Idolatry has been going on for all of human history. It is as old as sin, because when we stop worshiping God we naturally start to worship something else that is not God, and when we do this we give it an importance and a prominent position in our life that it should not have.
The ancient Israelites dealt with the idols and sacrifices to Baal and Ashera, the early Christians in Corinth lived in a culture that worshiped Apollo, Athena, and the Emperor.
The worship of these idols defined the culture of the day and helped to form a part of the social life of many people. For many, accepting Christ and walking away from the worship of Apollo meant losing all of their friends and community, and a part of their identity. So many of them tried to keep a foot in both worlds. They would go to Christian services and be a part of that community, and they would offer meat to idols and try to maintain their position in society. They would argue that eating meat and talking with friends was not bad, but they missed the point.
18 Look at the Jews. They ate the animals that were brought to God as gifts in worship and put on the altar. Did this not show they were sharing with God? 19 What do I mean? Am I saying that a false god or the food brought to it in worship is worth anything? 20 No, not at all! I am saying that the people who do not know God bring gifts of animals in worship. But they have given them to demons, not to God. You do not want to have any share with demons. 21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons. You cannot eat at the Lord’s table and at the demon’s table. 22 Are we trying to make the Lord jealous? Do we think we are stronger than the Lord?
It is not the meat they are eating that is bad, but the context, the community and the mindset. If they accidentally happened to eat some of the meat that was offered at a pagan altar, they would get some tasty protein and that is about it, but if they seek out a community of people that are offering sacrifices to, and worshiping something other than God in order to maintain their social standing and public image, then that is sin. They have elevated their pride and their image and have put that ahead of God’s will, and when they join in with the idol worship they show the non-believers that God means less to them than the idols.
27 If a person who is not a Christian wants you to eat with him, and you want to go, eat anything that is on the table. Ask no questions about the food. Then your heart will not say it is wrong. 28 But if someone says, “This meat has been given as a gift to false gods in worship,” do not eat it. In that way, it will not hurt the faith of the one who told you and his heart will have peace. 29 How the other person feels is important. We are not free to do things that will hurt another person. 30 If I can give thanks to God for my food, why should anyone say that I am wrong about eating food I can give thanks for? 31 So if you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything to honor God
In every context our mindset should be to honor God. Because we are Christians all of our actions send a message to others about who God is, and when we are hypocritical or give in to social pressures, that hurts the faith of all who see it.
- Do you have anything that you are trying to keep in your life that could be an idol? Maybe a group of friends that party a bit too hard, but you don’t want to lose them as friends? Or an unhealthy obsession with social media and how others view you, instead of how God sees you?
- The early part of this chapter looks back at the Old Testament times and how angry God gets at idolatry, why do you think God gets jealous and angry when his people turn to idols instead of to him?
- Do you need to be more aware of the struggles of those around you and give up some of your freedoms so that you can honor God and help grow their faith?