Making Bible Minded Decisions – Being Puffed Up or Built Up?
“1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NIV (emphasis mine)
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is answering a theological question that the Corinthian church brought up. “Is it right or wrong to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols?” While this doesn’t seem to be the most relevant question for culture today, Paul shows me that this is important to answer because it teaches me how to make sound bible minded decisions.
Back in Paul’s time, I’ve read that the meat offered up on pagan altars were divided up into three portions. The first portion was burnt in honor of the god. The second portion was given to the worshipper to take home and eat. The third portion was given to the priest. If the priest did not want to eat his portion, he could choose to sell it at the temple restaurants or at the meat markets. The meat served and sold at the temple would generally be cheaper than regular meats and would be seen as a bargain. People back then, like people today, (of course including Christians!), liked bargains. [David Guzik online commentary].
Since the law and the prophets did not give clear direction about this, the question then arose about whether or not Christians should eat that meat offered to idols (if they purchased it) and if not, what if they went to a friend’s home and were offered the meat to eat?
Why is this question relevant for today? Where scripture remains silent, Paul teaches that the question is less about what is right or wrong, and much more into the realm of whether it is wise or unwise.
When Paul was confronted with a question of whether eating this meat was sin or not sin, Paul could easily have done an expository bible study and derived the hermeneutical meanings of the scriptures in order to deduce a sound hypothesis. If there was anyone in the New Testament who could give a sound academic answer for this theological question, Paul was that man. He was after all, a Pharisee of Pharisees. Instead of seeking to answer the question for the church however, Paul simply points them to scriptural principles that would help them to make wise decisions for God:
This teaches me that when there are controversial decisions that need to be made, AND there is no biblical mandate, I need to make decisions out of love to build others, rather than from my knowledge to puff me up. Paul tried hard to make sure that the early Christians weren’t getting caught up in trivial and petty arguments about doctrines that didn’t really matter, but pointed them to instead living out the more important part of what Jesus commanded.
To impose my knowledge on others puffs me up like a bubble. When I rely on my own knowledge, I become puffed up and swelled up like a bubble. Far too many times I can become puffed up because I think I know more than I do because I have been pastored and been through bible college. Paul says to people who think they have knowledge, “2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” In other words, “Ty, you think you are smart, but you really don’t know that much.”
To impart love toward others, builds them up. Be built up. When I act out of love for others, not only do I build them, but God builds me and grows me up. While religion may require knowledge, having a living, vibrant, and active faith in God means to be practicing love toward others in practical ways. Paul puts it this way, “. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.”
Paul’s main point here is that Christians are called to grow up (through loving service to others) and not swell up (by filling our heads with knowledge that we don’t apply)!!! According to the scriptures, the behavior and maturity of the Christ follower is NOT to be based on knowledge, but on love. Too often we as modern American believers think that someone is a mature Christ follower based on how much of the bible they know, how long they have been in church, and how many bible verses they have memorized. Paul says, “No ways! The maturity and growth of a believer is reflected in how we serve and love others.”
“You can impress people from afar, but you can only impact people up close.” Howard Hendrix.
Lord Jesus I want to grow rather than blow. I want to be built up rather than puffed up. Make my heart more like Yours every day. Amen.