THE COMMON GOOD
Gracious God, in gratitude I praise you for your watchcare over me and the abundant life you have given me.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 10:23 – 11:1
The Believer’s Freedom
23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[a]
27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 11 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 10:26 Psalm 24:1
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’1 Thank God for the freedom you have in Christ.
This is one of the passages where the focus on others, highlighted in the Introduction to these reflections, is very much to the fore. We have liberty in many things as Christians, for the life of discipleship is to do with relationship, not religion; to do with following a living Lord rather than a discouraging and wearying list of rules and regulations. Yet the crucial question Paul wants us to ask is: ‘What is in the best interests of others?’ We should answer this question with reference to both believers and unbelievers (vs 32,33).
The particular application made in this passage, eating meat offered to idols, isn’t an issue for most of us, so let’s take another example. Should Christians drink alcohol? I humbly submit that we are free to do so. Christians have tied themselves in knots trying to explain how Jesus turned water into non-alcoholic wine.2 I even once heard someone declare that when Paul said to Timothy, ‘take a little wine for your stomach’s sake’,3 he wasn’t being urged to drink it but to use it externally, that is, to rub it in! No, we are at liberty to take alcoholic drink – but is it always wise to do so? What about those who are working among adherents of other faiths? What of those whose friends have alcohol-related problems? Such people may refrain from drinking themselves because they are putting the good of others first (vs 24,33). This guiding principle – think of others – can be applied to a wide range of situations. As we prioritize other people in this way, we are following the example of Paul and, even more, the example of Christ (11:1). We are free, but we are to use that freedom to follow closely in the footsteps of our Lord and promote the common good.
Are you using your freedom in ways that cause others to stumble (v 32)? Pray that God will remind you that you are freed to serve.
Patient One, my heart’s desire is to bring glory to you. I look to you for wisdom in my decision-making, so that I may bless and encourage others.
1 Gal 5:1 2 see John 2:1–11 3 see 1 Tim 5:23
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