Many years ago, there was a famous, often repeated commercial about meat. A mature lady would go up the counter of a competitor’s fast-food chain and shout, “Where’s the beef?” The slogan’s suggestion was obvious. The fast food she tried was deficient in its beef product alluding to the fact that her favorite burger place did have the desired meat. The commercial wasn’t so much about the meat as it was putting down the competition.
Are we like that as Believers in Jesus? Can we become competitive in seeking holiness? Do we hurt each other in this competitive to be the best? Paul answers that question. He shows us it’s not about the meat. It’s also not worth the “beef” or argument about meat. It’s all about our heart’s motive, sensitivity and compassion.
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
1 Corinthians 8, The Message
Freedom with Responsibility
1-3 The 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.
4-6 Some 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.
7 In 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.
8-9 But 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.
10 For 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.
11-13 Christ 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.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
We can only know and understand small pieces of life. God knows it all. Know God.
“…our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.”
“Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.”
God doesn’t grade us on our diet. (Hallelujah!) God looks at the heart and sees the truth. He always has and always will. From the heart, comes the motive for everything we do.
“Christ 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.
Be still and know God. Let God take the lead in all we think, say or do. The closer we come to Jesus, the closer we become to our brothers and sisters who believe. This bears repeating, like a commercial over and over in our heads, “When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ.”
It’s not about the meat, it’s about pleasing Jesus, our Savior and who wants to be Lord of our lives. The more He becomes Lord over our lives, the more we become like the One we follow.
Help us to understand what you are teaching us today as we live in this highly oversensitive, overthinking world. It’s not about us. It’s about YOU honing your character in us so we think more of others than ourselves. Help us all to love like you love, show compassion and mercy like you extended to us while we humbly walk with You, the One who knows it all. That’s the meat of our existence!
In Jesus Name, Amen