“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
Inasmuch as Paul was addressing the practice of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the first-century city of Corinth, the point of the passage is the freedom we have been granted in Christ, and Paul’s words are every bit as fresh and relevant to you and me today as they were to the Corinthians then. The freedom we have received must always be used for two reasons: the glory of God and the good of others – all others. Paul was telling the Corinthians that it is lawful to eat all food that God has given us, but when it hurts the conscience of others, we are not to exercise our Christian liberty.
The life of the believer should be marked by “other orientation.” We are to think about others and consider how whatever we are doing might affect them, either positively or negatively. We should never exercise the freedom we have been given in a way that might cause a brother or sister to stumble into sin or waver in their faith. Some activities are permissible for us to engage in, but not beneficial for others. Jesus Christ laid His life down for others, and we are to use His model to guide us to the best decisions possible in our own Christian walk.
The liberty we have in the Lord must never to be used as a license to live any way we choose. We must always consider the impact our choices may have on others. Paul knew that meat offered to idols was still just meat, and therefore completely permissible to eat, but the more important question was whether or not the practice of eating that meat was beneficial for others. So the overarching consideration is not whether a practice is permissible, but whether engaging in that practice is in the best interest of others and the expansion of the kingdom of God.
The bottom line is this: the principle of love is the foundation upon which our lives are to be built. Our thoughts should be shaped by other orientation. Because love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5), but rather other-oriented, we must always consider others before we act. Selfishness is not the way for the saints of God; sacrificial service is the way, service built upon our love for others. The Christian life should transcend self as we seek the good of others.
When we find ourselves in one of life’s “grey areas,” we are to live graciously for the good of others. It is permissible to drink a glass of wine, but is it beneficial to do it in the presence of a friend who may struggle with alcohol? It is lawful to play a game of low-stakes poker, but is it beneficial to play with a friend who may become ensnared by gambling?
How other-oriented is the life you are currently living? Do you consider others when you are making decisions, especially in the areas of freedom and liberty? Remember, love always lifts others up, and this must be our goal, even when living in love limits our own freedom. “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!