January 31, 2014.
What is a stumbling block? If you have been in religious company long and topics of opinion and preference have come up, chances are you have heard this word. “Don’t be a stumbling block for your brother.” But what is a stumbling block? That is the topic we are going to deal with today.
“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers andwounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
(I Cor 8:7-13)
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he deals a lot with their worship and every day practices, as he is responding to a letter they sent him asking him questions about the Christian lifestyle. Corinth was not a godly city by any stretch of the imagination, so you can see why they would have so many questions about a worldview that may have been completely new and opposite to what they had ever experienced. One of the hot topics, so to speak, was food offered to idols and whether or not some one could eat it. This may seem strange in our culture, however, in their culture (pagan culture, that is) it was understood that when you ate food from a sacrifice, you were partaking in that deity along with everyone else present. With this in mind, it is easier to see why it was such a big deal.
So what does Paul say? First, he explains that idols are literally just pieces of metal and have no real existence, thus it really has no bearing, morally speaking, if you eat something that has been offered to them, because they are nothing. What is interesting, though, is what he says next. “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.” Paul says that even though it is not sinful to eat food offered to idols, if you are in the company of a weaker brother who thinks it is sinful, and he sees you eat the food and thereby eats it to, he is sinning against his conscious and you are sinning in that you have become a stumbling block to him. When Paul was addressing some of the same issues in his letter to the Romans, he said this:
“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
I don’t think we put enough emphasis on this teaching. This is what tears apart the unity of the body. Some see someone doing something in their lives or in worship that we think is wrong, instead of looking at the scriptures, we condemn automatically. However, there are others who have a self righteousness about them that, we they have studied and come to the truth about something, instead of using that truth to build one another up, they throw it in the weaker brothers face in the charade of “I’m teaching them truth.” Both of these actions are wrong and sinful to one another. This is what Paul says to the Romans:
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. Fornone of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;”
Why do we do this? I think it all, once again, comes do to… you guessed it– Pride. We are too prideful about our own understanding and our own way of doing things that we cannot step back and see the harm it does to our brother or sister. This ought not to be so. Paul said, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” I think this is the lesson we need to take from this. If we are arguing about something that is not doctrinal (the majority of splits in the church are not over doctrinal matters), then we are in sin. Both parties. All who are involved, whether they are technically right or wrong. Let us not despise one another, no matter which side of the fence we are on. Paul gives us this warning. We have failed to heed it.
Suggested Daily Reading: Romans 14-15, I Corinthians 8-10.
May we all strive for the unity of the body.