1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience- 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 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.”
Some time ago I began a study on the continuous active imperative commands given by the apostle Paul in his epistles. Those are the commands in which Paul encourages the churches to keep on doing something. One such command is found in 1 Cor. 10:31, where Paul tells the Corinthians to “keep on doing everything” that they do for the purpose of glorifying God.
He is encouraging good habits. In Corinth, some of the people in the churches had been developing bad habits. They were making choices that did not bring glory to God. Instead, the bad habits were reflecting poorly on the churches, and bringing shame to God.
The most effective way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Paul dealt with some of the bad habits that the Corinthians had developed by suggesting some good ones to take their place.
The first good habit he suggests is to focus your free time on helping others (23). Some of the Corinthians were always celebrating the freedom that they have in Christ. They would constantly quote the slogan “all things are lawful” because believers are no longer bound by the Old Testament law.
But Paul pointed out to them that their freedom is given so that they can concentrate on others, not themselves. If I am bound by law, I am always seeking ways to obey the law so I can be saved. If I am free, I have the opportunity to focus that freedom on meeting the needs of others.
The second good habit he suggests is to do things that build others up, or edify them (23). The Corinthians prided themselves on their Spiritual gifts. Paul wanted the Corinthians to use those gifts to build up the church instead of tearing it down. Earlier in his letter, he referred to himself as a skilled master builder who laid the foundation for the churches in Corinth, and that foundation was Christ (3:10-11). He told the Ephesian believers that they “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).
Now he uses the same idea when he tells the Corinthian Christians to keep building each other up. God wants us to be his temple – to be a place where people can go to meet God and reconcile with him. Each of us is a brick in the edifice. We need each other.
The third good habit he suggests is to show love to your neighbour. He says “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour” (24 ). The second greatest commandment in the law is to love your neighbour as yourself. This is getting back to the foundations. A few months ago, I shared from the parable of the Good Samaritan. Like the Samaritan did, we need to intentionally plan to show love to those around us – especially those in need.
We usually have no problem finding time to seek our own good, so Paul encourages us here to intentionally find time to seek the good of those around us. This begins in the prayer closet, but must not be allowed to stay there. Otherwise, we are just like the priest and Levite in the parable.
The fourth good habit he suggests is to demonstrate thankfulness. He talks about partaking of food with thankfulness in verse 30. Some of the Corinthians were having problems eating certain foods because they were afraid the foods might have been dedicated to a pagan god. Paul encouraged them to eat whatever is set before them without worrying about it. The only time they should abstain is when someone at the table points out that the food has been dedicated to another god.
Paul’s principle is that we are free to eat anything we want, as long as doing so does not lead someone else to participate in idolatry. So, as long as it does not violate habits 1, 2, and 3, Christians are free to visit any item on the buffet. One of the reasons to be thankful is that God does not hold us to any arbitrary dietary taboos.
The fifth good habit he suggests is to lead people to Christ. Listen to verse 33 in the NLT: “I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” Paul had many principles which guided his ministry among the Gentiles. Strategic principles were higher on Paul’s list than personal preferences. One of those strategic principles is that everything should be done with evangelism in mind.
Filipinos love basketball. OBC often used basketball games as a means to win people to Christ. A good question for all of us to ask is “What is it that I love to do, and can I use that to lead people to Christ?
Today’s text encourages us to “keep on doing everything to the glory of God.” I have to admit that before I even begin to obey this command, I am going to need to step back and evaluate what I am doing with my life. Probably lots of the things I do are habitual – and they are more me centered than God centered. I want to invite you to do the same kind of life evaluation. Get somewhere alone today and write a list of the things you do on a regular basis. Be specific. If you watch TV, list each program. If you go to a coffee shop, list it. Then think about how you can use that to help, edify, or love your neighbor, to demonstrate thankfulness to God, or to lead people to Christ. I’m not encouraging you to stop doing anything. I just want you to join me in asking “is what I am doing bringing glory to God?”
LORD, we want to ask you to help us to examine ourselves this week. Help us to take a good look at the things we regularly do. Help us to make sure that we are bringing you glory by loving others, building them up, and helping to meet their needs. Help us to do everything with thankfulness because of the freedom that we have in Christ. Help us to order our lives in such a way that leading people to you is just part of normal living for us.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.