1 Corinthians 8:1-13 ESV
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “Lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 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 and wounding 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.
Paul talks about people that struggle with the possibility of eating foods that were offered to idols. Those who had a problem with it were considered weak in their conscience since there is no God but one. I think the same can be said of anything that could be used for idol worship. I once heard this Christian lady that was talking about someone struggling with emotional issues. She told that person to go through their house and remove anything that might have been used for idol worship. Anything wooden that was carved, especially as an owl. She had a large list of things to look for and get rid of including wall art. In her mind it was possible for a spirit to be living inside an object which had been used for idol worship and this could be what was causing this persons emotional problems so those objects should be removed and destroyed. In listening to her, I became concerned that maybe I had things in my home which could fit that criteria and maybe I should do the same. According to this scripture, though, we as Christians really have nothing to be concerned about since we know and believe in the one and only true God. Paul did add though that if there is someone that does have a problem with their conscience, rather than using knowledge against them we should use love and it would be better to not eat meat at all rather than risk causing a brother to stumble.
I belong to a carving club and at one time there was someone that carved wizards and gnomes and many other things which could, I suppose, be used for idol worship. He also was a pastor of a Christian church and he knew and believed there were no gods except the one God who created all things so for him it was no problem. I wondered a little bit if he was using his knowledge rather than love since there were those that did have struggles with the things he carved. In fact he would say that he often ran across people that would bring up their concerns of him carving those objects and he would tell them it was not a problem since he believed in the one true God and that this was just art. I enjoy carving gnomes and owls and things that are not as obvious as wizards maybe but am I doing the same thing? My conscience is clear and I personally have no problem with these things especially after reading this scripture but I don't want to cause a brother to stumble so I am going to try and listen and be aware of other people's thoughts and be careful about what things I carve. When people walk into my home I want it to be very obvious that I worship and serve the one true God who created everything and who is all power and all truth.
by Ken Edgerly
photo: some of Ken's carvings