is one in which Christians were wrestling with whether or not it was morally right for them to eat a meal with someone when they know the prepared food had been previously sacrificed to a pagan deity and then later sold at the local market.

Though we don’t wrestle with this exact issue today, Paul outlines several principles that enable us to make wise biblical decisions when we’re faced with unclear moral choices today. In some Christian circles, we refer to these issues as “gray areas” – issues the Bible doesn’t specifically speak about but there’s an element of the issue that might make it morally questionable.

Classic “gray areas” might include: drinking, smoking, dancing, gambling, watching R-rated movies, listening to certain kinds of music, etc.

The Bible never says anything about R-rated movies, as movies didn’t even exist until a little over 100 years ago. So how can we know whether it’s ok to partake in some of these activities that some have questioned?

Paul gives a number of principles that we can apply to current situations.

The first thing Paul says is that even though we may be permitted to do certain things (in other words, it doesn’t clearly violate God’s laws) doesn’t mean it is beneficial or constructive. The implication is that we should not do things just because it’s technically allowed. We should consider whether it’s beneficial to us, and others!

Paul builds on this by citing his main principle, which is to seek to the good of others, not our own good.

Paul explains that he has no problem eating anything that is set before him because he knows that there is only one God and that even if the meat had been sacrificed to an idol, he knows that the idol is not a real god. So in his conscience, he can give thanks to the one true God and gratefully eat whatever is put before him.

However, others may not have that understanding. This difference may be the result of a lack of spiritual maturity and understanding on such issues or the person may just have a difference of opinion. Whatever the case is, Paul explains that he will forgo the eating of meat if he thinks it may in any way be a hindrance to the conscience of the other person who is there to observe.

The bottom line is summarized in verses 31-33. Whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God and in whatever we do, our aim should be to not cause others to stumble. We should seek the good of others above our own good so that we may not create any barriers to them being saved.

Reflection

What are some “gray areas” that you have wrestled with in the past?

What do you think are the most critical and controversial “gray areas” issues the church is facing today?

What has been your method in the past for determining whether or not it was ok to participate in some of these questionable activities?

Of the principles shared, which one stands out to you the most? Why?

What changes do you need to make to adjust to the principles Paul shares in this passage?

 

Photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash