Liberty or Edification? (1 Corinthians 10:29-30)

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:23–24, ESV)

When I graduated high school, prior to entering college, I took a job in a store called Two Guys. It was something similar to a Walmart today. One of the interesting things at that time was that Pennsylvania had something called Blue Laws. In this everything was shut down on Sundays except for essential services. I thought it was great since Two Guys was not an essential service and I always had Sunday off. Years later, the blue Laws were repealed and stores were opened, even on Sunday.

I never really was concerned about the Blue Laws. However, in 1983, the Lord gloriously saved me while reading a Gideon placed Bible in a Minneapolis hotel room. This was the most liberating experience of my life. It was like all the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. I proceeded to read the Bible through from cover to cover. I experienced true freedom. However, I was a bit naïve. I never heard of the Christian taboos.

In the church, I ran into people who had a variety of ideas about what real Christians could do and do not do. I heard that Christians should not go to the theater, but I caught the same people renting movies from Block Buster. Real Christians cannot have an ashtray in their house, whether they smoke or not. My mother and father came to visit and bought a case of beer. When they went back home, they left the case in the garage. I thought one of my church friends was about to wrench his back out of joint with a doubletake when he walked into my garage one day and saw the case of beer. A group of parishioners had a contemporary record burning party in one’s backyard. I guess the Perry Como songs were too much. Then I found out that some believers thought it wrong to wear jewelry. I had a pastor who would not even purchase a newspaper on Sunday, while others would go out to lunch. I went into a huge tailspin thinking the best way to deal with this was to become a monk (Just kidding). But you get my drift.

Here, Paul deals with this issue of liberty in the Christian life. What do you do when there are diverse opinions about things that may or may not be permissible and are not specifically spelled out in the Scriptures? Here Paul gives several principles that should help guide believers in dealing with this issue. The first principle is this. We must consider as a top priority the betterment of others. In other words, we have a responsibility to consider our actions as they influence others.

The issue Paul used to address this was meat sacrificed to idols. He previously mentioned that since idols were nothing and had no power, that meat sacrificed to an idol was just meat. Paul indicates here that believers could eat this meat without regard to conscience (v25-27). However, there were some who did not feel at liberty to eat such meat. He went on to write that if one would be invited to a meal and someone would make an issue about the meat being sacrificed to an idol then the invited believer should not eat for the sake of the one who informed about the meat (v28). This was for the sake of the conscience of the one who informed regarding the meat.

The whole point of this is that while we have liberty, there is a greater principle at large. It is that of doing that which edifies for the good of others. Yes, we all have liberty, but we must be conscious of others. On occasion we will need to temper our liberty for the sake of those who will struggle in their conscience with practicing the same thing. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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