Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?
Thoughts for Today:In our passage today, Paul once again revisits a familiar topic. The fact that he admits there is nothing technically wrong with the food itself might lead some to believe the choice is optional. However, the council of Jerusalem had previously issued a command to believers to abstain from eating anything previously offered to idols. Acts 15:29: "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things." Paul had faithfully delivered these instructions everywhere he shared the Gospel.
Unfortunately, the order did not explain "why" the practice should be avoided. In Revelation 2:14, Jesus gives us the final word on the subject, as well as providing clarification: "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality." In other words, although the action itself was not wrong, it was to be avoided because of the detrimental effect it could have on others, as well as ourselves.
These same Corinthian believers, who thought themselves to be so knowledgeable regarding Christian liberty, had not considered much more important questions: What would happen to those who had been deceived by Satan into believing that an idol possessed power? Would they be destroyed if they followed the same example? Over time, could they themselves also be "enticed" to sin?
Questions to Ponder:I think the point of our passage today is not just whether or not an idol itself has power, or even the destructiveness of exercising our liberty can have on others; but also, the negative long-term effect that using too much liberty can have on us personally. It can lead to moral compromises. If we isolate one practice, it is easy to say, "This has no power, therefore I have the liberty to participate." Yet, Paul said in verse 23b: "I have the right to do anything--but not everything is constructive." Is there any activity you need to avoid for your own good? What is the Holy Spirit saying to you now? Will you pay attention?