When Man-Pleasing Is God-Pleasing!
“I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.“ – Vs 33 NLT
If you take this verse out of its context, you can end up taking it to extremes. You could come to all kinds of wrong and unbiblical conclusions that Paul never intended. Remember, he is talking about being sensitive to the weaker brothers around you. They are less knowledgeable about the things of God. They are not yet able to enjoy the new-found freedoms they have in Christ. They are still impacted by their past. In Paul’s case, the people to whom he was writing were coming out of various pagan cults that worshiped idols. They were trying to make a clean break with their past. But more mature believers were causing them to stumble by buying and eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They felt free to do so because they knew there were no such things as other gods. There was only one God. So in their minds, they were free to purchase high-grade meat at low prices. But in doing so, they were causing their weaker brothers to stumble. Why? Because their consciences were telling them that it was wrong. But if they followed their brothers example and ate meat sacrificed to idols like they did, then they would end up violating their consciences and live in guilt.
Paul continues this discussion in chapter 10. He talks about the need for us to live as examples to those around us, especially our weaker brothers and sisters. He wants the believers in Corinth to be wise in their behavior and think about the ramifications of what they are doing. While “everything is permissible”— not everything is beneficial. While “everything is permissible”— not everything is constructive (Vs 23 NASB). He says, “do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person” (Vs 24 NET). This is the central theme of this portion of his letter to the Corinthians. He wants them to glorify God by seeking the welfare of others.
We have to think about the consciences of others. We cannot allow our freedoms to trump their consciences. Paul makes that clear in verses 28-29. “But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person” (NLT). Just because you CAN eat it, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you CAN have a glass of wine with your dinner, doesn’t mean you always should. Just because you CAN go to an R-rated movie, doesn’t mean you should. If our actions might cause a brother to struggle or stumble, we should be willing to give up our rights. We need to love them enough to say no to our desires. Now are we to live our entire lives according to the consciences of others? Paul answers that question. He says, “If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?” (Vs 30 NLT). We shouldn’t be condemned. As long as we are doing it for the glory of God (Vs 31). But when Paul says, “Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God” (Vs 31 NLT), the “whatever you do” part includes not eating or drinking. Even the willful abstinence from certain things can be done for the glory of God if our motivation is the good of others. So if I choose to give up serving alcohol in my home because a weaker brother may struggle with Christians drinking, then I am glorifying God with my actions. Why? Because I have put the welfare of a brother in Christ above my own. I have shown God that His desire for unity is greater than my desire to have my own way. His will takes precedence over my rights. And He ends up being glorified.
Father, I want my life to glorify You. Forgive me for allowing my rights to become an idol in my life. Help me to die to self and live for the sake of others. Even if it means giving up those things that are rightfully mine to enjoy. I want to live my life so that all I do is done for Your glory and not mine. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men