Friday of the Ninth Week after Trinity

Daily Lectionary: 2 Samuel 7:18-20; 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:16

 "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)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. St. Paul has just finished exhorting the Corinthian church to flee idolatry. While idolatry is something we battle against in many forms, this was the in-your-face kind of idolatry. Statues of gods and goddesses were sold on street corners. Meat was a common offering made to these idols and got sold in the market, where Christians shopped.

A Jew wouldn't have dared to eat such meat. Many Christians wouldn't have either. Yet in this passage St. Paul tells us that as Christians, such meat is permissible to eat. He appeals to Psalm 24:1 which says, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

HOWEVER, St. Paul warns us that just because something is permissible, or lawful, does not mean we should disregard the needs of others around us as we live in Christian liberty, especially those in the body of Christ. In the Corinthian church, it was possible that a new believer (particularly one who came out of that Roman culture of false idols) might not know the freedom they have in Christ.

This is not about catering to a Pharisee--someone who tries to bind others' consciences with a lot of rules that aren't laid out the Scriptures. St. Paul is speaking of new believers with tender consciences who might not know what is permissible or about unbelievers who are carefully watching what we do. He reminds us: "Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:31-32).

We worship a God who is all about building up. That is why Divine Service is essential for us. Through water, Word, Body and Blood we hear and taste forgiveness. Not only is that a balm for our consciences, it also helps us to edify others--to live out our freedom in Christ with caring hearts toward our neighbors.

You probably won't have to face the choice of whether or not to eat meat offered to an idol, but you will have many other choices, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (v. 30), for in Christ, you are truly free. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.  

Lord help us walk Your servant way Wherever love may lead And, bending low, forgetting self, Each serve each other's need (Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way, LSB 857:1)

This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it.