1 Corinthians 8:1–13 (NKJV)
1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.1 Corinthians 8:1-13
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
In this passage, Paul addresses the distinction between having knowledge alone versus having knowledge tempered by love. He addresses an issue that is contemporary to the time in which he was writing: eating meat offered to idols. Paul establishes quickly that idols are not true gods, but false. In eating meat offered to idols, there is no implicit worship of said idol. Instead, it is just a source of food for the believer who sees the idol for what it is, a non-deity. However, some are offended at the idea of eating meat offered to an idol, because they see the act as endorsing or condoning such worship of idols. Therefore, they do not think a Christian should eat meat offered to idols. To do so would violate their conscience, and perhaps get in the way of their fellowship with God. Not everyone has the knowledge that idols are nothing, and eating that meat is not sinful. However, those who have such knowledge should not flaunt that knowledge to those who are weaker. Either they will offend the weaker and create an offense, or else they will tempt the weaker to go against their conscience and sin. Do not let you knowledge and freedom cause another believer to stumble. Be kind in love and keep your freedom to yourself. Paul’s summary statement is powerful: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.“
In what ways and by what freedoms might you make a weaker brother or sister stumble today? While there are not many temples offering animal sacrifices to false gods today, there are many practices that could offend the sensitivities of Christians with, perhaps, a more conservative interpretation of Scripture. How sensitive should a Christian be to those members of the body of Christ? I think understanding and concern for those whose standards may be more strict is called for in today’s culture. In a world where so many insist on having things their way and exercising their freedoms, it is easy to just assume that anyone who thinks differently than you is simply backward, ignorant, or intolerant. Paul teaches that considering another’s needs is more important than flaunting one’s freedom. Be careful that your liberty does not cause another to fall into sin. Let love temper knowledge and let love reign supreme!